Meet Kashmir’s café companions who left engineering for eatery

Far from the maddening crowd, the two Kashmiri eatery owners are adding a distinct flavor to their menu.

Before the twain met to dish out the apple town’s new culinary delight, they had to face the quintessential Kashmiri concern related to career and job.

But the duo guarded their passion and took small steps to set up their venture where they serve tastes with ‘live, laugh, eat’ motto.

Inside their eatery situated on the second floor of a newly constructed building at Sopore suburbs, Haris Wani and Emran Ahmad take turns to narrate their food expedition with a tinge of salt and spice.

“For the society like ours obsessed with the government job, it was hard to create our own platform,” says Haris, as he looks at the quiet bazar outside.

“But we proved the prevailing notions wrong and created job opportunities for others.”

Before becoming an employer, Haris was forced to tread his family’s laid out path. He was even enrolled in an engineering college away from home.

“While I was a fit case for B-school, I had to make peace with machines and mechanics for the heck of it,” Haris says.

“This is what happens when our elders take career calls for us based on the popular choice than their children’s conviction.”

It’s because of the same conviction that today the duo’s eatery has become a favourite hangout spot for the families looking for some retreat and refreshing taste at Sopore’ serene suburbs.

After completing graduation from Jodhpur in August 2017, Haris, a native of Lolab, worked as a shift engineer in a Power project, while Emran, a native of Pattan, decided to carry on with his family business.

Both of them operated from Sopore—the town they lived in different capacities.

Resigning from his job in August 2018, Haris decided to create employment opportunity than looking for the one.

To execute his idea, he met Emran and the duo made Sopore base for their dream job.

“After finalizing space, we were looking for a platform,” Emran says. “And this is when we contacted Parsa’s and decided to start with it.”

But years later, in 2021, after facing a prolonged lockdown due to abrogation of Article 370 and Covid pandemic, the duo finally decided to start their own brand — Wild Cumin Café.

“There’s an interesting story behind this name,” Emran says. “It has to do with our penchant to add wild cumin (a spice) in every dish on our menu to make our customers experience a different taste.”

But then starting an eatery amid the urban café boom was beyond adding a mere spice to their menu. It was more about making a right choice in an uncertain place like Kashmir.

“To tackle that problem, we decided to start our café in outskirts away from the congested markets,” Emran says.

The duo believes that in main market one gets a lot of customers. “But when you are away from the clutter and people come to your place, this gives a true sense of our brand image and value.”

Apart from good menu and amusing wall posters, a collection of good reads only add a distinction to the café.

“At the end of the day it boils down to the support you receive for following your passion,” Haris says.

“I remember facing my family’s anguish recently for not applying for a bank job. At times even your family doesn’t support you and people have enough time to talk about you until you don’t do something good. But we want to change all this by becoming ambassadors of the culinary change already sweeping across the valley.”

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