Culture

In Pictures: Ramzan vibes and varieties in Kashmir

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Adhering to the tenets and teachings of Ramazan, people are seen reciting or reading Quran whenever it is possible to.

“It doesn’t feel like Ramzan,” says Amir, looking at the street footfall and piles of unattended dates. “Something has changed.”

Inside Srinagar’s Goni Khan market, Aamir Khan sits wearing a lost sightseer’s marveling face. The namesake of a cine-star is seemingly living a commoner’s condemned fate.

To his chagrin, the bazar remains bereft of the signature spirit — the one which would otherwise make the mood festive during the 30-day-long fasting period in Kashmir.

“It doesn’t feel like Ramzan,” says Amir, looking at the street footfall and piles of unattended dates. “Something has changed.”

He’s not upbeat about the routine sale of dates — one of the prominent delicacies of the holy month.

“Dates are witnessing a lukewarm response,” he says. “Although people now consume dates irrespective of Ramzan, the market is low this year.”

Established over 40 years ago, Khan Dry Fruits at Goni Khan market is now run by Amir.

At some distance from Amir’s outlet, the stalls of fruit vendors are packed with watermelons and grapes. The twin fruits are mostly preferred during the holy month.

Good cuisine is also a very important part of the festivities in the holy month, with eateries coming up with Ramzan special menus.

While consumption of fruits and dates and beverages like sherbets increase more than usual during Ramzan, bakery shops prepare different varieties of breads.

Dil Bahar Ice Cream, is famous for its Kulfi, but in Ramzan it transitions into a dry fruit shop.

Among the structural symbols creating the sanctified significance during the month, the iconic Jamia Masjid remains at the center-stage.

The mosque returned to its old glory in a subdued form lately when it was opened after 30 weeks of no Friday prayers.

In the souk outside, the vendors are struggling with sales. “That signature Ramzan crowd is missing this time around,” laments an elderly vendor. “People don’t seem eager for shopping this time around.”

Inside the grand mosque, the faithful are sitting in twos and threes, either meditating or musing. To set the stage for them, a caretaker in his mid-thirties had to pass through a 15-day-long sweeping slog.

“A lot of cleaning had to be done,” the cleaning agent says. “Electrical wirings had to be checked for any faults because we had to keep the mosque ready for the daily Taraweeh prayers as well.”

As Ramzan starts, prayer rugs and Dastarkhwan (table cloth) are in good demand and are mostly sold by street vendors.

But beyond the gates of the grand mosque, Ramzan mostly looks mild in Kashmir.

And much of that has to do with the rising cost of food and fuel. Due to inflation, the Ramzan delicacies like dates are going out of bound for the poor living hand to mouth.

“We prefer simple iftar these days,” says Imtiyaz Khan, a daily-wager from Srinagar. “The cost of living has gone over the roof and is clearly preventing us from spending on the usual things like dates.”

Every Ramzan, Sameer prepares traditional Kashmiri bread in different varieties.

People are clearly wondering about the missing vibes. Restless and indecisive, they look for some respite here and there. But a lot of things have come to standstill due to the previous paralytic years of pandemic.

And hence, that vintage festive excitement and energy is still trying to catch up.

Arak Tree (Miswak) and fragrant essential oils (Attar) are often seen sold outside mosques during the holy month.

Some old markets, however, remain filled with treats. The aroma of freshly baked breads or pickles tickles one’s taste buds in the lanes of Sheh-re-Khaas.

“My shop is a full-fledged bakery outlet, but during Ramzan we mostly prepare four varieties of bread with ghee and butter,” says Sameer who owns Alishaan Bakery in Downtown.

The fragrance of pickle and the brine fills the atmosphere during Ramazan.

Pickles work as a ‘cherry on top’ by adding a distinct flavor to the home-cooked dishes during Ramzan.

“Our Ramzan specials are chicken pickle, kabab pickle and lotus root [Nadroo] pickle among others,” says Basit Zahoor, an owner of a makeshift pickle shop, near Khanqah-e-Maula.

“I’m planning to start a restaurant here after Eid. I’ve already started to use Instagram to promote my business.”

Unlike last year when pandemic confined mosques, this man is now making the most of the holy month.

Since the cultural aspect of Ramzan teaches one self-discipline, sacrifice and empathy, the faithful seems making most of the holy month’s blessings amid melancholy.

To imbibe the spirit, devotees in droves can be seen beseeching in the signature sanctums of Kashmir—where the aesthetic ambiance sets the mood for the transformational meditation, the one that heralded the stark shift many, many moons ago.

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