New Delhi, January 7, 2020 —
Srinagar, that tortured land which for millennia has suffered many degradations while the people have stoically survived, like people everywhere under similar circumstances, who cannot leave and must live on.
This was my fourth trip to the beautiful valley because I wanted to show it to my children and grandchildren—twenty years ago, when I was here the last time, my kids were still finding their feet. Now my kids were married and their spouses and their kids were coming in for the first time.
It was fascinating to learn that there were at least 40 commercial flights every day- all of them coming in from different parts of the country. If there was nothing for people/tourists to do here, then are the airlines losing money? My son’s flight from Mumbai was full, my daughter’s flight from Bangalore was full as much as mine was from Hyderabad.
We stayed at the Air Force Mess and Rashid, the head waiter from the Mess came to meet me. The first thing he says to me, “Aapka toh baal safed ho gaya!”
Then when I reminded him that it was 20 years since the last time he smiled and said “hum bhi boodha ho gaya”. He may have grown old but his finesse in the kitchen remains unparalleled. He is the one who had first treated me to Kahwa -that delightfully warm, saffron laced green tea cooked up with almonds. When we asked him for some of that we got our hearts full—enough to get ourselves some commercial packets of the same which we picked up from a supermarket on Residency road.
AHDOOS – A Century-Old Hotel In Kashmir
We had a date with Ahdoos Hotel, the old restaurant which manages to serve the full Kashmiri Wazwan—a rich epicurean delight for all food lovers! It was started a 100 years ago as a small bakery, the first in the valley, courtesy the present incumbent Hayat Alam’s great grandfather, Abdullah Had, who was working in Maharaja Hari Singh’s kitchen entourage.
Mr Ghulam Hasan, Hayat Alam’s father who can be seen casually lounging around dressed in spotless whites, at any given time in the restaurant, has this to say, “My father and grandfather must have worked on the alphabets in English and come out with this name, which for the family and the restaurant has become iconic. In fact, the name is today synonymous with the best of Kashmiri cuisine.”
That it is surviving still with all its dining rooms full and its hotel rooms fully occupied, is kudos mainly to this 74-year-old who has been steadfast in his belief that he has a good thing going and he needs to nurture it for the next generation of visitors as well as keep the tradition of Kashmiri cuisine alive.
An Advice For Wazwaan Lovers
A word of advice from Mr Ghulam Hassan, “Just a word of warning—people who are not used to too much meat should try our dishes one at a time. So have the Gustaba(Mutton-Based Delicacy Made With Special Spices) one day and come back for the Roghan Josh (Aromatic Red Curry Meat Dish Of Goat Or Lamb) the next day. Try the Rista(Red Spice Gravy Meat Balls) on the third day. You can always have the Methi Chaman(Yellow Curry Dish Of Fenugreek And Cottage Cheese) and the Haakh (Knol Khol) to ease the palate. Of course, the Tabakhmaaz(Flavorful Ribs Pan-fried In Clarified Butter/Ghee) has to be tried by itself.”
(…To Be Continued)
**Dil-Paziir (Urdu; meaning ‘heart-pleasing’) is a special edition positive news series brought to you by Digpu, starting from Kashmir. Our local journalists have successfully shared many inspirational stories from the valley – from the invention of E-Charkha, automatic ventilator in Kashmir, stories of brotherhood through to the first-ever cricket tourney for Blind sportsmen, all the stories make us awe-struck.