Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts

Nov 20, 2017

Perfume Review: Chanel's Gabrielle



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On my recent visit ti Delhi I had the chance to try Chanel's hotly anticipated new fragrance launch of the year: Gabrielle.  It’s the first "pillar" (as in not a flanker) feminine scent Chanel has launched in 15 years and took 5 years to develop.  The fragrance is said to embody the house's founder Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel when she was a young girl: a rebel at heart, passionate and self-ruling, freeing herself to become the woman she wanted to be. The concept from Chanel's website:

"A solar fragrance created around four points of light from four white flowers: orange blossom, ylang-ylang, jasmine and Grasse tuberose.
Olivier Polge crafted the dream flower. The only flower that could embody the unrestrained femininity of Gabrielle Chanel herself."

Olivier Polge is Chanel's house perfumer following in the footsteps of his father Jacques Polge whom retired in 2015. The fragrance's alleged notes are listed as such by Chanel:

Top notes: mandarin, grapefruit, black currant
Heart: tuberose, ylang-ylang, jasmine, orange blossom
Base: sandalwood, musk


gabrielle, perfume, fragrance, review, chanel, polge, hedione, bug spray
Looking mighty fierce there, Ms Stewart.

Here's the ad for Gabrielle. Kristen Stewart plays her rebel spirit self in the campaign by fighting, punching, and dancing her way out of a gauzy cocoon to the sounds of Beyonce's Runnin'. Tres hip. Evidently the launch for Gabrielle took place in Paris at the trendy Palais de Tokyo and included a high-tech immersive "fragrance journey" into the world of Gabrielle. This included a holographic perfume bottle  that burst into a shower of virtual white flowers. The DJ was Pharrell Williams and the guest list was full of stylish A-Listers including Ms Stewart.  (I wasn't invited.)
gabrielle, perfume, fragrance, review, chanel, polge, hedione, bug spray

Upon liberal application of Gabrielle to my wrists at Delhi Duty-Free: A blast of bitter grapefruit followed immediately by orange blossom bathroom cleaner sitting on the same thickly sweet vanilla-woods-musk base as Coco Mademoiselle. That's it. Whew, that's a lot of grapefruit in that bathroom cleaner. Turned obnoxiously to citronella and sandalwood a few hours later in the Delhi heat. Honestly, it was like some sort of posh bug repellent. My skin usually amps up the sweet in most fragrances but the acerbic grapefruit and heavy musk base went absolutely rank in the Indian incalescence. Definitely not a warm weather fragrance. Just to make certain I tried another spritz of Gabrielle the next day at the Chanel boutique in Delhi- still went from insipid to insecticidal.

gabrielle, perfume, fragrance, review, chanel, polge, hedione, bug spray
The omnipresent scent of the '00's Coco Mademoiselle
(actually it's still the best selling perfume worldwide)

I thought Gabrielle was going to be a white floral? The supposed "dream flower" reimagined in Gabrielle is barely discernible as even botanical. Just plop a bit of hedione and jasmolactone in there and call it a flower! Surely with all the premium materials Mr Polge has access to in Grasse he could have done better than this. This isn't youthful and radiant it's another banal fruity-floral thing. This is abstract to the point of being a cleaning product not a luxury fragrance. It could easily be a flanker of Jacques Polge's ubiquitous 2001 hit Coco Mademoiselle eau de parfum rather than any "pillar" fragrance. Perhaps they should've marketed this as Coco Mademoiselle Gold or Coco Mademoiselle Soleil?
gabrielle, perfume, fragrance, review, chanel, polge, hedione, bug spray
Hedione  (Methyl dihydrojasmonate)
Anyway, if you like Coco Mademoiselle and want to smell like one of the numerous dupes that followed it's success with a few random floral notes tossed in - you'll love Gabrielle. If you're a fan of Lancome's La Vie Est Belle (another Olivier Polge fragrance) you'll probably like Gabrielle as it has a similar vibe. I know I'm not the teens to 20-somethings demographic Chanel was aiming for with this perfume - but I do think youngsters can handle something that actually smells like a white floral.

So, I guess I'm not a Chanel kind of gal. 
My camera had to be shipped to Delhi for repairs so I shan't be doing any recipes for a bit. 
What's up with you? 
Have you tried Gabrielle or any other new fragrances of note?

Toodle-oo,

Bibi


Nov 13, 2017

A Big Fat Kashmiri Nishaani! (Part Two)

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

In October we went to Kashmir to attend my niece's engagement party or Nishaani. No celebration of any kind in Kashmir is complete without the legendary banquet called wazwan. Above you see an entire wazwan on a platter! In this post I'll show you amazing behind the scenes preparation of the traditional wazwan for my niece's Nishaani. 

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

This is our family vaste waza. (Vaste means master and waza means cook.) Every family in Kashmir has their own vaste waza. There are about 200 vaste wazas in the vale of Kashmir. In the traditional society of Kashmir all occupations are hereditary, and all wazas have fathers who were wazas as well. Wazas are essentially freelance caterers with their own set of copper cookware, a team of assistants, and a vast repertoire of dishes handed down father to son through the ages. Wazas play a key role in Kashmiri society. No celebration of any kind is complete without a wazwan! And a wazwan can't be made without a team of wazas. Your social standing in Kashmir is dependent on the grandeur of your wazwans. Weddings, engagements, completion of the Hajj, university graduation, funerals, - all are celebrated with the grand feast of the wazwan in our family!

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

The wazwan is cooked completely outdoors. The large pots or degs are balanced atop two large logs between which a fire is lit. Most Kashmiri homes have an outdoor courtyard or plot of land at the back of the house to accommodate the cooking of a wazwan. Fruit wood is preferred for the fire. 

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

Each deg or large copper pot contains a different dish. The vaste waza's assistants generally tend to each and every dish stirring and seasoning as they go. The degs are made of solid, hammered, copper which is plated with tin. They're quite heavy as the bottoms are one to two inches thick and the larger ones require two men to carry them. I count seven different dishes in seven degs being cooked at once here.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

This is a close-up of the deg being used for dumpukht style cooking. Cooking on the dum is a technique of slow cooking which requires a sealed pot cooked over embers. If you look closely you can see the damp rag between the saucer-like lid and the narrow mouth of the deg - this provides the seal that keeps the steam in. Embers and a brick are placed on top of the lid to enforce the seal and provide even heat. The narrow neck of the deg catches the steam allowing it to baste the food in the bottom of the pot. 

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

Let's take a gander at the other side of the courtyard. You can see how big an operation this wazwan is. The vaste waza's team of assistants works with incredible efficiency. Not only are they cooking wazwan for fifty guests at our house- but they are cooking a wazwan-to-go to be sent to my niece's fiancé's house too! The yellow and white cloths in the far left are covering dishes that have already been cooked. The pink blanket is where the vaste waza sits overlooking the entire endeavor. The blue tub in the center has 51 fried chickens awaiting simmering in a spicy sauce before being sent to the fiancé's family home.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

Here's my photography assistant, model, and prop handler whilst in Kashmir. He's holding a four foot long spoon made of Kashmiri willow that belongs to the vaste waza. Kashmiri willow is what the finest cricket bats are made of so that spoon is both lightweight and practically unbreakable. I don't think I could find a better helper that only works for toffees and kind words. ;)

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

The dishes of the wazwan are very elaborate in keeping with royal Mughal tradition. Ingredients must be prepped and organized before starting the dishes. Going clockwise from the left we have: a deg full of melted ghee, a bucket of chopped cilantro/dhania, two containers with a beige colored paste of fried and pounded shallots, a deg of bright yellow yoghurt tempered with saffron, and at the bottom right (above Bibi's toes) there's a deg full of plain tempered yoghurt. Tempering the yoghurt thickens and condenses it a bit and prevents it from splitting in a dish. I've no idea what the red stuff in the center deg is but I'd bet it's onions fried with spices to be used as a base for one of the dishes.

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On the above right is a photo of the vaste waza slivering almonds with a knife for garnish. Mind you, that is no super sharp ultralight weight santoku knife made of high-carbon stainless steel he's using. That's a very heavy hunk of iron that's been crudely hammered and sharpened into a blade. The photo is blurred because he really is chopping that rapidly. I tried slivering almonds with a knife like that and it takes some real skill. I decided I liked my fingers intact more than I needed slivered almonds. On the above right is a traditional Kashmiri mortar and pestle. The mortar is made of local granite and the pestle is made of Kashmiri walnut. The mortar and pestle is what was used to make the shallot paste in the photo above this one. No mixies, grinders, or other electrical appliances are used in preparation of the wazwan. Even the meats are minced by hand using two heavy knives and the top of a stump to chop upon.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

Let's have a look in the waza's masala dhaba or spice box. I see whole fennel seeds, green cardamoms, shahi jeera/black cumin, cloves, coriander, cassia bark/dalchini, black cardamoms, ground fennel, and dry ginger. These are the traditional flavors of Kashmir. The Sheikh said that Kashmiris don't use black cardamoms - I argued "Oh yes they do!" I've seen the Sheikh's mom and sister-in-laws use black cardamom and now here it is! Besides you can clearly taste black cardamom's smoky accord in many Kashmiri dishes. I don't know what he's thinking sometimes. I saw boxes of ground black pepper in use too-AHA!

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet, Here's a typical dish served at nearly every wazwan: Rogan Josh. Rogan Josh is one of the most famous dishes of Kashmir and features mutton simmered in a rich red yoghurt based sauce flavored with black cardamom and Kashmiri mirch.
life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet, To the left is Zafran Kokur or chicken with saffron. It looks to be still in progress in this deg but will be quartered chickens served in a delicate saffron infused yoghurt based sauce. Chicken is usually served in the first few courses of a wazwan before the heavier mutton preparations.
life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet, To the right is another famed dish of Kashmir served at wazwan: Rista.  Rista is minced mutton meatball slightly bigger than a golfball. It's served in a fiery hot sauce made with the traditional spices of Kashmir.
life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,
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Those long yellow tube-like things are called seekh kebabs. Seekh kababs are minced and seasoned meat molded over an iron skewer and roasted over hot coals. The iron skewer is called a seekh, thus these are called seekh kebabs. I'm not sure which part of the sheep is used for the seekh kebabs but despite being minced they're always a tad gristly. As you can see every part of the sheep is used in a unique dish except for the head and trotters. The liver, kidneys, and tripe are not used in wazwan but are prepared in special dishes for family members in the days proceeding the big event.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

Here's that tub of 51 halved and fried chickens up close. That's a lot of chicken! These are to be cooked in a spicy sauce a bit more then piled on a platter to be sent to the fiance's family tonight. 

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

The blue tub pictured here was used to strain the stock from the cooked mutton. That tub is about 4 feet across. The waza's helper looks like he's about to keel over. No wonder as the vaste waza and his team of assistants have be working around the clock for 3 days now preparing lunch and dinner for our extended family, a full wazwan for 50 guests at our house, and a full wazwan to send by car to my niece's fiance's family home. 

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

It's the big day of the Nishaani! Tonight's the night! The big shebang was going to start in about an hour when I took this photo. This poor waza's helper looks completely exhausted. A toke of sweet tobacco on the hubba-bubba doesn't seem to be doing much to perk him up.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

At sundown that evening two large copper platters were brought out. Each platter was about a meter/3 foot across and beautifully decorated with floral chasing and engraving. Upon these platters a full wazwan was carefully placed to send to my niece's fiance's family. One platter was stacked with the 51 chickens expertly prepared and the other platter had all the mutton dishes. 

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

After wrapping the platter with aluminum foil comes two layers of two different pulaos. A pulao is like what we call pilaf in which rice is cooked in a seasoned broth. The Kashmiri versions of pulao are usually laced with saffron, almonds, cashews, coconut, raisins, and other goodies. 

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

Another layer of aluminum foil over the pulaos comes before seekh kebabs are laid crosswise upon the platter.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

Then the rest of the mutton dishes of the wazwan are piled sequentially. This looks like a layer of red Rogan Josh with pale yellow shanks of mutton from Aabt Ghosht being stacked next.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

And layer after layer of mutton dishes are stacked high with all their various colors and shapes. The meatballs in the center are Rista. The disc-shaped objects are Shammi kebabs which are patties of seasoned meat cooked over coals. The vaste waza sprinkles generous amounts of chopped cilantro, slivered amounts, bits of dried coconut, cashews, and pistachios over the platter.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

The grand finale: four of the giant meatballs called gushtaba! Yes, those are huge (cantaloupe sized) steaming meatballs atop that mountain of meat! The gushtaba is the last course and crowning glory of the wazwan. Made from pounded white meat of the sheep, delicately seasoned, and served in a pale yellow sauce. The gushtaba has a very unique spongy texture that's very delicious. How to get a meatball of that size perfectly cooked and not fall apart is beyond me. A perfect gushtaba is the true test of a waza's cooking skills. Our waza makes the best gushtaba in Kashmir!

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

Now the 'wazwan-to-go' gets wrapped in layers of golden cellophane for it's trip to the fiance's home by car. The vaste waza told me that's the equivalent two sheep contained in the dishes on that one platter. Male sheep are preferred for their leaner meat.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

A dome-shaped wicker sarposh is placed over the cellophane wrapped platter. Kashmir is a series of Himalayan valleys lined with willows. Wicker weaving is one of the famed handicrafts of Kashmir. The yellow covered bowl at the top of the sarposh is filled with more dried fruits and nuts. Dried fruits and nuts represent not only luxury but also wishes of prosperity and abundance for the new couple. The sarposhes used for a non-traveling wazwan are made of solid copper and highly decorated with chasing.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

Then the wazwan-to-go is wrapped in a large tablecloth for warmth and use by the recipients. 

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,


Taaa-Daaaaa!!!!! An opulently beaded and embroidered sheer golden cloth is the last touch on the traveling wazwan before it is carried off. Those hands you see gesturing to the left of the photo belong to the Sheikh. He's acknowledging the utter perfection of the wazwan-to-go. Or giving some more unsolicited advices. ::eye roll::

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

This beautiful copper object is a censer containing live coals. My niece told me the herb being burned in this censer is dried asparagus. I think it's a wild asparagus fern that's native to the Himalayas. The bits of dried asparagus make a crackling noise as they are thrown on the coals and have an acrid burnt vegetable smell. The smoke is said to thwart the evil eye, djinns, and any other ill will. The burning censer accompanies the chicken and the mutton platters of wazwan to the car.

life, love, kashmir, nishane, nishaani, nishani, engagement, wazwan, kashmiri, waza, vaste waza, feast, banquet,

A heavy chain of gold was sent with the platters of wazwan to the fiance's family on the night of the Nishaani as a token of betrothal.  About two hours later we received a call that the fiance's family was en route to our house. Everyone ran inside to get ready for the big reception, the big feast, and he bestowal of the engagement jewelry upon my niece. Guess what we ate? That's right! WAZWAN! If you want to see pics of the Nishaani at our home please check out this post.


The very next day we woke up to this. Riots, stone pelting, tear gas, curfews, and clashes with police on the streets of Kashmir. This was in protest to "braid chopping." Yes, you read that right. There have been over 100 incidences of women in Kashmir reporting their hair being chopped off by unknown assailants. Theories as to whom or what is attacking these women ranges from mass hysteria to state sponsored terrorism. Police are baffled and have no solid leads or suspects. Similar incidents of hair banditry were reported earlier this year elsewhere in India, including in the northern states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Revenge attacks all over Kashmir by vigilantes armed with knives, cricket bats and iron rods on suspected culprits were being reported. Panic and paranoia were all around. And so we left the next day.

Khuda hafiz,
Bibi

Nov 6, 2017

A Big Fat Kashmiri Nishaani! (Part One)

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

A Nishaani is a formal engagement party in the Kashmiri Muslim community. Recently we attended my niece's Nishaani in Kashmir celebrating her recent engagement to a young man. Pre-marriage customs and rituals vary widely among Muslims in the different regions and ethnicities of India. Nishaani, nishane, or nishani is an Urdu word derived from Persian meaning mark, sign, souvenir, or keepsake. Gifts, food, and jewelry are exchanged between the families of the bride and groom in this traditional event. Above you see my niece adjusting her bejeweled tikka headpiece at the end of the ceremony.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

When we first arrived the day before the big event we saw all the sister-in-laws peeling huge heaps of garlic and shallots (praan) in the family courtyard. This is one of the traditional rituals in preparation for the big feast of Kashmir - the Wazwan. The wazwan is the ultimate formal banquet of Kashmir. In the Kashmiri language, waz means 'cook' or 'cooking' and wan means 'shop.' This grand and glorious feast is 36 courses minimum and a point of pride in Kashmiri culture. 

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

Then began the mehendi ceremony. Two professional mehendi artists came the day before the event to apply intricate henna patterns upon my niece's hands, wrists, and feet. If this were the Nikah or wedding the henna would extend up her entire arm. I thought it was interesting how each artist worked simultaneously on her hands and feet.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

The mehendi is a bit of traditional glamour and and pampering for the young lady about to get officially engaged. It was really amazing how fast the professional mehendi artists drew the incredibly beautiful designs with the tiny cones of henna mixed in oils. 

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

Isn't that gorgeous? I want this on my feet every day. So elegant. A hairdryer was used on the hands to speed things up while the mehendi artists did her feet.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

Here's the finished look. Just exquisite. The oils from the mehendi filled the room with wafts of cardamom, cypress, lavender, tea tree, cajeput, and ravensara. The henna paste eventually dries out and falls off. The stain that is left from the henna paste continues to darken overnight to a rich, deep, reddish brown. 

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

Meanwhile, the wazwan is cooking out back. The wazwan is cooked outdoors by a specialized team led by the vaste waza or master chef. The vaste waza supervises everything. The vaste waza starts by selecting the sheep, chickens, and only the finest ingredients for the big feast. He oversees the butchering and even chooses the firewood. Wazwan dishes are all quite elaborate- some requiring two days to prepare.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

The vaste waza and his team are also tasked with preparing lunch and dinner for all the relatives and friends arriving the day before and the day of the Nishaani. Above you see lunch starting to be served. The meal begins with invoking the name of Allah and a ritual washing of hands with a pitcher and  basin called the tash-t-naer.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

Wazwan is served upon a large copper platter that is nickel plated called a traem. The traem or platter is about two feet across and is heaped with steaming rice to serve four people. The meal is served atop a long, narrow tablecloth called a dastarkhan placed upon the floor. For lunch that day we were served methi maaz and a spinach dish. The methi maaz has the reddish sauce and is made from the stomach and intestines of the sheep and dried fenugreek leaves. Both the spinach and the sheep guts were absolutely delicious and perfectly spiced. I'm not much of a carnivore and I've only tried tinned methi maaz before this which was AWFUL. But this was really good. I think two other dishes followed this. 

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

Just to let you know: every part of the sheep is used in the wazwan. Here's the parboiled tripe and whatnot before being chopped finely and simmered with spices to make the methi maaz served for lunch. Every dish in wazwan (that isn't chicken or cheese) features a different part of the sheep which is expertly prepared with an amazing variety of flavors.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

And then all the cousins, aunties, nieces, siblings, children, and female friends and neighbors sang. The songs were both serious and silly. Some praising Allah and some joking about rings that won't fit on fat fingers and so on. Above you a little cousin playing the drum whilst singing. 

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

Even Aunty Bibi was jamming! Egads, I look pale and pasty. I doubled up on 50 spf sunblock and foundation this Summer and it appears to have worked. Perhaps a bit too well!

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

The traditional green tea of Kashmir call kahwah was served too. Above you see an aunty sitting by a traditional copper Kashmiri samovar. The samovar is like a giant teapot and has a hollow tube down the center which is filled with live coals. Around the coal containing core there is space for water to boil and brew the tea leaves, saffron strands, cardamom pods, sugar or honey, and other ingredients.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

Here's a hot cup of kahwah served with a piece of very beautiful western-style cake. This is what the fiance's family will be served upon arrival at our home. Kahwah is served with crushed walnuts and almonds sprinkled in it. It packs quite the green tea and saffron punch. Your face will flush and your heart will go a'flutter with just a few sips of the steaming kahwah. You'll also have a fluorescent green tongue for a day!

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

While all that singing and snacking was going on sumptuous Kashmiri copper ware was arriving by the truckload for the big event. Gorgeously chased with designs of flowers, vines, and Chinar leaves - each piece is beautifully decorated. Those fluted bowls you see stacked in the back on the right are especially for the dish called gushtaba- a giant pounded meatball made of all white meat from a lamb. Huge carpets arrived to line the hall for the guests also. 

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

And the aunties and guests sang and snacked on. Being the only foreigner in the family I get asked some curious questions:
Why aren't you wearing yellow gold? 
Why haven't you gained weight?
Why aren't you wearing more bangles?
I answered as best I could:
I'm not wearing gold because I'm wearing my mom's platinum and diamond set, that is traditional in my culture. 
I haven't gained weight because I'm fat enough already? 
I don't know, I'm just always bangle deficient for some reason. I always forget you're supposed to wear bangles on each arm. I think my hijab is on the wrong way too. Sigh.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

The morning of the Nishaani all manner of elegant place settings were being prepared for the big event that night. Silver trays laden with cans of juices and hand painted boxes filled with treats and goodies were assembled for the family of the fiance. My niece picked all of this out herself with care for the big night.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

The day of the Nishaani also required three changes of clothing. Above is my junior doppelganger and youngest niece giving us her best surly supermodel stare. She rocked a modified robe à la francaise in aquamarine blue (as shown above) during the day, in a pale lemon chiffon version for the afternoon, and brilliant white and gold ensemble in the evening. Aunty Bibi had to wear three fancy outfits that day too!

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

After guests had all arrived during the day the fiancé-to-be's family arrived around midnight bearing gifts for my niece and her family. The fiancé does not attend. The mother, father, eldest son, and the wife of the eldest son do the honors. The lady in red is the wife of the eldest son and has just placed the heavy gold neckpiece with the ruby cabochons, matching earrings, and tikka head piece on my niece in the bright pink suit. The placing of the jewelry upon my niece signifies the acceptance of the engagement proper. If you look closely you can see a long chain around my niece's neck with a flattened box at the end- this is a copy of the Holy Koran given to her by her in-laws-to be also. Now they proceed to eat wazwan together ! The rice for the wazwan is under that copper dome. The copper dome flips over to hold the traem (platter) aloft and keep the food warm. Attendants from the wazwan team bring the dishes in fresh from the fire and ladle it onto the guests' plates. 


After the wazwan is served my niece changed into her last and most glamorous outfit of the evening and is placed on display as she demurely gazes down. She is flanked by her sister-in-law-to-be and mother-in-law-to-be. No one much talks to each other during the event. My niece told me that's because they really don't know each other very well yet. (This is an arranged marriage.) The other female guests sit facing them.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

The in-laws-to be also brought gifts for my niece's family. They arrived on wicker trays about a meter/3 feet across covered with beautiful beaded and embroidered cloths.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

One tray contained nuts, dried fruits, candies, and rupees folded into crisp rosettes. This was for the immediate family.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,
The other tray from the fiancé's family was piled high with fancy boxes of traditional sweets. All these boxes are meant to be hand delivered to my niece's family members the next day. 

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

The boxes of sweets are just as beautiful inside too! All sorts of milky, nut laden treats beautifully garnished with gold and silver leaf or vark.


All the guests received bags of swag too. From our family came the beautiful pale blue velvet bag with chain stitching and hand painted lacquer boxes were all filled with nuts, dried fruit, candies, and rupees folded into rosettes. The royal blue velvet potli was a gift brought to our family members from the in-laws-to-be and also filled with toffees, dried fruits, nuts, and rupee notes. Our family members  were all given plastic bags and disposable aluminum foil food containers to take home uneaten food. (It's considered bad form for the fiance's family to take food home with them.) There is no way any person could ever eat all 36 courses of the wazwan. But you can take it with you!

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

And the party went on well into the wee hours of the morn. My youngest niece is wearing her dress #3 and looks about to nod off here.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

Here's my niece looking regal and resplendent like a Mughal princess in the 16th century. (Her face is blurred as not to outrage the modesty of an unmarried young lady.) Such a classic beauty. Most all of the rituals and traditions of the Nishaani are from the royal courts of the Mughals. From the royal feast of the wazwan to the formal displays and opulent gifts- it all harkens back to the Muslim dynasty of Mongol origin founded by the successors of Tamerlane.

ife, love, nishane, nishani, nishaani, kashmir, kashmiri, wazwan, engagement, muslim, islam,

Oh my gracious. Here's what was left when the Nishaani was over. We were eating wazwan for weeks!

That concludes Part One of A Big Fat Kashmiri Nishaani
Next week I'll have some amazing behind the scenes shots of the elaborate preparation of the wazwan and the gifts sent to the young man's family- so come back next Monday for Part Two!

Toodle pip,
Bibi
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