Showing posts with label kashmir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kashmir. Show all posts

Apr 24, 2017

Summertime, and the livin' is easy...

That's right April through June is Summer in South Asia! There are actually 5 seasons on the Indian Subcontinent: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer and the Monsoon. What is called Spring and Summer here is really alternating bouts of pre-monsoon heat and pre-monsoon rains until the Monsoon starts in late June or early July. It took me like 2 years to figure that out. Above you see our kitties relaxing on the patio table during a bout of pre-monsoon heat last week. It was gleefully DRY after 3 weeks of continuous thunderstorms.

Caterpillars cavorting in the winter vegetables are a sure sign that Summer is here. This was the last of the Kashmiri haak or collards. The entire winter garden is now on the compost heap now. Corn, chilis okra, and tomatoes are the only veg I'm growing this Summer. Corn and okra will survive the Monsoon, the chilis and tomatoes will probably turn to mush about mid August.

The neighbors had a Buddhist house blessing for the new year. They do this every year and it is quite intensive. The lamas bless each room and area of the house. In the above photo they are on the roof finishing the blessing. Each room is purified and blessed with chanting, drums, horns, and incense. Lamas go door to door at the beginning of year signing up patrons for house blessings. They usually have a plastic laminated list of fees, photos, and copious documents verifying their authority from a tulku. The ceremony started at sunrise and continued 'til sunset. They used rose scented incense, I would have preferred nag champa but whatev's.

Our local vacant lot was host to some sort of district wide volleyball tournament. This went on for about a week and required micromanaging by no less than four men with LOUD bullhorns. No women's teams played. What's up with that?

The cha-cha convention started up at the local secondary school bus stop again. Some of the old uncles observed the volleyball tournament and some chose to watch the new momo stand being built behind the bus stop. The cha-chas will not take their coats and scarves off until it is at least 32C/90F. The topis (traditional pastel colored ikat Nepali caps) never come off out of doors.

Love was definitely in the air as this reptilian Romeo wooed a lady lizard on the garden wall. Romeo didn't seem to be having much luck as his potential paramour fell off the wall trying to evade his advances. True romance, eh? HIM the Baacha Khan (our tomcat) caught the unfortunate damsel when she fell.

I immediately rescued Ms Lizard from HIM the Baacha Khan. I am holding her by the tail because she will bite. It can be quite a nasty bite too. One of the neighbor kids developed a golf ball sized abscess full of vicious anaerobes after being bitten by one of these things. They are about a foot long with that whip-like tail. The orangey-red coloring on her head is brightest during mating season. The males sport a similar coloring, are slightly larger, and have a spiny lion-like ruff on their necks. These things are like mini Monitor lizards. Ms Lizard was safely released in the corn field. HIM the Baacha Khan was miffed.

Here's the neighborhood police kiosk with our local boys in blue. Nepal will be having it's first nationwide elections in 20 years next month. There are all sorts of rallies, speeches, and marches going on around town in preparation for the election. Everybody I've talked to seems really excited about implementing the new constitution of this fledgling democracy. Unfortunately some Madhesi groups along the southern border of Nepal are already refusing to participate and making threats. For this reason security is on high alert! Well, at least they're awake. (That isn't always the case.)

In other news, Kashmir is on the boil again. The photo you see above is a young Kashmiri man tied to the front of a military jeep by the Indian army as a "human shield" against protesters throwing stones. It is from a video that was allegedly taken on April 9th, the same day as an election for a Srinagar parliament seat. The vehicle the Kashmiri is tied to supposedly contains poll officials who faced a mob of angry stone-throwers. The army states the man was a protestor, the young man says he was simply returning home after voting. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, the Indian government's chief legal advisor stated:

"The recent report about a stone pelter tied to an Army vehicle, it helped contain stone pelters and saved the poll officials. Why so much noise? Everyday people are dying. It's a surcharged atmosphere. The Army is dealing with terrorists not with protestors, so they will have to be dealt with...everyone should look at the Army with pride, they are doing a great job."

That about sums up the situation in Kashmir. Both mobile internet and fixed line broadband connectivity have been suspended in Kashmir but authorities refused to confirm the block on record. Am I afraid for my Kashmiri family? Yes.

I love this baby's expression. Baby is like "Yikes!" or "WTH!?! Seems a truly fitting meme for the 21st century. Mom is carrying her baby and hair clip with a shawl tied around her shoulders in typical Nepali fashion while shopping.

Lastly, here's the grand and glorious Mt Machapuchare aglow in the Sunday sunset. The sky was absolutely black and it poured and thunderboomered all day and then !!POOF!! at 5pm sharp the clouds parted. Out peeped the gorgeous Annapurna mountain range for a spectacular grand finale. I took this photo from the northeastern corner of our backyard. You can see our scraggly banana patch in the lower left. Mt Machapuchare is also nicknamed the "Matterhorn of Nepal" based on this view. The mountain's name means fishtail. (Macha means fish and puchare means tail or butt if you were wondering.) As you go around the peak you can see the double summit at the top which does indeed resemble a forked fish's tail. It stands at 6,993 m (22,943 ft) and is about 25 km/16 miles north of our house. The mountain is revered by the local population as sacred to the god Shiva, and hence is off limits to climbing.

So, that's all that's going on around here this Summer, what's going on 'round your neck of the woods?

Are the fish jumpin' and the cotton high?

Is your mama rich and your daddy good lookin'?

Oh hush little baby, don't you cry,

Bibi ;)

Jan 18, 2017

Kashmiri Rajma Gogji (Spiced Beans with Turnips)

Rajma Gogji turnips with beans rajma, gogji, shalgam, turnips, turnip, kashmir, kashmiri, beans, kidney, pinto, red, vegan, vegetarian, spicy, indian, authentic, traditional,

In Kashmiri, rajma means beans and gogji means turnips. We're talking true Kashmiri comfort food in this hearty dish of delicately spiced beans and tender turnips. A truly authentic recipe that can easily be made vegetarian or vegan. Pair this traditional dish with heaps of steamed rice for a delicious meal on a chilly day. 

Rajma Gogji rajma, gogji, shalgam, turnips, turnip, kashmir, kashmiri, beans, kidney, pinto, red, vegan, vegetarian, spicy, indian, authentic, traditional,

Turnips or gogji are a favorite Winter treat in Kashmir. The turnips you see in the photo above are grown in our garden from Kashmiri seeds. As temperatures drop in the valley root vegetables become a plentiful Winter staple. I have never seen anyone get so excited about turnips as my Kashmiri family. The Kashmiris have many dishes combining turnips with everything from lotus roots (nadroo) to their beloved mutton. Pairing beans with turnips isn't a combination I would have ever thought of but it works! 

Rajma Gogji turnips with beans rajma, gogji, shalgam, turnips, turnip, kashmir, kashmiri, beans, kidney, pinto, red, vegan, vegetarian, spicy, indian, authentic, traditional,

The dish starts by frying the turnips in salted oil. This is an step many recipes miss. The resulting caramelized salt crust really gives the turnips a bit of extra flavor, texture, and authenticity. The browned turnips are then set aside while a masala base of traditional spices is prepared. A mutton bone is often included in this base for extra flavor. (If you don't have a mutton bone or wish to make this dish vegetarian or vegan just leave it out. There's more than enough flavor in this dish without it.) Then the beans are stewed until soft with the masala making a rich gravy. The fried turnips are then returned to the pot for a final simmer until rendered deliciously tender. Traditional Kashmiri rajma are a tiny variety of kidney beans quite similar to the beans used in the famed Creole dish of red beans and rice. Here I'm using a local Nepali variety of red beans that have a similar rustic flavor and soft texture. Regular kidney beans or pinto beans work well with this dish too. In Kashmir, heaps of steamed rice are served with rajma gogji as well as other Winter dishes like haak maaz(collards with mutton), monji haak (kohlrabi greens), tao mooj (fried daikon radish chutney), and baby potatoes (dum aloo).

1&1/2 C dry kidney or pinto beans soaked in 4 cups water with 1 tsp salt for at least 4 hours up to overnight then drained and rinsed (or two 14 oz cans of kidney or pinto beans with liquid)
3 TBS cooking oil or ghee
1/2 C onion, diced
1 mutton bone (optional) 
2 tsp garlic/lahsun paste or 1/2 tsp asafoetida/hing
2 brown cardamoms/kali elaichi, bruised in mortar and pestle
3 green cardamoms/elaichi, bruised in mortar and pestle
4 cloves/laung
2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
2 tsp ground fennel
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp paprika plus 1/2 tsp cayenne powder)
1 tsp dry ginger powder/soonth
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
1/2kg or 1lb turnips, peeled and cut into approximately the same size

Here's what to do: 
1) Peel turnips and mix with 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl and set aside. Some liquid will come out of the turnips. Heat oil or ghee in pressure cooker with 1 teaspoon salt or deep, heavy bottomed pot for 7 minutes. 

rajma, gogji, shalgam, turnips, turnip, kashmir, kashmiri, beans, kidney, pinto, red, vegan, vegetarian, spicy, indian, authentic, traditional,

2) Rinse salt off turnips and pat dry. Fry turnips in salted oil until browned on all sides. Set fried turnips aside.

rajma, gogji, shalgam, turnips, turnip, kashmir, kashmiri, beans, kidney, pinto, red, vegan, vegetarian, spicy, indian, authentic, traditional,
rajma, gogji, shalgam, turnips, turnip, kashmir, kashmiri, beans, kidney, pinto, red, vegan, vegetarian, spicy, indian, authentic, traditional,

3) To the same hot oil add diced onion and mutton bone if using.  Cook for 5-7 minutes or until onions are just turning brown. Add garlic paste or asafoetida to onions and fry for 2 minutes stirring well. Add brown cardamoms, green cardamoms, cloves, and cumin seeds to fried onion mixture. Stir well and fry for 2 minutes.

rajma, gogji, shalgam, turnips, turnip, kashmir, kashmiri, beans, kidney, pinto, red, vegan, vegetarian, spicy, indian, authentic, traditional,

4) Add soaked or canned beans, ground fennel, Kashmiri mirch, dry ginger powder, and turmeric to fried onion and spice mixture. Add enough water so that beans are covered by 2 inches of liquid in pot. If using pressure cooker and soaked beans: seal lid and allow to steam until beans are tender. If using pressure cooker and canned beans: seal lid and allow to steam for one whistle. If using soaked beans and stock pot: bring to a simmer and cook until beans are tender, top up water if necessary. If using stock pot and canned beans: allow to simmer covered for about 20 minutes stirring frequently.

rajma, gogji, shalgam, turnips, turnip, kashmir, kashmiri, beans, kidney, pinto, red, vegan, vegetarian, spicy, indian, authentic, traditional,

5) When beans are tender add fried turnips to them. Allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes or until turnips are cooked through. Add 1/2 cup water if liquid gets too low or mixture begins to stick or scorch. For a thicker gravy take a large spoon and smash some of the beans against the side of the pot. The dish is done when turnips and beans are to cooked to desired tenderness. Salt to taste, garnish as desired and serve with mounds and mounds of steamed rice!

rajma, gogji, shalgam, turnips, turnip, kashmir, kashmiri, beans, kidney, pinto, red, vegan, vegetarian, spicy, indian, authentic, traditional,

Nov 4, 2016

Kashmiri Style Chicken Curry

Kashmiri Style Chicken Curry recipe curry indian authentic kashmir

From the beautiful vale of Kashmir comes this recipe for a brilliant red chicken curry. The warmth of traditional aromatic spices and crimson Kashmiri chilis are melded in a velvety yogurt based sauce. Crisply seared chicken is then simmered until meltingly tender in this richly aromatic sauce. The Kashmiris enjoy this dish garnished with dried mint or perhaps sultanas and cashews stirred in on special occasions.

Kashmiri Style Chicken Curry recipe curry indian authentic kashmir

This is our everyday chicken curry recipe. No, it not sweet, nor does it have any sugar in it, or coconut, or pineapple, or dried apricots like most of the abominations called Kashmiri chicken you'll find in restaurants. As is the traditional Kashmiri manner the chicken is first browned in salted oil and set aside. Browning the chicken in salted oil gives it a bit of a crispy salt crust as well as leaving delicious drippings for making the sauce. The sauce is quite soupy as it is served with rice like most Kashmiri dishes. The flavor is more aromatic than spicy hot with a bit of a tang from the yogurt. If you want to make it really fancy you can toss a handful of cashews or sultanas in about ten minutes before serving.

1kg/2lbs chicken, skinless and cut into 8 pieces with bone in
3 TBS cooking oil or ghee
2 onions, sliced thinly into half moons
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
7 green cardamoms/elaichi, bruised with mortar and pestle
5 cloves/laung
2 inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini (or cinnamon stick)
10 black peppercorns/kali mirch, coarsely ground
1 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
2 tomatoes, diced finely or pureed
2 C water or stock
2 TBS sultanas (optional)
2 TBS cashews (optional)
1 TBS dried mint/pudina (optional for garnish)
Mix until smooth for sauce-
1 C yogurt/dahi
1/2 tsp flour/maida (this will keep the yogurt from splitting)
1 TBS Kashmiri mirch (or 1&1/2 tsp paprika plus 1&1/2 tsp cayenne powder)
2 tsp ground fennel/saunf
2 tsp ground coriander/dhania
1 tsp dry ginger/soonth
1/4 tsp turmeric/haldi

Here's what to do:
1) Heat cooking oil or ghee with 1 teaspoonful salt in kadhai or deep heavy bottomed skillet for 7 minutes. While oil is heating mix yogurt together with spices and flour as listed for gravy until smooth and set aside. Fry chicken pieces in hot oil or ghee for about 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Set fried chicken pieces aside on a plate.

2) In same pan fry sliced onions until beginning to brown. Add garlic paste, ginger paste, green cardamoms, cloves, cassia bark, black peppercorns, and cumin seeds. Fry for about 2 minutes or until raw smell is gone from garlic.

3) Add finely diced tomatoes and fry for about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add yogurt mixed with flour and spices to fried tomato and onion mixture. Stir well and return pan to heat. Bring mixture to a simmer. Allow mixture to simmer for 5 minutes. If mixture begins to scorch or stick reduce heat, add 1/4 cup water and stir well.

4) After 5 minutes return the fried chicken pieces to the pan with the onion and spice mixture. Stir well. Add 2 cups water or stock to the spice and chicken mixture and bring to a simmer. Cover pan and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until chicken pieces are cooked through and oil separates from the sauce. (If using sultanas or cashews stir them in after the chicken has simmered for about ten minutes.) Salt to taste and garnish with dried mint if desired.

Helpful Hints:
I do find that sometimes chicken can get a bit dry when cooked this way. To prevent that I usually soak the skinless chicken in a brine solution of 3 tablespoons salt to one liter/four cups water for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight in the refrigerator. Before frying rinse the chicken pieces well  and dispose of the brine solution. This really makes for tender, juicy chicken!

An illustration of market boats on Nallah Mar canal in Srinagar from Francis Younghusband's 1917 book Kashmir.

Oct 20, 2016

Doon Chetin (Kashmiri Walnut Chutney)

Doon Chetin Kashmiri Walnut Chutney recipe

In Kashmiri, doon means walnut and chetin means chutney. Kashmiri walnuts are famous for their superb quality and rich flavor. This authentic recipe blends traditional spices of Kashmiri cuisine with walnuts into a creamy and piquant chutney. Serve with kebabs, curry, tandoori, or any rice based meal as a tasty and nutritious accompaniment.

Doon Chetin Kashmiri Walnut Chutney recipe

My Kashmiri husband is a very good cook when it comes to Kashmiri cuisine but not the best teacher. Writing down recipes is not a Desi tradition. So when I ask him how to make something his usual reply is a series of vague comments recommending a little of this, a little of that, and often leaving out important bits. Watching my husband and mother-in-law cook is like that too, they wander about the kitchen repeatedly adding a little of this or that spice, tasting, then adding a little bit of something else, tasting again, then maybe a bit more of whatever they added initially, and so on. UGH. I learned to make this watching one of my sister-in-laws in Srinagar using a mortar and pestle as pictured below. 

This is Bibi's big ol' Kashmiri mortar and pestle. The mortar is made out of Himalayan granite and weighs a good 10lbs/5kgs. That pestle is made of lathe-turned Kashmiri walnut wood. It works a treat. You sort of kneel on the floor with your knees bracing the heavy mortar to keep it from rocking while you pound away. The extremely lightweight but rock-hard walnut wood pestle is easy to use and effective. It took my sister-in-law about 45 minutes of pounding to render a cup of chutney the traditional way with this mortar and pestle. Do you think Bibi's going to do that? NAH. I ran this recipe through the marvelous modern mixie and had it done in under 5 minutes! To get about the same texture with a few coarse bits as you would using a mortar and pestle just pulse the mixie for 2-3 minutes.

When I first heard what was in this chutney my reaction was, "Raw walnuts, yogurt, onion, and spices in a chutney? That couldn't possibly taste good." But I was wrong! It tastes rich, creamy, and refreshing with a delicious hint of savory spices, onion, chilis, and mint. A great way to get healthy omega-3 fatty acids into your diet and a wonderful pairing with spicy meats and curries.

1/2 C walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 TBS onion, chopped roughly
1 TBS dry mint/pudina (or 2 TBS fresh mint/pudina or cilantro/dhania)
1/2 tsp Kashmiri mirch
1-2 green chilis/hari mirch
1 tsp shahi jeera/black cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera)
1 tsp salt
1/4 C yogurt/dahi
Here's what to do:
1) Blend or grind all ingredients to a smooth emulsion in mixie, blender, food processor, or mortar and pestle. You may need to pulse the mixie, blender, food processor if you prefer the traditional coarser texture.

2)  Salt to taste and keep in refrigerator in airtight container until ready to serve for up to four days.

Helpful Hints:
If you fear your mixie, blender, or food processor is not powerful enough to grind walnuts you might have to grind them to powder in an electric spice grinder or mortar and pestle first. After grinding the walnuts to powder then blend them until smooth in your mixie, blender, or food processor.

Sep 9, 2016

Baed Eid

Next week starts the most holy celebration of the Islamic year called Eid ul-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) in Arabic or Baed Eid (Big Eid) in Kashmiri. The festival begins at the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca called the Hajj.  During the Hajj, Muslims remember and honor the trials and triumphs of great patriarch and Prophet Abraham. This holiday honors the willingness of the Prophet Abraham to follow Allah's (God's) command to sacrifice his son. Just when the Prophet Abraham was prepared to perform the sacrifice, the angel Jibra'il (Gabriel) intervened telling him that his sacrifice had already been fulfilled.

The Sacrifice of Isaac  by Caravaggio 
With this act of obedience the Prophet Abraham had shown that his love for Allah was above all others, and that he would willingly lay down the lives of those dearest to him in submission to Allah. Muslims commemorate this trial of the Prophet Abraham by the halal slaughtering of an animal such as a sheep, camel, cow, or goat. Allah has given us dominance over animals and allowed us to eat meat, but only if we pronounce His name at the solemn act of taking life. 

Kashmiri women at Eid prayers
On the first morning of Eid ul-Adha, Muslims worldwide attend morning prayers. Men, women, and children are expected to dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayers. Prayers are followed by visits with family and friends, the exchange of greetings (Eid Mubarak), and give gifts called Eidi.

Kashmiri men at Eid prayers
At some point during the festival Muslims who can afford it sacrifice a halal domestic animal such as a goat, sheep, camel, yak, or cow in commemoration of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. The sacrificed animals are called qurbani and must be of a certain age and standards of perfection or the animal is considered unacceptable. (In Kashmir a sheep fattened up on cashews and other goodies is preferred. Every once in a while some affluent Kashmiri buys a camel or yak to show off I suppose. Camel and yak really don't taste that great.)

Sheep being sold for Baed Eid in Kashmir
The animal (qurbani) is slaughtered in the halal manner and the meat is traditionally divided into three portions. One-third is eaten by immediate family and relatives, one-third is given away to friends and neighbors, and one-third is donated to the poor. This act symbolizes our willingness to give up things that are of benefit to us in order to follow Allah's commands, to strengthen ties within the community, and to help those who are in need. 

Traditional Kashmiri mutton-a-palooza!
(Every part of the sheep is used in a specific dish)
In addition to distributing qurbani to the poor the meat is prepared and often served at mosques so that those less fortunate do not miss this sacrificial meal. Many Muslims also take this opportunity to invite their non-Muslim friends, neighbors, co-workers, and classmates to their Eid festivities to better acquaint them with Islam and Muslim culture. (This means Bibi's going to be cooking a lot- not just meat but treats too!)

Eidi or the gifts given over Eid traditionally take the form of money, presents such as smartphones and perfume, or even flowers. Usually it is children who receive eidi from uncles and their parents.

From our family to yours:
May the blessings of Allah bring you hope, faith, and joy!  Happy Eid ul-Adha 2016!

Aug 17, 2016

Kashmiri Garam Masala

Kashmiri Garam Masala Kashmiri Garam Masala shahi jeera indian spice mix authentic kashmir fennel

Every region of India has it's own blend of garam masala. The word garam means heating to the body in the Ayurvedic sense and masala means spices. The Kashmiri version of garam masala differs from other North Indian spice mixes in it's use of shahi jeera and fennel seeds.  Richly flavored and warmly aromatic and this recipe perfectly complements the savory dishes of Kashmir.

Kashmiri Garam Masala shahi jeera indian spice mix authentic kashmir fennel
Traditionally, about a half teaspoon of this spice mix is stirred into whatever savory Kashmiri dish you've made just before serving. If you wish to use this garam masala mix in this manner you must dry roast it. Unfortunately dry roasting spices causes them to go rancid sooner so either make this recipe in small batches or store it in an airtight container in the freezer. The mace and nutmeg do not require dry roasting so simply grind them in after roasting and cooling the other spices.

1 TBS black peppercorns/kali mirch
1 TBS cumin/jeera seeds
1 TBS shahi jeera/black cumin seeds
1 TBS fennel/saunf seeds
2 blades of mace/javatri
7  black cardamoms/kali elaichi
2 two inch pieces of cassia bark/dalchini, broken into smaller pieces
25 cloves/laung
2 blades of mace/javatri
1 tsp nutmeg/jaiphal, ground

Here's what to do:
1) Preheat oven to 220F/100C.
2) Spread all spices except for nutmeg and mace on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.
3) Remove baking sheet from oven and allow to cool.
4) When spices have cooled add nutmeg and mace to mixture. Place all spices in mixie, blender or food processor and pulse to grind spices coarsely. Store in an airtight container away from heat and light for up to one month.

Helpful hints:
You can use this as you would any garam masala mix in any recipe for a bit of Kashmiri flair.
If you plan on using this garam masala mix in a recipe where it is to be heated or fried you do not need to dry roast it.

Aug 12, 2016

Trouble in Paradise - Continued

And so the unrest raged on during our Eid visit to Kashmir.
The internet was blocked, curfew was imposed, phones went dead, strikes were called, death tolls rose, injuries occurred, - pandemonium ensued.

Photo from newspaper Greater Kashmir

The newspapers were shut down but it isn't clear by whom. Probably because of unflattering photos like this one which appeared on the front page of the local newspaper Greater Kashmir. It was stated that this photo is of Indian security forces kicking a woman trying to retrieve an injured youth. (That pink figure on the ground is a woman.)

Photo from newspaper Greater Kashmir
Okay, let's get something clear here. The "pellets" being fired into crowds of protestors in Kashmir by Indian security forces are lead shot from a 12 gauge shotgun. This photo is a 14 year old girl from the south Kashmir village of Shopian whom is now permanently blinded, suffering numerous skull fractures, and pneumocephalus (a condition where air enters into the brain cavity) from these "pellets." Most of the "pellet" injuries seen at the local hospitals are directly to the head and face not extremities. I've not heard of "pellets" being used anywhere else in India against civilians by Indian security forces and in my opinion this practice only incites more violence in Kashmir. According to local doctors, at least 117 civilians were likely to lose their eyesight as a result of injuries caused by theses "pellets" as of July 25th. If you wish to read more about this situation you may do so herehere and here

What does one do when this sort of thing happens? Well, the big iron gate to the family compound is locked and one stays inside. Our family compound has a fifteen foot by thirty foot courtyard bounded by five buildings. The photo above is from the last remaining bit of the oldest house in the compound. That and the communal privy/bath house was to be my view during our stay.

The neighbors enjoyed staring at me (the foreigner) for hours from their window overlooking our courtyard. This part of old Srinagar is a maze of tiny alleyways with houses butted up closely to each other. Our compound is one of the few that has a large courtyard.

We had lots of leisure time for reading and playing games like badminton in the courtyard. Here's two of the newest additions to our family, Mr Jerry and Mr Berry.

Jerry and Berry's mama was the local "mother of the multitudes" who lived for years under the stairs of the old house with her numerous progeny. Unfortunately she recently succumbed to a mauling by a stray dog. Out wandered these two kittens from under the stairs a day after her demise. So now our family is caring for mama cat's orphans.

They now rule the courtyard with their antics. Everyone loves them and they are well cared for drinking fresh milk every day as well as mutton and chicken scraps from the butcher.

I'm not sure which one is Jerry and which is Berry. They're both so darned cute!

I was worried about the kittens as we were tear gassed and pepper gassed a few nights. The kitties seemed to instinctively run to their safe little hideaway under the stairs and suffered no ill effects. I've been tear gassed before but the pepper gas was a new experience. Pepper gas has no tell-tale stench like tear gas, it starts as a tickle in your throat and then you start coughing uncontrollably. Apparently pepper gas is a new addition to the Indian security forces' crowd control arsenal. I'm not sure if the pepper gas is a grenade or a canister fired from a gun like the tear gas.

August 10, 2016 photo from Greater Kashmir 
And so the unrest went on with the sounds random gunfire, shouting, yelling, the pops of gas canisters, sirens, and sometimes eerie silence during the days and nights. A few of the menfolk would leave the family compound in the early morning each day to buy milk, meat, and rotis from the neighborhood shops that would briefly open. We are now able to call in to Kashmir but our family can not call out by mobile. Kashmir remains under partial shutdown and curfew to this day. One glass window in our compound in a bedroom facing the street was broken by stone pelting protesters. I have to say as we drove through Srinagar to the airport at dawn  I saw little to no property damage. No burnt buildings nor destroyed vehicles just a few broken windows and walls spray painted with political slogans.

Srinagar, August 10, photo from Indian Express
What you see in the above photo taken on August 10th in Srinagar is typical of the violent protests. Young males in their teens and twenties masked and throwing rocks at Indian security forces. What you have here is as much a socioeconomic problem as a political problem. As you can imagine the economy in Kashmir is severely depressed because of these sorts of protests. Local businesses must close due to the protests, curfews, and ongoing strikes. Summer is the height of the tourist season in Kashmir, obviously there won't be many tourists this Summer. This economic depression results in a lot of unemployed young males with not much to do. A lot of young males with not much to do usually results in trouble.  More than 50 people including 2 policemen have died during this ongoing unrest. As of July 25th over 5,800 people have been injured including 3,550 security personnel and 2,309 civilians. The unrest in Kashmir has now continued for over 33 days.

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