The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, which is wreaking havoc the world over, has hit the Kashmir Valley’s centuries-old culinary tradition of ‘trami’ — eating together from one plate during weddings. But Kashmiris have learnt to adapt to the situation, understanding what social distancing means.
In ‘trami’, four guests join in simultaneously to have their portion of food from around a circular 2X2 ft decorated copper plate.
Zahoor Zargar, a resident of Srinagar’s Lal Bazaar area, was in a fix about his daughter’s wedding in August as COVID-19 cases peaked in the Valley.
“I had already postponed the marriage twice since August last year due to the tumultuous situation. This time, the challenge was COVID-19. We decided to go ahead and ensure that the guests maintain social distancing,” he said.
And replacing ‘trami’ with individual copper utensils was the only option, he noted. “It was praised by the guests as it reduced their close contact with each other,” he added.
The trend seems to be picking up fast.
Nazeer Shah, a resident of Peerbagh, ensured that the invitation card of his son’s wedding had a line on serving the lunch: “No ‘trami’, the lunch will be served separately on copper plates,” it said.
“There were instances where guests would enquire about how the food will be served. If it was a ‘trami’, people would avoid the function for obvious reasons,” Mr. Shah said.
Azi Aziza, a college student, finds the new trend more comfortable. “A guest is bound by the ‘trami’ culture to start at a particular time. Anyone who misses a ‘trami’ is supposed to wait. However, the copper utensil gives flexibility. In COVID-19 crisis, it is a healthy alternative too,” Ms. Aziza said.
In rare scenes in Kashmiri weddings this year, the ‘dastarkhan’ (long cloth spread on the floor), saw guests with face-shields and masks holding their own copper utensils around three metres away, as seven dishes were served by ‘Wazas’ (chef) from one utensil to another.
Many feel the new culture forced by the pandemic poses a threat to the ancient ‘Trami’.
“Affluence attained by locals during the Sultan period, especially during eighth Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin, between 1418 and 1470, saw popularization of ‘Trami’. Since then, it has become central to weddings, with very minor changes in the sequencing of dishes over the centuries,” Zareef Ahmad Zareef, 73, the Valley’s well-known poet and writer, told The Hindu.
Serving of ‘Wazwan’ (array of meat dishes) on ‘Trami’ during weddings was adopted increasingly by the local population during the Sultan period in the 14th century and it became a unique feature.
Mr. Zareef fears that the pandemic may wipe off this slice of culture from Kashmir.
“During the Afghan rule, people of Kashmir saw Muslims switching from daytime weddings to late-night weddings to escape raids by the unbridled sepoys of the rulers. Eventually, weddings became a silent late-night affair. This pandemic is now threatening to take off ‘Trami’ from the ‘dastarkhan’,’’ he said.
“This prolonged pandemic in fact has threatened cultural moorings across the globe and Kashmir is not immune,” he pointed out.
For Mr. Zareef, ‘Trami’ epitomised a unique space, which brought down the walls of class and caste divide in society.
“In a wedding, ‘Trami’ sees people sitting around and eating from one plate irrespective of their class and caste. It symbolised brotherhood and sharing. It also created intimate spaces where people discussed politics, social issues and religion as the ‘Waza’ served the elaborate dishes,” Mr. Zareef said.