Tuesday, August 27, 2013



                                            ( kashmiri Folk singers in a marriage Function )

                               THE  DUDDA PRACTICE  OF KASHMIR

It was a practice in Kashmir that some persons would invariably attend a marriage feast uninvited. This skilled class included young, middle-aged and old people. Ladies rarely indulged in this adventure. Every member of this select group was individually nicknamed as Dudda. A  popular Kashmiri axiom goes as under:-
‘ Akh dudda ta beyi maaji kyut bataah tok’  meaning ‘Himself uninvited guest( Dudda ) and then seeking a tiffin for his mother from the marriage kitchen ’
A Dudda was a normal person except that he had a compulsive trait of slipping without any invitation into a marriage crowd to relish a sumptuous lunch or dinner. A Dudda would make a safe entry into a marriage feast by joining Baratis ( bridegroom’s marriage party ) near the bride’s house. He would wait unnoticed for the Barat to arrive somewhere near the bride’s house and once he heard the ****conch shell   ( Shankh Naad or Shankh Shabd ) blown to declare the arrival of a bridegroom, he would immediately slip into the Barat crowd. No interaction and no communication, just slip in, enter, eat and leave.
I have personally known a school friend who was a compulsive practitioner of this art.  This particular boy would also keep a track of marriages in Habba Kadal, Srinagar area where his mother had her parental home ( his Matamaal ). Once away from Rainawari, he would relish marriage feasts uninvited with confidence. In Rainawari, he ran the risk of being located and identified as Dudda by friends and neighbours. He joined a good job in J&K State. I vividly remember my friend Kuldeep Machama informing me that he had personally seen this person joining a Barat at Zaina Kadalin Srinagar city as Dudda even after joining the government Job. That was some wedding function of a close relation of Kuldeep Machama. This was somewhere around 1977 or 1978. In 2012, I met this friend in Delhi and came to know that he had turned a diabetic apart from being hypertensive. I suggested some good physicians to him. I also wanted to ask him whether he still went for those old adventures but something prevented me from seeking a reply to this baffling question.
Once I was informed by an elderly relation from Habba Kadal that there lived a Dudda in his Mohalla known as Kashi Nath. Kashi Nath had developed a novel way of knowing clear details about marriage dates, lunch or dinner functions and the nature of feasts ( vegetarian or non-vegetarian) along with the expected number of guests joining the marriage feast anywhere in Srinagar city. Kashi Nath would sit in Kraal Khod ***Waza Baithaks ( Place where Kashmiri cooks lived  ) and gossip with the cooks over a Charminar or Passing Show cigarette to collect his data. Kashi Nath would only attend feasts in downtown, Jawahar Nagar and Rainawari where he could not be easily identified. Quite often Kashi Nath would also take his friend Pushker Nath for these uninvited adventures. Both Kashi Nath and Pushker Nath were government employees.

My friend Mukhtar Ahmed Handoo informs me that Dudda practice or what could be safely called as Duddaism tried to make an unsuccessful entry into Muslim marriage feasts. However, the nature and style of serving food to the guests broke its backbone. Muslim Duddas would often get identified and had to beat a hasty retreat.  The guests in a Muslim marriage feast are made to eat in large polished copper plates known as Traamis. Each Trammi is shared by four known persons. Everything is calculated and counted well in advance. Guests are made to sit on a well-carpeted floor and practically this is the time for close interaction between groups of four persons who are supposed to share a common plate. Food is never served in a buffet system nor to standing guests.
But contrary to what my friend Mukhtar Ahmed Handoo has said, I have lately observed Duddas gaining some foothold in Muslim feasts in Kashmir. Many friends from the younger generation often relate stories of having enjoyed sumptuous Wazawan feasts in unknown marriage functions. And I am sure if Muslims resort to buffet system, Duddas shall swarm into marriage feasts wherein Wazawaan is served.
In Kashmiri Pandit marriages, food is served in individual plates and the community has since switched over to buffet system. The host has no control over the number of expected guests. Everything works on estimates which vary grossly when guests arrive. So in this guesswork and estimates, a Dudda can easily walk in and remain unidentified.
Tej Dhar, my friend from Safa Kadal in Srinagar city informed me that two Duddas had once joined a  Ghar Atchun feast organized by his cousin’s family. They were located only after they had consumed the lavish non-vegetarian feast. The family had organized Ghar Atchun feast simultaneously for two marriages which meant guests from two newly connected families apart from their own guests. A buffet lunch was organized for about plus 250 persons under a Shamiana. It so happened that the host and his wife decided to give cash in envelopes to some  VIP  guests once they were leaving. When the turn of the Duddas came, the host looked at his wife asking her how theses were related and whether any amount had to be given to them. The wife too could not place them. The host then asked smilingly :
‘ Khyovaa kenh ?Khabar kyoothh oussukh ronmutt?’ meaning  ‘ Did you eat anything? Had the cooks cooked well ?’
‘Zabar! Zabar!’ meaning  ‘Excellent! Excellent !’
‘ Me chhu broant hue gatchhaan . Tohi kaetti pyatha aayiva. Ye chhunaa lifaaf deun…. ’ meaning  ‘ I could not place you correctly. Wherefrom have come ? Look, this envelope is also to be given .’

‘ Aeiss mahraa gayee mut-farkav munz . Yeli raazabai ta tohi pachhein hisaab aassiv karaan , tohee gandiv-na mutfark daah . Aeiss chhi timuv munz sirif  zaa. ’ meaning  ‘ Sir we are from the miscellaneous. When you and your wife were counting expected guest and noting them in your diary, you had noted ten miscellaneous guests. we are just two from that miscellaneous lot .’

And the Duddas quickly moved away while the host and his wife looked at each other. Dudda coming to *Ghar Atchun feast is a daring act. But then the Dhar family had invited a large number of guests for the feast and the Duddas went for the adventure only after careful groundwork in advance.
A popular Kashmiri story also refers to a marriage in the Mohalla where a **Dudda lived. His son decided to cook all the marriage dishes in the house and serve his father who was stopped from joining the marriage even when he had been invited. The marriage feast was held in the adjacent vacant plot which had been duly covered by a Shamiyana. The son made the father sit on a window and look at the guests below. When water was brought for washing hands, the son too brought water in a jug for his father. He also ensured that dishes are put in his father’s plate as per the order and system adopted in the feast being organized below the window of their house. The father could clearly see what was happening in the Shamiyana below. And then suddenly the father jumped from the window to join the guests crying:-
‘Ashok jiya . Yetti kateu chhe so tcheilla tcheill . Kun zon chhaa saal kheivaan. Me traaviy voth . ’
“ Ashok Ji! where is the crowd in the room and where is that pull and push ? can any person enjoy the feast single-handedly? I am jumping down ?
During my posting in Amritsar, I had a friend Balwinder Singh who sang Shiv Batalvi in a pain-filled but mellifluous voice. Balwinder was an officer in a public sector bank. He wore good clothes and liked good food. He was also fond of scotch but could hardly afford it. During marriage season, Balwinder would have his dinner frequently in posh hotels and marriage halls. He could not be seen during evenings for singing Shiv Batalavi to his friends during marriage seasons. My  friends would say that he had so many invitations since he was a very ‘ Social Person .’
Sometimes, Balwinder would extend these invitations to me also but I always refused because night marriages in Punjab used to be a mob affair. And then as a matter of principle, I never went to a function where I did not know the host personally or where I had not been invited. Add to this I could not withstand the disorderly boozing in these functions.
I always believed that Balwinder had some family problem as he would never join these marriage functions with his family. Sometimes, he would be joined by his friend who had some business in Katra Ahluwalia Bazaar in Amritsar. This particular friend of Balwinder had some business interests in Kashmir also. Balwinder had introduced him to me. This business friend of Balwinder kept visiting Kashmir quite often from 2000 to 2002. He would always bring some green leafy Haak ( collard greens )  or walnuts for me from Kashmir. I was obliged and grateful to him for these gestures.


                                      ( A Buffet Lunch in a Marriage function )
Then one day Balwinder came to my room at 8.30 PM uninvited. He appeared to be a little tipsy and said in chaste Punjabi:-

‘ Sir ji Aaj te chalo . Aaj na assi tagdaa jugaad kitaa hai. Machhi, chicken, kashmiri jakhni ( yakhni ), naan te naal vilayati daaru. Munde da rishtedaar Canada thhuun Jack Daniels , Johnnie Walker , Black Dog Te Cheevas Regal laaya hega . Aaj te tuut ke pe jaavaange . 800 bandeyaan di roti daa intezaam hega. Kaun poochada hega . Vudd jaavaangay te shuru . ’

“ Sir Ji, now come today. Today I have made a perfect jugaad for fish, chicken, Kashmiri yakhni, naan and I am informed that some close relative of the bridegroom who has come from Canada has made a good arrangement of liquor. They shall be serving Jack Daniels, Black Dog and Chivas Regal. Today I shall just be in gulping mode. They shall be serving food to 800 persons. Nobody shall ask ‘who are you?’. We shall just enter and start ‘
As he got up to leave, he wanted to know finally whether I was joining. Now that everything about Balwinder’s marriage invitations and ‘Social-Personality ’ was clear to me, I said I had a guest from Jammu who was expected to arrive shortly. I added that we had to eat together. That was a fact as well.
Away from my family, I was living alone in Amritsar near Kashmir Avenue. I would cook my food . Many friends in Amritsar would relish Yakhni prepared by me occasionally. That particular day, I had cooked  Vaarimuth ( Small-sized black beans ) and Basmati rice. I passed on a cup of hot black beans or  Vaarimuth to Balwindwer. He liked it and said that this ' Kaali  Rongi' ( as he called it ) was very tasty. Once he left, I switched on my TV set for news. Changing channels for Doordarshan news, I stopped at a channel wherein some religious person was holding his discourse on food. He said :-
‘ Bandhuvon ann ki chori koyee chori nahin hai. Jahaan bahut ziyaada ann hai agar thodaa sa kissi ne churaa bhi liya to paap nahin hai. Sarr janne se to achhaa hai na ki kissi bookhay pait mein chalaa jaaaye ”

“ Brothers, theft of food is no theft. If the  food is in abundance and a little is stolen , no evil deed is committed by the person who steals it. It is better than allowing it to rot. More better if it goes to some empty stomach ”
 I somehow concurred with the gist of the religious discourse. I also got convinced that the Dudda practice was nothing abnormal that we had witnessed in valley . It could be a universal phenomenon  and possibly a  lack  exposure  made us to lampoon a Dudda or laugh over this behaviour .

( Avtar Mota )



*Ghar Atchun is a get together over lunch or dinner held by Kashmiri Pandits. Parents and almost all close relations and friends of newlyweds ( both sides ) meet each other over a sumptuous meal usually a  mid-day lunch.

**Dudda  means an  uninvited guest in the Kashmiri language.

***Waza Baithak means resting place of Kashmiri cooks. Hindu cooks would confine their Baithaks in Kraal Kohodd area of Habba Kadal in Srinagar city  while Muslim cooks resided in Wazapora locality in downtown Srinagar city .

****Conch shells are blown by Kashmiri Pandits to declare movement and arrival of the Baraat along with the bridegroom into bride’s house. Conch shells are also blown on various auspicious occasions and religious ceremonies. Hindus believe that the sound of the conch shell drives away the evil spirits. The blowing of the conch or  Shankha" needs tremendous power and respiratory capacity. They also believe that blowing it daily helps keep the lungs healthy.


(All Photos Avtar Mota)

Creative Commons LicenseCHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\autarmota.blogspot.com\.

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