Saturday, June 21, 2014




(Photo.. Avtar Mota ).

Kalaaigor or Kalaaiwala  was an important part of Kashmiri society . He would  be seen in his   shop or  at times  , moving around residential areas  in villages and cities . The mobile Kalaaiwala or  Kalaaigor would come with a bag that had charcoal, shining white tin  metal  coils ,  fire tongs,  Cotton, ammonium chloride which people in Kashmir called Navsaadhar  and the airing bellows ( Daman Bastaa  in Kashmiri )  . Sometimes  the airing bellows were replaced by a small machine type fan with handle .
The roaming   Kalaaigor or Kalaaiwala was generally a Kashmiri  ,however  during summers , one could see  some  Kalaaiwalas from plains visiting  various localities in Srinagar city  crying:-

           “Bhaande Kali Kara Lo   ”

This  kalaaiwala or  kalaaigor  would dig earth to create a small pit and put charcoal in it. Thereafter he would connect the pipe of  the airing bellows  with this pit so as to  fan air  to the charcoal. The mini furnace for tinning was thus ready . Now he would heat the surface of the pot to be tinned  , sprinkle some ammonium chloride which created a  deep white smoke and  then immediately  he would rub the  shining tin coil over the pot . The tin metal would melt and then he would spread this shining tin over the entire surface of the pot by a  cotton or cloth held in  his hand .After this , the tinned  pot was put in a  tub or bucket  full of water to cool . The sudden contact of the hot utensil with the water created a shrill and sharp sound .That was tinning .

I  would myself carry brass utensils  to the spot where the roaming   Kalaaiwala  or Kalaaigor would sit in our Mohalla for tinning utensils . It was amusing to see a Kalaaiwala or Kalaaigor at work.

A Kalaaigor or Kalaaiwala was sought after by  Pandits and Muslims for tinning brass and copper utensils respectively . Traditionally, copper or brass kitchen utensils were lined with tin, to prevent the minerals from migrating to the cooked food or  to prevent acidic foods reacting with copper or brass that could  prove harmful. Acidic foods form copper oxide when they react with copper surface. This copper oxide is green in colour and may result in mild food poisoning apart from changing the  taste of the food. These  utensils need a kalai or retinning job every third  month.

In 2013, I  talked to a Kalaaiwala or Kalaaigor in Srinagar city  who informed me as under :-

“ Jenab this stainless  steel and the pressure cooker in the kitchen   has killed us. Now people have jugs , cups , glasses , pots , plates and almost all the kitchen items made from stainless steel. Copper utensils in the kitchen are rarely seen now . Business prospects are drying up day by day. This art has lost the charm. Yes we get these Samovars  and  Traamis ,  Deechvaaris  and Deghs  now . These are being mostly used in   marriage functions   .For us that old business is over. “

 During my posting at  Amritsar , i visited almost entire Punjab including interior villages.  I was surprised to  observe that the traditional Kalaaiwala had  disappeared from Punjab .My landlord  in Amritsar    told me this:-

" Hunn te koyee labdhaa hi nahin Ji. Na te O paande hain te na kissi kol inaa time hegaa"  .  or  "now no Kalaaiwala is seen around . Neither do we have those utensils nor do we have that time now."

( Avtar Mota)


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