Each morning, I wake up to a screeching sound that goes away only to come back. A gadget’s moonwalk in my world of counterpane is a mix of vibrations and moments of silence. It’s Monday or maybe Saturday. Lying on my bed, I keep staring at the white blank ceiling of my room, while my phone cries its heart out in distance. It’s just another day in the many days that made this year. It’s 7 am and a 500-meter walk to the local Kandur is my first chore of the day. My Kashmiri embroidered bag sways in my hand as I sing the tunes of an old love song, in this place where only the cuckoo’s coo honks the trail; I reach the Kandur’s shop.
In Kashmir, bread is baked in a tandoor to make what Kashmiris call “Czot”, a generic term for white molds of flour kindled to produce golden loaves of bread. In the Kandur shop, smeared black with the coal dust of fire, there isn’t much to see, except for a family of three, working in rhythm, like a ballet of sorts. As the youngest beats the dough, each punch plunges deeper into flour too weak to hold a shape. While his grunts subdue in the large steel bucket, the head Kandur transfers balls of flour from one shelf to another. The round balls laying quietly like eggs in a chicken coop are then flattened on a round marble. Like a Disc Jockey making a beat, the Kandur slaps the top of this egg-shaped ball and flattens it into a disc. This white canvas is then engraved with finger tips, a horizontal imprint smeared across the mold; finally to be pasted on the hot walls of the tandoor.
On the other side of these two performers, awaits the Kander bai. Like a scene from a spiderman movie, two long iron rods with hooked ends become her hands. While a white mold metamorphoses into crimson and gold in the heart of the blazing tandoor, the Kander bai waits; and we wait as seconds turn into minutes and more.
Good bread is baked at a temperature of 330° C and she knows that well, she picks one bread at a time to heat it a bit more, as the color oscillates between gold and brown. The awaiting multitude moves towards the tandoor, murmurs subdue in the hush of expectation. In this instance, when everything seems fixed in due time, Czot comes out sizzling with the warmth of many hands. Each person comes and kindles a story here, the information passes bread to bread. Amidst the grunts, the slaps, and the sizzle of bread, I take with me the three loaves of memories. Still brimming inside my embroidered bag, Czot is the culmination of a family, made crisp with work and soft with love.