The line outside New Zum Zum Hotel, a blue-tented, outdoor restaurant in a residential neighborhood in central Srinagar, had begun forming at 7 a.m., Gulam Rosul explains, quietly moving among the thirty boiling pots that lined the restaurant. Cars full of customers drive up as Mohamed Shafi, the owner, sits cross-legged, ladling food into takeaway bags.
“It’s Eid, so I’m very tired,” Rosul says. His hands are stained yellow from turmeric and other spices, and even when he washes them, the color persists. He’s been cooking for Eid al-Fitr for 18 days, working all night—from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.—to celebrate the end of Ramadan, the lunar month during which Muslims fast for from dawn to sunset. On Eid, the prohibition ends, and Muslims around the world celebrate with feasting. The smell of slow-cooked mutton hovers, fragrant and sultry, in the air, and despite the familiar air of unpredictability in Srinagar, spirits are high and the streets are filled with happy greetings of Eid Mubarak.
“I enjoy the work,” Rosul says, smiling shyly. “I enjoy being a waza. It is an honor here in Kashmir.”
Kashmir has been disputed since the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947, and has been the source of three all-out armed conflicts between India and Pakistan. It is often branded with—or trapped by—a narrative of conflict. Last year during Eid celebrations, massive anti-India protests spiraled out of control, leading to four deaths and an 82-hour ban on Internet access in the Kashmir Valley. Isolated fighting has persisted, often in the form of stone-pelting youths against Indian army officers.