Author: Saadut
•9:33 PM

In the reclusive freezing cold and the inflicted dark of Kashmir winters, when every service fails to the whims of the state, it is this age old “kaang’er” that continues to warm commoners; portable, independent and cost effective. Autonomously ‘azad’ and ‘as of yet’ free from iron ambit or ‘service denial ring’ of the state, the individuality of this firepot stays close to winter commoners of these lands; their only amber warm hope.

The skill for carrying this ‘mini reactor’ for Kashmiri’s comes naturally. However during the induction training on handling this ‘mini reactor’ many a shalwaars will have their edges burnt and many a pyjama strings will have been smoked and shrunk. The smell of burning cloth underneath the Pheran or blanket and that expression on the face of the victim bring out those comically capricious expressions. The smoke and burn often followed by a self apologetic red faced victim and the facetiousness stealing onlookers.

Basic users are comfortable with having it under their pherans, shawls or blankets for brief intervals, intermediate users carry it along with ease often in one hand while at the same time juggling work and shopping. Advanced users having gained full control on the ‘mini reactor’ also carrying it along to bed, holding it all night in sleep without tripping; an act of absolute winter companionship.

Like with other fuel reactors, this mini device is also prone to accidents most common being it’s tripping, first causalities becoming the flooring rugs of the Kashmiri households. Irregular brown, black holes and obnoxious smoke smell on rugs and carpets would point to the frequency of such fire tripping disasters, the domestic mini Fukushima’s. 

The “kaan’ger” being very closely knit into the culture of Kashmir, it is obligatory for the new bride to receive a special variety of this ‘firepot’ as a gift from her parents; the “tchaar’e kaang’er” takes its name from “tchaa’r” in central Kashmir where they are specially made. The “tchaar’e kaang’er” comes fully decorated and colored, a stark contrast to its plain, roughened non bridal ‘firepot’ cousins.  Other common varieties used in Kashmir are also known by the places where there are made in, like the “Islamba’ed kaang’er”, the “Shopiya’enn kaang’er” and the “Bandei’poer kaang’er”.

Drying the morning towels, warming to change clothes and getting the butter pot to preheat are just some other multitude of tasks assigned to this small device. Much before computers knew what multitasking was, this Kashmiri device had already been practicing it. I remember as a child whenever I used to visit one of my aunts who lives in the Kashmir countryside, their domestic help would offer me an in “kaange’er” baked egg. The timing and accuracy exhibited for this process inside the firepot often amazed me then. Here was one of the most basic, portable and wireless ovens I had ever seen in my life, this was energy efficiency at its best. 

Then there are some ‘warriors’ of Kashmir who take the ‘firepot to human’ companionship a little further, this device also used a weapon in Kashmir. Since such ‘warriors’ do not adhere to any ‘no first use pact’ they may use this weapon either for self defense or for the first attack. The successful firing of this weapon often depends on the trajectory of the ‘firepot missile’ launcher and his earlier expertise in such war exercises. The consequences for the aimed target in any successful attack may range from coal black, ash grey to reddish, depending upon the coal to fire ratio inside the ‘firepot missile’.

Like the handyman of a politician, every “kaang’er” has its “tchaalan” often used to stir the coal and adjust the fire. And as does the handyman of a politician hang around him, so does the “tchaalan” usually hang around the “kaang’er”, in most cases tied to wicker ring on it. Not surprisingly just like the ‘politician – handyman’ nexus, in many cases the “kaang’er” may or may not want to be seen with the “tchaalan”, denying it the right to stick around publicly, but inevitably will use it to stir or adjust the fire.

Such an intimate relationship between the “kaang’er” and Kashmir would be incomplete without some incorporation into the Kashmiri proverb and curse lexicon. The state here fully practices the “Ratt’hh mye’n Kaang’er vyechh mye’n davv” (Hold my Kaang’er and watch me flee) *proverb*, more especially in winters when it flees to warmer plains leaving the commoners to their own frosted fate. Winter evenings in Kashmir are often times when the state exerts its will on darkness, blinding out electricity from habitations. The cold seeping in, darkness enveloping and left God forsaken then Kashmiri’s are heard saying “Pey’ye naar’e kaang’er yeman pa'warr valyan'n”

January 12th 2012