It is amazing how our brains work. At times, we can remember things from the time when we were 4-5 years old, while we may completely forget events from the time when we were older. I have vivid memories of Poush Sankranthi from the time when I was 4 years old.
We did not have a gas oven back then but an earthen Chulha/oven (which used coal, wood, cow dung cakes to burn) which was located at one end of the long verandah at the back of our house (quarter) which opened out into a back yard. Sacks of coal, cow dung cakes, and woods were used to be stored in a shade in the backyard. A large rock with a flat top used to rest beside the coal sacks which was used as a counter to break the coal chunks into smaller pieces with the help of a hammer. I was forbidden to go near the shade and touch the hammer for obvious reasons. However, as defiant as I was along with the lure of adventure, whenever no one was watching (mostly in the afternoons, post-lunch, when everyone would be resting), I would sit in the backyard shade with a hammer in hand to break the coal chunks. There is even a photo of me of one such awkward as well as painful moment taken by my father, as he snuck up behind me one afternoon. I say painful because just at that moment I hit my finger with the hammer instead of coal. Talk about ‘punishment for one’s sins’!
I remember my grandmother sitting in a Piri (wooden shallow platform for sitting) in front of the earthen oven making Aske Pithe in a Matir Sora (Shallow Earthen bowl) on a Poush Sankranti during that time. While Aske Pithe was not one of my favourites, I loved to watch my mother and grandmother while they made it. The Matir Sora would be put in the oven while the batter rested on the floor. The Sora would be smeared with oil with the help of a cut eggplant stem. (I still find eggplant stem to be more effective in smearing oil than an oil brush). As the oil heats up, a ladleful of the rice batter would be poured into the Sora and then it is covered with an earthen cover. I used to love the sound the covered cooking batter would make inside the earthen pot and the aroma that filled the room while the Aske Pithe was being cooked.
As I grew older, I would love to roll the rice dough balls with my mother and grandmother for the Dudhpuli.
As I prepare Pithes on the occasion of Poush Sankranthi with these memories, I think about my nephew and niece, who are now of the same age as I was back then and feel sad about the fact that they wouldn’t know of a slower lifestyle and the traditional methods that existed in our cuisines.
Of course, they’ll have their own fond memories as they grow up. But, what memories will they have of these past two years when they are locked inside their homes due to the COVID pandemic, listening only to the conversation of elders, and having to constantly sit in front of the mobile screens or computers for their classes instead of playing with kids of their age, falling in the mud, getting dirty, and getting bruised?
We have been a lucky generation who have experienced both - a slow-paced lifestyle as well as a huge technological shift leading to a much faster lifestyle throughout the globe. Hence, it is also up to us who should act as the bridge to pass on the good old traditional practices and cultures that existed (and are almost dying) in our homes, in our states, in our country, to our next generations while also making them aware of the sustainable practices that were prevalent and need to be adopted for a better environment for all.
What fond memories do you have from your parents or grandparents about the traditional practices? Do you still follow them? Have you passed them on to your children or nephew or nieces?
Please do share your stories... I would love to share your stories in my blog...