Wednesday 23 January 2013

Cutting Chai with Bhawana Somaaya - Day 23

Mother & I
23.1.2013, Mumbai

There is joy in a routine and a routine tells more about a character than we realise. My mother as long as she lived started her morning by feeding grains to the sparrows and the pigeons. While she brewed tea for the rest of the family she opened her kitchen window and invited her friends to be a part of her domesticity. She placed a bowl of water on the window sill for the thirsty birds and the birds came every day to give her company.

After bath, mother showered water to the rising sun, then the Tulsi plant and finally a plate of prasad with a lamp to her Gods in the temple.

When it was lunch hour the first Chappati was reserved for the crow and strangely he always knew when she was ready because he arrived on the window sill as soon as she put his bread on the window sill. The second Chappati rolled in ghee and jaggery was for the cow. When she had finished cooking she went barefoot on the street waiting for a cow to pass by and when she did, mother fed her with her hands and touched her back to seek blessings.

In the olden days the entire family assembled on the floor for meals but even later when we began eating on dining tables, she always commenced her meal with the first morsel of everything in her plate offered to the ancestors on the side. Next she sprinkled water around the plate this was to ward off the evil eye and is a ritual followed in many traditional homes even today.

When she was no more for a long time I followed her practice and started my day by offering grains to the pigeon and the sparrow, when father was no more she believed that he visited the family in the form of the crow and cooked his favourite dishes for me. When she was no more, I was visited by two crows and I remembered to serve them my parents’ favorite dishes.

I did that for a long time but in the fancy apartment I live currently, the society rules prohibit us to put grains and bread on the window sill and soil the building. These are times of hygiene not tradition and I understand without cynicism. So do the sparrows, the pigeons and the crows that have gradually learned to stay away from us humans? They no more visit our homes to announce a guest, the sparrows and the pigeons are harshly evacuated from the windows before they can build a nest or lay an egg.

I don’t anymore feed the cows because they never pass by the lane I live. If I have to feed them I have to visit the temple and there too I cannot feed the cow unless I first feed her with the ladoos I purchase from the cowherd caretaker.

I long to offer the first morsel of my meal to my ancestor exactly the way my mother did but the few times I did I was subjected to scornful looks and since then did not attempt to commence and conclude a meal by sprinkling water around my plate.
At home I do.

My mother was fortunate, she followed her instincts. In the changing times I have to change to not attract attention.

Bhawana Somaaya/

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