Category: Tradition

The warmth of fat old quilts

The warmth of fat old quilts


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This winter we decided to change our quilts.

It was like the passing of an era.

For years we’d used the ones I’d carried from home when I moved to Delhi for my first job, decades ago. These wren’t the light fluffy ethnic creations one finds these days. Nor were they anything like modern comforters.

These were big fat heavy cotton quilts encased in old-fashioned paisley patterned cotton cloth.

Up in the North seasons are well defined – winter is winter and summer is summer and the twain barely meet. Sometime after October when the days began to get shorter and the nights slightly cool, it would be time to pull out the quilts. Quite a ritual, that was! We waited for the massive storage boxes to be opened and the quilts taken out, officially heralding the arrival of winter.

They’d be laid in the sun for a day to rid them of the smell of naphthalene balls. Then encased in crisply ironed white cotton covers they were ready to be snuggled into. When you pulled one on, not the slightest whiff of a draft dared enter. They were the best partners to have on long winter nights when your teeth chattered and your feet refused to warm up.

If the rain gods decided to visit, the quilts would be out all day. We’d sit long hours wrapped in them, despite the heater burning bright. We’d munch peanuts with coriander garlic chutney and tell endless stories. And when it was time for bed we’d shake them off to rid them of peanut husk and cuddle down for the night. The faint smell of naphthalene balls mingled with that of peanuts and mum’s Lakme moisturiser and lull us into the best sleep ever.

After years of use, the cotton would gather together in bunches becoming a thick, tough, heavy mass. Then it was time to look out for the rui dhunane wale who roamed the streets calling out ‘rui dhunwa lo’ accompanied with the twang of their instrument. They’d get out the cotton and bit by bit transform it back into soft and fluffy balls to be refilled into the case. Freshly filled it would be carried up to the terrace or laid out in the courtyard. Then, our grand moms would sit for hours in the afternoon sun, their daily chores done, gossiping about friends and family as they threaded the quilt. Once done it was ready to use, good as new.

Those weren’t just quilts, they were a bit of my childhood, perhaps that’s why I clung onto them for so long. But then, old has to yield place to new, and so we finally gave them away. As we turned in for the night in our brand new comforters the Husband said, so very rightly, ‘Woh baat hai nahin in me. They’re just not solid enough!’

For more winter nostlagia do drop by my older post here.

Of Diwali Traditions Old and New

Of Diwali Traditions Old and New

Traditionally Diwali has always spelt A.C.T.I.V.I.T.Y since I was a child. We would get swept along on this tidal wave as the adults sat around budgeting, making lists, shopping for clothes and estimating the number of visitors.

Most of all I remember the food

My grandmas and my mother would get together along with the house help and cook up a storm in the kitchen. By the time Diwali came around, we’d have huge boxes full of all kinds of sweets and savouries that would last through the month.

We’d hang around the kitchen…

..pestering them for ‘something to do’, beyond the picking and carrying and fetching. Most often we were handed over forks or knives and we would sit happily pricking the mathris readying them for frying. Or we’d get to work on the gujhiyas cutting them with the help of moulds, getting out perfectly formed semi circles. The adults worked far more deftly without the moulds.

My favourite memory…

is that of my grandmother sitting out in the courtyard frying gujhiyas in a large kadhai (a wok) on a coal fire. My sister and I would hang out of the huge windows of our room that opened out into the courtyard. It was me more than my sister. Food never was quite her thing like it was mine. My grandmom would hand over one to me, its delicately flavoured khoa hot and runny. And I would happily risk burning my tongue as I’d bite into it. Nothing ever tasted quite as good.

After I got married..

..I tried my hand at making gujhiyas and it turned out an epic fail. Each one of them burst out into the oil spilling all their contents and effectively putting me off festive cooking. I didn’t much mind. All I did was go looking for the shop that sold the best ones (by that I meant the ones closest to the kind my mom made). And that was how it was for many years.

However now, as the children are growing up, I am beginning to feel sorry for that lost tradition, among many others. I’m sorry they will never experience the bustle of a busy kitchen fragrant with festive smells, that they will never get to sample a hot gujhiya straight out of the kadhai. And I wonder if, in an attempt at simplifying the festival, I have taken away the essence of it.

In an attempt at simplifying Diwali have we taken away the essence of it? Click To Tweet

Perhaps I have. Could I have done it any other way? I’m not sure. Not as far as the cooking goes that’s certain, that really isn’t my forte.

We have however, set up our own traditions – clearing our cupboards, redoing the house, painting diyas, making rangolis, having our own small puja followed by visiting friends and neighbours. That’s not too bad I assume. The children, of course, have no idea what they’re missing, as for me, I still miss the ma ke haath ki gujhiyas.

Linking up with the Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge #writebravely #writetribeproblogger

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

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