One evening when he went to town with his mother and his brothers he noticed a strange looking house having many doors like a school house or like a road-side motel but the doors were at a distance of only few feet from each other; it was the only house in the area which had no electricity. At every door he saw a woman standing, dressed in white saree and a white garland on hair, holding a wax candle. Suddenly he saw one of their village Santhals walked through one of the doors and the woman who was standing at that door followed him inside and closed the door. Proloy, who was six or seven years by then, was curious to know why the Santhal had entered into such an inconspicuous house. When he asked his mother about it she told him to walk looking straight ahead.
Even though electricity was available in their village, many families used kerosene lamps at night. Only half a kilometer towards the west, in the direction of the flying club, there was no trace of electricity anywhere; it was like a dark continent.
In those houses where there was no electricity, a special type of kerosene lamp called “kupi” was used. It had a cylindrical shaped thin metal container and a separable constricted neck. A wick was pushed through the neck inside the container. The constricted neck not only held the wick above the container but also maintained a small distance between the container containing kerosene and the fire when lighted. A holder similar to the handle of a porcelain cup was fixed at the side of the container. It was the least expensive of all the lamps and was sold even in local grocery stores. It produced black soot, but in a mud-house with no paint on the wall the black soot did not make any difference. Few families had hurricane lamps.
[To be continued]
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