Through his eyes – 18

The grinder that was used to grind spices had two parts, a flat stone having the shape of a tombstone but much smaller in size and a small cylindrical shaped black stone, used as roller, about nine inches long and three inches in diameter. Spices like turmeric, cumin etc. were kept on the flat stone, soaked with few drops of water and pasted by rolling the cylindrical stone over the flat one with pressure to create a thick paste of the spice. At a regular interval of about six to nine months, the stones were made rough by grooving with hammer and chisel. The people who used to do this job were called “shil katao” [which means cut the stone], the name given because that was the sound they would make while roaming on the streets. While cutting the stones they used to create some impression of a fish or a turtle etc. on the upper portion of the flat stone.

There were ascetics from both Hindu and Muslim communities who used to collect alms. Among the Hindu ascetics Baul singers were very popular. A Baul singer would often sing while playing a musical instrument called ‘Ektara’, which had only one string. Some Baul singers would sing so well that people would often request them to sing more. The other Hindu ascetics used to sing devotional songs, sometimes playing a simple musical instrument, having two metal discs (cymbals). Sufis, the Muslims ascetics used to sing only one line “muskil asan karo daya gaji pir” [whose probable meaning is: let the difficulties get resolved by the blessings of God]. A Muslim ascetic would carry a brush having jute like fibers attached to a wooden handle which would look like a brush used for coloring walls. A mother would often push her child to stand near the ascetic to seek his blessings and he would rub his brush softly on the child’s head. People used to give rice and green vegetables as alms.

Whenever a child was born, there arrived hermaphrodites like a comet. They used to sing in unpleasant voice by making all kinds of indecent gestures but they used to hold the new born in their arms with a great affection and bless the child. They would like to dance with the grandmother of the new born. They would charge very nominal amount and people would never bargain with them.
[To be continued]


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