Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Legacy

For as long as I can remember, there is one thing that the women of the Bose, Chatterjee and Mukharji family have used, and which I have now introduced into the Ghose family as well. That noble item, smoothening out the creases in the linen of our lives is, tan-tan-taraaaaa:

A simple jhainta, the one here has been dressed up with my scrunchie for a festive look. I don't know what you call it in your language, but I am sure this picture will be worth a thousand synonyms.

For as long as I can remember, every morning my grandmother and mother would get up and start whipping things around them into shape. As we ducked out of range, the bed would be dusted using this jhainta, beating all creases out of it. Pillows and cushions would be walloped and plumped into the shape they were meant to be. When I grew older and began doing my bit, I realised the satisfaction of watching microscopic dust particles flying off the bed with each stroke, creating a dust haze in the morning sunlight filtering through the windows. And no bed could ever be properly made without this mandatory corporal punishment. Thwack, thwack thwack goes the jhainta, and it keeps time with the user's mood that morning. I had never questioned it, and I had always taken it for granted.

I got married, moved to Bombay, and realised that without the jhainta the bed just didnt feel properly made. I had to go out and buy one. The maid promptly took it into the bathroom and used it to wash the floor. Which is what most normal people would use it for, I guess. But my houseproud grandmother and mother had turned it into an ally in the rest of the house as well - straightening out their lives with its help. And I bought a replacement and hid it from the maid.

When my mother-in-law first visited us, she came to the room in the morning when she heard the unfamiliar thwack thwack thwack. I propounded at length on its qualities, and when I next visited Kolkata, I found one in the corner of our room, for me to use while I was there!!!

My jhainta has accompanied us to Dubai. And each morning I use it and think of the long history I am honouring with this simple act. And how, in a very special way, this is a legacy too - a little domestic tip, a secret to a better made bed, and a virtual pranam to the women who have used it before me.


eve's lungs said...

yup - bit it has to be a little thinnish - no wonder your maid took it to wash the loo.A thwack with the jhanta is cathartic too :P

dipali said...

I was most astonished when a Bengali friend and her son came to say with us, and the first morning I was asked where the bed-'jhadoo' was kept.
My friend would use half of a normal jhadoo. Is this a Bengali Brahmin tradition? Good to know you're keeping up with it!

Sandeepa said...

Koti koti pronam, you carried a "bichana jharar jhanta" to Dubai !!! Ok, hope you do not use it for other purposes too & A is safe and sound ;-)

And don't they have fancy, colorful plastic ones these days ?

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence!!! This morning my friend,a bong married to somebody from AP and I, again a bong, married to somebody from Karnataka were bemoaning the non use of this wonderful tool in the house of our respective in-laws. In fact after marriage I was shocked to discover that my spouse did not fold the quilt after waking up let alone make a bed in the mornings. When my mother in law visited I noticed she also did not make the bed the way we bongs did. This morning my friend mentioned the same thing about visiting in-laws and we concluded that bichana gochano was an art mastered by the bongs added by the great jhanta

Thinking Cramps said...

Eve's Lungs: You are right, I thought it would be too much detail to explain how we prune it down to a nice size, suitable for the bed. And such a cathartic weapon :)

Dipali: Dunno about Bong Brahmin, but am pretty sure about Bong at least, as the comments here show :) And my grandmother was not a Brahmin, though she was married to one - so all I can say is I am glad that, despite being a probashi, there is something Bong that I am carrying forward!

Sandeepa: Hmpf. Not to worry, Anando is safe and sound!! And the plastic ones are just not that fun.

Anon: I hear you! My reaction exactly when I realised people exist without EVER using the jhainta!!!

rishabh said...

I like how you can come up with amazing posts while writing about something as common and simple as a jhainta.
Very enjoyable read.

Anonymous said...

ditto rishab. Love and hugs:-) Aunty G.

Thinking Cramps said...

Rishabh: Hello, you're back after ages! Thanks!

Aunty G: Hello, and thanks! How be?

Suki said...

It's a Bong thing? Really? It's such a part of my life I thought everyone did it!

I used to see my granddad wallop the pillows into softness every morning. Used to carry on the tradition, now I'm blessed if I do it once in two weeks, heh! Lord knows what others do to my bed while I'm out :P

Sue said...

Oooh, me too, me too! Didn't find one at the in-laws' and felt most uncomfortable. As soon as we moved to our own place I bought one, and it's so nice making the bed after beating it up a bit.

My mother's used the same one as long as I can remember, occasionally with the wire binding it tightened by my father.

Thinking Cramps said...

Suki: Oh yes it is a Bong thing. And given that I am a probashi, have my Bangla made fun of, don't eat fish, and look like a Mallu, I feel glad that in this small way I have preserved a unique element of my Bong identity!

Sue: Oh yes, tightening the wire is another ritual. There are tricks, techniques, and signature knots!

Mystic Margarita said...

A bed is simply not done right unless the jhainta is employed! Couldn't get the original in US-land, but discovered a plastic counterpart in a desi store, much to my delight. And the ritual of bed-making is back to its former glory! :)