Mama Ghar (Maternal Uncle’s house)
Here I am, laying my feet on its soil as an adult for the first time. Its winds with it brought back the same emotions, it had once installed in a child in me. I can safely say (for this place at least)–once attached, never detached. I just had to close my eyes to go back in time: to smell, hear and picture things as they were. As I was in-tuned with the past, suddenly, the whirlwind of emotions came rushing. Overwhelmed, I had to excuse me, find a little hide-out and soak it all in. Few deep breaths and I felt much lighter and at peace. As I was sitting there, a little birdy grabbed my attention. It was hovering around a tree in front of me. It hopped from one branch to another, throwing its quick glance at me, like as if seeking attention.
Mama Ghar: Soo many memories here growing up. Children–all curled-up together for story-nights narrated dramatically by the elders. Those scary stories of encounter with the ghosts being discussed beneath the starry nights with nothing but a laltain on (lantern). Those thumping sounds of children running in a wooden bridge–which linked two separate sections of the house: from all bedroom, hall, to the kitchen and another bridge extending towards the tallest toilet in the entire region. All those and more—now only etched in memories. In a sense, nothing about the place is the same. But again, it hasn’t changed much.
A literal English translation of the word mama-ghar means, maternal uncle’s house. I used to wonder why its called mama-ghar and not ama-ghar? Ama meaning mother. Well, I was enlightened on it only recently. A son calls his home–home (a place where he was born and/or brought-up). Whereas, his sister(s) calls her husband’s house her home (once married). In that sense, sasurali (the house of the in law’s) is in verbal use only for the son(s). As for the daughter’s, its either ghar (her husband’s home) or maiti-ghar (home where she was born and/or brought-up). That was quite a revelation for me with peculiar reasoning. Which brings me to this question. Does it mean, all women and girls unless married are without ghar–a place they can call home? Not necessarily right?
TRAVEL & ME
Since the day I got the taste of travelling, I was hooked to it. Thanks to my father’s love for driving. Something about being in the motion, on the road, seeing life up-close and away from routine, made my heart sing. Every year I used to look forward to our long school vacation, for a much anticipation family trip. The route from home in Kathmandu towards mama-ghar in Dangihat was the strong link that gave me and my siblings an opportunity to see and experience country-life at its best. Born and raised in Kathmandu, hadn’t it been these trips, I would have never understood the beauty of simple living. I could have never known, how exuberant I could feel without THINGS. I could have never witnessed the power of small things, the beauty of little adjustments, all those small exposures that make us humble, considerate, and overall, a good human being.
Maam-ghar, a house with a thatched roof providing enough space for humans with the generous field for farming, garden and a fair share for house pets and animals. This full house used to be always buzzing with people and full of life, but now, it stands alone. This vintage home, that sheltered many and cured thousands has slowly started to shred. However, still rigid and strong for its age. Like a treasure box: each pile of its wood has secured the fondest memories of our childhood. I still remember seeing a number of villagers gathering in the big room on the ground floor to watch the television. This used to be the house, ahead of its time in its locality. It stood unique with its antique stained glass windows and intrinsic appeal to its bed (especially one in the grandmum’s room, I always had my eyes on it). The house in some way had adopted the unique personality of its creator (granddad)–spreading an aura of one in a million.
LET A CHILD BE A CHILD
As a child, I was a little granny–very wise haha. Nothing comforted me, more than my own company. Often, I preferred to be alone or in the company of nature and puppies, dogs, birds etc (by choice). In that area, I haven’t changed a bit. My elder sister and cousins, on the other hand, were little troops of an army, parading around-town. I mean this in a playful way—when together, they were a bunch of spoilt brats expecting royal treatment, haha. And to back up their courage, our grandfather’s name was enough. This name, Dr I.B.Rana. worked as protective armour at any given day. I feel sorry for those poor village kids, who had no choice but to succumb to my cousins’ endless demands in favour of few guest-kids (us) from the city.
My cousins were not the first generation to reap fruits from grandad’s name. His repute, once established hasn’t left the place yet. In fact, it is travelling with people whose life he had once touched. My mum with her siblings’ shares without guilt that they all made full use of their last name, beyond comparison. Innocent little devils! But what fond memories to re-live isn’t it? 🙂 Their childhood stories although repeatedly mentioned, never fails to entertain us all.
Coming back to our childhood, the subtle version of bossing around was: Reserving swings for hours (archaic swing hung by the tree), bathing in natural canal, entering random house to play hide and seek or taking a plunge into the river (making it more of a private pool)—no intruders allowed (as if we owned it). Speaking of the river reminds me of my first ever encounter with a 🐍 (snake). As a child, I used to burst into tears upon its mention, even weeks later haha. Seriously, sometimes it feels as if that was, a whole another life that we’d once lived.
Most of us (cousins), were the millennials, almost equally divided into Gen Y.1 and Gen Y.2). Growing up in the city, at least me and my siblings had the privilege of growing up using computers and the internet. I feel, that the millennials are one of those fortunate generations, who got to experience the best of both worlds (the beautiful world that there was) before the internet and smartphone were placed above all else. However, their popularity or dominance does not make these innovations important than life; in fact, clearly, it isn’t. Well, arguably even the Gen Y has some exposure to the simplest form of life or farm life, through #farmville of course. 😉
WINTER MORNINGS IN DANGIHAT
Early in the morning, the market would already be buzzing with people. The sight of cold winter mornings was my favourite, where I watched crowds disappearing into comforting fogs. When I say market, it used to be those haat-bazaars (flea markets), with a colourful display of one’s arts and craft, jewellery, a variety of food, fresh home-grown fruits and vegetables, etc. Each seller used to exhibit their own little creations, by placing them over a thin cloth right off the mud floor, with a gentle daub of mud (red) for that polished effect. Also, many other sellers used to set-up open stalls made from wood and bamboo. It was a rare and comforting space to be in. Also a pleasant sight and scent amid good chaos. I had never witnessed morning like these anywhere else.
Buying bhakka (rice-cake) for breakfast was one those delights. Also, one of my favourite feats, because that used to my only motivation to wake up early. As much as I enjoyed eating them, it was pleasant watching it being prepared. Each set of rice-cake used to be gently wrapped in soft-cotton cloth (muslin), steamed in a clay pot with a lid on, placed over a wood fire. Once cooked, these freshly steamed rice cakes used to be folded either in banana leaves or a paper and offered with chutney (side dip). They were either cooked plain or with sugar. These little treats tasted best when served with tea brewed on thick cow milk right from the backyard. I’m hungry now.
ONE HOME MANY PERSONALITIES
In the eyes of the little girl that I was, mama-ghar looked humongous back then. It was the world of its own. Home to 20 family members: granddad, grandmum, their 2 daughters, 4 sons lived with their wives and children. All under the same roof. With works divided, everything seemed to operate well. Each mama (uncle’s) room had the character of their own. To mention one, the eldest mama’s room had the Jesus Christ posters—neatly framed with a rosary hanging around it. A tidy room with piles of science and medicine books on a table, along with statues of Hindu gods and goddesses. Although, born Hindu, each member of the family had the freedom of choice: with religion or life in general. Also, equal treatment to children despite gender. This speaks volumes about their upbringing in spite of being born in a small town. Big credit goes to their father (our grandfather). No wonder, my mum is so broad-minded. Not just her attitude but aptitude: her ability to grasp things, in particular, geography and numbers—astounds us both (me and my elder sister). In fact, both our parents never tried to impose any particular values upon us. We were free to make our own choices, learn from our mistakes and live life on our own terms.
DR I. B RANA
Mummy-buwa (mother’s father), a reputed man of his time, respected by his people, but an unsung hero otherwise. His is not a glorified story; indeed a glorious personality. He-who has touched several lives, those who had once crossed path with his. I was told that there is a book published in his memory, by one of his well-wisher. I am on the look-out for that piece of literature.
Note: Mum and many others highly speak of him, his intelligence, his journey, his struggles, his level of understanding people of all age and gender. Honestly, there was a time when I thought, maybe, our guardians were trying to glorify our grandfather. Because, first of all, I had never met him (at least I don’t recall it). I was only few months old when his body left this earth. Secondly, I had grown up hearing stories of his heroic deeds and seemingly larger than life personality, but never actually got a chance to witness it. Not to disrespect but I thought, of course, he must be someone above average, but not as large as being portrayed. But now I think I was wrong. Because to validate all those stories, I have come across sufficient people (outside family) who can’t stop praising him. A family could be biased, but an outsider, will not.
He was originally from Burma (now Myanmar), a surgeon in the Indian army. Had a tattoo of Lord Krishna in his left arm. We were told, he used to speak and write in various languages. 10+ was the number. Personally, I am not sure, how true that is. All love and respect to you granddad if you are listening, but hope you don’t mind some healthy room to question? He seemed to have touched several lives within his reach and beyond his profession. He seemed to have charmed his people through his intellect, understanding, personality and most important of all—as a humanitarian.
With the pace at which the world is moving, not many have the time to spare for other’s life, let alone hearing their story. Everyone seems to be participating in this rat race of becoming that big story themselves. And that’s good; nothing wrong with it. But sometimes it helps to slow down and be an observer. If not for anything, at least for clarity. I have always loved stories, especially those narrated my mothers and grandmothers. It’s for the first time that I am mentioning granddad in my blog and it is my privilege to get to introduce him among all readers. Growing-up hearing his stories has been a traditional thing in our family. We rejoice it and its always a proud moment. Even though words might do no justice, at least by mentioning him in our conversation, we keep him alive for years to come. I have done my bit and shall continue to. We need your blessings granddad and may your soul rest in peace.
There are several reasons that contributed to our fond memories in Dangihat. First and foremost, the lineage (of course) and the reputation it held in the region. Secondly, we were the bhanja and bhanjis (probably the most loved and respected relation you’ll find in most culture). Being admirable adds to it btw 😉 And last but not least, the perception of an outsider, helped us see things that locals could not. It gave us a fresh outlook towards apparently an ordinary country-life. Also, one thing that never fails to grab my attention while on the go is—to witness that literally every single thing that moves—is fully alive. And that, in turn, makes me feel alive. Maybe it’s for this reason, whenever I feel that the routine has taken its toll on me, I try to somehow get close to nature. It feeds me with energy and always provide a much-needed shake-up, helping me let go of things that I must and taking-up things that I should.
Often, our surroundings change us for better or worst without our own knowledge. Some exposure blinds us away from reality while others provide better clarity. It’s not a fair comparison, but unwittingly I tend to compare: bills splitting culture in the developed societies, with the generous offering of so-called ‘impoverished.’ Which reminds me of Sadhguru who talks about, rich and affluent societies carrying long faces in spite of having it all; whereas those supposedly ‘poor’ carries the most hearty and cheerful smile of all (not in verbatim).