Our locality is in south-end of Calcutta city. You may call it an elevated suburb. Here we live as a small Christian community. Today is the Harvest Sunday. Everyone in our family is busy making last minute’s final details. Our house is next to the church. So there is no distance the family members have to cover, but, the harvest items from each family have to be placed at the altar before the first church bell rings, that is at 7.20 a.m. My grand children stay a few blocks away from our home, but they stayed on last night, so that they would not be late for the church service.
Deep was then around 10 years of age. Those days Harvest Sunday was an elaborate event. Deep’s Grandpa would turn up early in the morning on the previous day, knock at the door with a loud
harvest day song “We Shall Come Rejoicing ”. Deep would come running to the door. Grandpa would invariably ask him to find out the axe from the junk-room and Deep would oblige. The axe was a bit blunt, but alright for the next act. Grandpa always insisted that for the Harvest Festival one must offer at least one of the own home grown vegetables or fruits ! There was of course a small vegetable garden in front of Deep’s house, but it only had two guava trees, and, the guavas growing on them were not at all tasty and hence not appropriate for offering in the church altar. Ah... then there was this wild variety of Maan Kochu (Arum) with giant leaves. Grandpa would very carefully dig out at least 10 such giant Arum plants, complete with leaves, stem and the roots – the tuber (that’s the portion one can eat). Carrying them to the church a bit far away was a difficult task. First of all it was heavy for Deep who had to make several trips, because he can at best carry a couple of them at a time. Secondly carrying these obviously meant inviting itches all over the body--- this wild variety of Arum’s raw juice was often very allergic.
The Church those days was made of mud-walls and it had a tiled roof. Those up-rooted Arum plants placed inside the church would serve as decorations. Along with these, from each member family, some vegetables procured from outside market were offered on a Kula each. Now, what is a Kula? It is a flat Bamboo plate woven of bamboo strips. (This is used for a different purpose all along the year. On this Kula older women in the family would put rice, about 100 grams, and while holding on both sides with thumb and index finger, tap hard beneath the Kula. This would create vibration and the paddy husks and other broken rice pieces would surface. They would then throw out these unwanted elements! This process of winnowing would be repeated till the entire sacks of grain are de-husked. No doubt a very labour-some process ! ) At the end of the church service, Grandma would cut the tubers, make small pieces and ask Deep and his friends to share them among the neighbours. The non-Christian neighbours would receive these with joy and respect.
I woke up from the nostalgic journey, and, said “Sorry dear... I was lost in another age”.
My wife informed “ I have already cleaned the Kulas, but the trouble is there are some holes in it.... after all they are not in use any more for rice cleaning”. She added “I have placed some papers to cover-up the holes”. Then the grand-children got busy placing the vegetables brought from the market on these kulas. We normally place fresh harvested winter-vegetables. The tradition is that we start eating those variety of vegetables only after the Harvest Sundays.
We now have a new two storied church, with gothic style walls and marble floorings. And the Pastor uses a microphone to share his sermon.
But personally speaking, I miss the mud walls and the decoration with the wild arum plants. I miss those strangely, allergic itches along my skin as I carried those huge wild plants- with my grandpa singing loudly- praising the good Lord for the bountiful He offers us each year!
Published by Diptendu Mukerji