Sunday, May 27, 2012

Assam Silk

Assam silk – A traditional dress material - unparalled!

I love Mekhela Chador. Usually I wear it for office, and love to wear in various occasions. Many a times, I am asked by my non-Assamese peers and colleagues, what it is called, what material it is, what are the costs, where to get etc. So, I thought of writing few lines on Assam silk today.

Assam silk signifies the three types of indigenous wild silks produced in Assam—golden Muga, white Paat and warm Eri silk.

Muga silk is the product of the silkworm Antheraea assamensis unique only to Assam. The larvae of these moths feed on som (Machilus bombycina) and sualu (Litsaea polyantha) leaves. The silk produced is known for its glossy fine texture and durability.

Due to its low porosity the Muga yarn cannot be bleached or dyed and its natural golden color is retained. This silk can be hand-washed with its lustre increasing after every wash. Very often the silk outlives its owner.

Assam is the largest producer of this golden silk across the globe.Assam has received a geographical indication for the production of Muga.

According to the records of Assam Government, about 2625 hectares of land are utilised for production of Muga Silk, in Assam. Approximately 30,000 Assamese households are associated with Muga Silk production. There are 15 Muga Silk Reeling units in Assam.

Paat silk is produced by silkworms which feed on mulberry (Morus spp.) leaves. It is usually brilliant white or off-white in colour. Its cloth can dry in shadow.

Approximately 40,000 families of the state are engaged in the production of Mulberry Silk. The total area under the cultivation of food plants for the mulberry silkworms is about 2300 hectares. In Assam, the Mulberry Silk Worm culture is practised on a large scale in the districts of Upper Assam, like Lakhimpur, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh and Jorhat districts etc.

Eri silk is made by Samia cynthia ricini which feed on leaves of Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis). It is also known as Endi or Errandi silk. Because manufacturing process of Eri allows the pupae to develop into adults and only the open ended cocoons are used for turning into silk, it is also popularly known as non-violent silk. This silk is soft and warm and is popular for Eri shawls and quilts.

The total area under the cultivation of food plants of Eri Silk Worm in the state counts for about 2993 hectares. Currently, the state has 21 Eri Silk Spinning training centres. Approximately 1.28 lakh families of Assam are linked with the rearing and production of Muga Silk.

Another variety of silk is Paat Muga, which is very popular in Assam. It is the mixture of both Paat and Muga silk.

There is another type of silk which is close to Assamese ladies' daily lives - called as 'Kesa Paat'

The weaving style of Assam is very unique.Although, silk is produced in many districts of Assam, Sualkuchi is the main silk weaving centre of Assam. Half an hour drive from Guwahati, Sualkuchi is also called as the ‘Manchester of the East.

Few pictures from my family occasions:

My Sister in Law (cousin's) - Recently got married:

Me with my sister Ashapurna on my marraige :

My Mom and me :

With my Sister, Aunts on my Brother's marraige:

In juron:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Maintain the Gap

It was a kind of celebration when my Mom told me that she had got and confirmed one maid for me. The girl belongs to the village where my parents’ maid is getting married; Belongs to the Tea-Garden community. She must be 13/14 years old. Her name is Pokhila.

My Mom arrived Delhi taking her along on the 21st day of my son’s birth. I felt very relieved. My Mom introduced her to me. She was silent, sat quietly in a stool; And kept sitting till I asked her to wash her hand and feet and be fresh. My Mom asked me to connect my mobile to her uncle in Assam. I did. I talked to him first, gave assurance of keeping her nicely and then handed over the phone to Pokhila. She took the phone, said something in her language and started crying. She talked for at least half an hour in her language.

From very next morning, my Mom started teaching her various tasks. I decided that I will behave her like my own sister so that she also loves my child and cares for all of us. My Mother-in-Law is very simple, easy going; She never said, but, my Mom kept saying me that maintain some gap with Pokhila. My Mother –in –Law, my husband and me started behaving her like our family member.

Mother-in-law went a step ahead. She used to give the biggest piece of fish to Pokhila in dinner and lunch; if she is giving me or my husband one piece of sweet, she would offer Pokhila two pieces at least. May be, she did all these so that she takes care of us nicely, in her absence.

It was winter time. And I allowed Pokhila to sit in my bed, under the same quilt. We also allowed her to have food in our dining table. She started accepting us. My Mom went back. Pokhila got that much of comfort level that she started singing loudly while doing any task. Our TV became her own property. The TV programs started running according to her wishes. I used to be busy with my son all those days. And my Mother-in-Law used to assign her works.

After couple of days, Pokhila came to my room in a bad mood. I asked her what happened, taking her in confidence. She said in a very bad language – “I have not come here to fight with that old lady. Please make her understand that.”

She started saying ‘No’ whatever my mother in law used to ask for. It became an Every-Day issue. Gradually, we realized she will do whatever she feels like, else she will retaliate.

I thought “Thank God, she is not showing attitude with me.” and discussed with my Mother-in –law. She said, “Be prepared, she will start her actions after I leave for Guwahati.”

Few weeks later, my Mother in Law left. First few days were going fine. Gradually, Pokhila started showing her colours with me too. Whatever I used to say, she used to reply me in negative way. Not only that, without any reasons, she started making a swelled mouth and would not have food for days. I used to be very furious, sometimes. I used to feel like slapping her. Once, she did not have food for three days – and that’s for a small reason – I asked her to wash her hand after brooming the rooms. As a result, she developed gastritis. I had to take her to the doctor, had to serve her for three/four days. Does not matter for me. But, when she was fine, again she continued with fighting. I kept tolerating, as I was planning to join job while my baby was five months.

This way, I passed four months with her, scolding a bit, tolerating rest of the times. I joined an organization which allowed me to come home in between, offered flexible timings and which was located near to my home.

After getting my first salary, I wanted to buy some stuff for Pokhila as she was looking after my son. Also, there was a marriage ceremony of my husband’s colleague at Meerut. We planned to go. We thought to buy a good dress for her to attend the marriage too.

So, next day, after coming back from office, we both husband and wife went to the market, though we were quite tired. We bought couple of dresses, cosmetics etc. to her. We took some time in the market and were a bit late in returning. While we reached home, she was not talking to any of us. She just handed over our baby to us and went to her room and sat making her abusing face. I felt quite bad. I thought that I would give her surprises and the situation was quite bad. We were tensed as next day was a working day. And after coming back from office a bit early, we were planning to go to Meerut. If she continued with such a mood, I would have to take a leave next day and the plan would be spoiled.

I went to her, talked to her sweetly. I presented her all her gifts and told her that we will be going to the marriage next very day. And crossing the fingers, came out from the room. After 10/ 15 mins, she came out from her room and started doing her work silently. Her bad mood was still reflecting in her face, but better than before.

Few minutes later I went to the balcony to do some work, which is adjacent to our guest room and her room too. I was shocked!!!!!! All the gifts I gave to her, she tore the bags and threw all the dresses and cosmetics in the balcony.

Extreme level of temperature I felt! I thought what to do. When she saw me going to the balcony, she started singing a song…..may be with a delight of triumph….or what!

After few minutes, making myself understand, I came inside. I asked her and my husband, who had thrown out all those dresses. She replied without any delay – “I thrown out. What will you do?”…..

My consciousness betrayed me….I could not wait anymore. I slapped her….one, twice, thrice……But situation became bad. She also retaliated. She also started beating me…..My God!!!! My husband came in between……

I talked to her Uncle. He said that she creates this kind of situations at home too. He talked to her and said something, don’t know what. At last, the situation became cool….somehow. We decided to send her back soon.

Now, almost every week situation repeats…..But, I tolerate, as I don’t want to get slaps from a maid. Off lately, I realized that whenever I talk to my friends, colleagues, family members, I just talked about her to get my this toxin out of the body and mind.

Also, I feel……what level I have now……A lady who was bitten by a maid without a reason…! Now, I eat my angers on the maid, sleep on angers on the maid and dream also on the angers on the maid.

Now, my mom consols me …and accuse me of not maintaining any gap from the very beginning.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Power of Mobile Mania

Billions of people are talking on mobile-phones in every second. Whether they are cooking, driving cars, watching television or relaxing in their bedrooms. Can we now think our lives without mobile-handsets? Even a day….or few hours?

We are far away from our parents, childhood friends..relatives….But mobile does not allow us to feel the distance! What a miracle it is!

But, how this mobile mania is effecting some people’s lives?......Here is an example from my family.

I got to know from my mom few weeks back …that one of my cousins, Biju (Not disclosing the real name), who was brilliant, bright student did unexpectedly bad result in his exams. He was very fast in playing games in mobile, writing long SMS in fraction of a second, and could fix various handset related problems without taking any training. He used to be the most favorite student of the teachers always. He used to rank among top 3 since class I till class IX. We all relatives knew and expected that he would rank among top 10/20 in Assam board exams.

I frequently used to get sms from him, something like – “Hi di, hw r u? Say my hi 2 Gju!” , “Whn r u comn 2 Assam? Waitn…!” etc.

Now, it’s been couple of months now, I have not received any sms from him. So, I asked my mom what happened to Biju, how was his result …My mom told me that he secured second division, and it was all because of his Mobile mania.

I felt bad. Wanted to know how it happened ! What is the reason of Biju’s downfall!

I enquired with his parents – my aunt and uncle. They told me that last year, they got complaint from the teachers that he was not writing the answers properly. He started answering the questions in short , infact started using the SMS language – even the short cut of the words. Despite of warning him again and again, he continued to do so. And thus, that was the result in the final exams.

I asked Biju too what was the reason. He believes all his answers were right, but yes, he wrote the way he writes SMS. I asked why he did not try to correct his habits. He replied that he tried, but he was so much into smsing, that he could not come out of it. Ofcourse, he is repenting a bit.

Few weeks back, his parents snatched away his mobile. Now, he is depressed, does not get interest in anything, does not feel like eating, roaming, reading and interacting with anybody. He complaint that he wants it back and requested me to ask his parents to give him back anyhow.

One question raised in my mind - what’s the difference between drug addict and mobile addict?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Beauty of Assam Bandh

What is ‘Assam Bandh’?

This is a kind of holidays , which are well signified in Assam. These holidays give sudden visits, without coming according to the calender, with maximum frequency in a year.

The biggest festival of Assam is Bihu…..which comes thrice in a year…. But Assam Bandh comes at least 10-15 times a year. It is a day for celebration for some, and a time for relaxation for others.

I visit Assam once or twice in a year, and this is a record, that I never missed an Assam Bandh during my visit. Lucky me! But, sometimes it becomes troublesome too.

Last year, I went to Assam for 20 days. I stayed couple of days at my in –Laws’s place and then went to my maternal place –Jorhat to stay few days there. My mom informed me beforehand that we would have to visit Grand-ma’s place at Sibsagarh to attend a family Puja, the very next day we would reach Jorhat.

We reached Jorhat at 8 pm as we drove from Guwahati to Jorhat, enjoying the natural beauty of Assam all the way. Reaching Jorhat, I called up my sister who used to stay in Agriculture University hostel, to ask her if she could accompany us. She replied me in a shocking way…. “How come will u go to Sibsagarh…? …Tomorrow is Saka (Wheel) Bandh!” We were not aware of that as no newspaper, we read, carried the news. The bandh was declared by Bodo student union.

We got worried. What to do now?

Bodo population is extremely thin in upper Assam. And, we did not want to miss the Puja at Grand ma’s place. We decided to start our voyage…became ready to face all the troubles, all the way to Sibsagarh. My Dad said that he would not accompany and wanted to take rest at home for the day. So, my mom, me and my son, my husband and my maid were the travelers.

Next day morning, at around 9am, while we were supposed to start our journey, we suddenly realized that we did not have enough petrol to drive whole the way. It was around 80 kms from Jorhat to our destination. In fact, we checked Dad’s car also, but it also had not enough petrol.

Thinking that may be some petrol pump would be open on the way, taking some risk, we started our journey. Checked all the Petrol pumps on the way…..all were closed. Roads were completely empty. We drove fast.

Suddenly after crossing around 20 kms, we saw two/three people sitting with 10/15 bottles with some raddish water….. They were sitting just opposite side of a closed Petrol Pump in the national high way. Oh…….those bottles were full of petrol! ……My husband immediately stopped the car….and went almost running as if he had got some diamonds!!!

I observed him from inside the car and could see the vivid transformation of his face from a tensed red face into a bright one. He bargained…and bought 10 bottles in four times higher than the petrol price. We were happy! And the sellers too…! Some good feelings also flowed out from our hearts for those people though we were in lose.

So, we reached Grand ma’s place… all uncles, aunties, relatives - all were present in the Puja, despite it was a working day – ‘Wednesday’. All were relaxed… it was public holiday – called ‘Assam Bandh’!
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