Champa recalls the days when fridges were not in vogue. Every house had earthen pitchers, the very large to small ones. The fragrance of moist earth – as after the first showers – was heady. Here’s Different Truths’ Earth Day special.
When I was a kid, my Thakurma (grandmother) used to store drinking water in a fat bottomed earthen pitcher, which was neatly placed on a rolled coir rope. The two maids working at our place would take their turns to fill up the earthen pitcher every morning and evening and add a pinch of camphor to it.
The water would remain cool in that container and it had a distinct taste, which was very different from the refrigerated water or what one would drink from bottles and jugs. I remember very clearly that an elderly neighbour lady would often visit my grandmother in the evening and ask for a glass of water from that pitcher, the smell of which she said, reminded her of her own village and childhood.
My mother’s eldest brother, our BoRo Mama was a doctor in one of the leading hospitals, which was close to the place we lived. He would come to see his sister, my Ma, now and then. BoRo Mama would always refuse to have tea, when offered by Ma, but would ask for a glass of water from my Thakurma’s ‘kolshi’ (pitcher). As we grew up drinking that same water every day, we didn’t realise its speciality and often wondered what others find in it.
During that stage of life, summer afternoons were always longer as the school got over early and as a child, contrary to what I am now, hated to go to sleep, even though my grandmother and the maids tried their best, by closing all entry of sunlight and making the room dark and scary for me. I always loved to sneak down the staircase and loiter around the kitchen, which was a forbidden zone for the kids. On one such afternoon, I was caught by one of the maids, dipping a tumbler and also my dirty hands deep inside the water ‘kolshi’, which got reported first to my grandmother and then to my mother, after she returned from work.
Ma was a strict woman but also very indulgent in her own way. She never scolded or punished for such mistakes, instead she took me to the local market in the evening and bought a tiny pitcher, which she said would be me my own and only mine. I remembered that I painted my initials on that pitcher and even tried drawing two small flowers on it with my trembling brush.
When exactly did we discarded the ‘kolshi’s and ‘kujo’s (small pitcher) and shifted to storing bottled drinking water in the refrigerator, I do not remember. In fact, I had totally forgotten about those earthen pots until the other day, my daughter suddenly made us stop the car, while passing by the busy Velachari Street of Chennai and pointed to the ‘kolshi’s, lining one after another, on a roadside stall. She pleaded to her father at the wheel, ‘Please Appa, can I have one?’
Her father was confused and bemused at the same time. He looked at me. ‘Get her,’ my eyes welled up.
One such ‘kolshi’, now adorns my daughter’s room. The pitchers, these days, come with aluminium taps fixed to them. Good that those taps were not there before, I thought, or I would never have got my personal ‘kujo’, my first moment of pride, possession and much more.
Pix from Net.
Champa writes on various blogs and magazines on real life issues and incidents. She is a Post Graduate in English literature from Jadavpur University and has taught English in an Undergraduate college in Kolkata. Champa loves spending her time by reading, writing, gardening and learning classical dances. She now lives in Chennai.