Had been to my native place for holi. It’s a very remote village called Bhamghar nestled in the mountains of Ratnagiri. The place defines the word ‘remote.’ As I often tell my friends, Bhamghar got electricity in 1992 and a telephone connection just six years back. Till then, we relied on kerosene lamps and those very beautiful blue ‘inland letters’ and yellow postcards.
I have been visiting Bhamghar with my grandparents since I was eight months old, according to my grandmother who often repeats this story whenever the issue of me and my love for my native place comes up. I started going with them with my milk bottles, milk powder and the brush that is used to clean the bottles. When I said remote earlier, the fact that we still don’t have a single shop in the village should suffice to support my claim! We still have to walk down the mountain for a couple of hours to another village called Nigdi for getting basics like milk, sugar, rice or salt. (There is one more Nigdi near the city of Pune, which many people confuse this one with.) I distinctly remember our dinners in warm summer nights surrounded by kerosene lamps. I could hardly make out what was in the plate, but the day’s tiring mischief was enough to put all faith in grandma’s culinary skill!
If I start, I can write a book on all my memories. Therefore, I shall return to the present.
This was only the second time I had been there for holi. And I was returning after probably three-four years. So it was a great occasion for me! Borrowed a friend’s Nikon d40 for the visit. Left at five in the morning with family. Got a few good morning shots.
The Goa road is beautiful and well maintained. We reached more than half way pretty quickly. Stopped over at Ambet to buy chicken.
FOLLOWING IMAGES MAY CAUSE DISTRESS TO VEGETARIANS.
If we had stopped later at Mandangad, it would have taken us at least an hour! This is a junction of sorts where State Transport buses leave to various destinations across Ratnagiri. Purchased things we would need for the ceremonies and left.
We reached home pretty early, in anticipation of the palkhi. Now here’s how holi is celebrated in my native. On rangapanchami, there is the usual playing with colour and lighting the pyre in the evening. Some say the pyre in our village is so huge, it can be seen from two mountains away! I missed that by a day. The next day, the images of our native gods are carried around the village in a palkhi (palanquin) decked with flowers. Some rites are performed at the main temple and the palkhi arrives at a house in the village from where it moves ahead. This year, that house was ours.
My cousin Amit who recently got married had come with his wife. Since it was the first time he was coming here after getting married, there were certain rites that they both had to perform. One was distributing sweets to every house in the village, and the other was a procedure I saw for the first time. It’s called ‘mundawlya baandhne,’ or tying the mundawlya. The mundawlya are those things tied around the newly wedded couple’s heads during their wedding ceremony.
What needs to be done is, they both have to tie their respective mundawlya, a coconut and knife (wedding paraphernalia) to one of the pillars on the loft of the house. For this, we went to my grandfather’s brother’s house right next to ours. One of the pillars was covered with visibly old mundawlya tied in red cloths.
After this, the sweet distribution thing happened which took a long time! Dolly, Amit’s wife (her new name is Avni – the wife’s name is changed after marriage), was taking in everything with awe. It was all very interesting for her, right from the cashews hanging on trees on our way to the ceremonies and the people! Also, she was feeling a bit uncomfortable in the sari. It was great to observe so much of culture being passed on.
Everyone left at nine in the night as opposed to originally planned four! I could hear the palkhi being taken from one house to the other; the musicians played tunes that I knew from 20 years back! The same old rhythm of the drums, the very familiar shehnai, and the mantras being chanted…the music wafting in through the countless walls and little lanes and trees as one unified sound. The sound of celebration. Of culture.
I have to add here that the musicians are not of this earth. They were playing almost continuously a day before we arrived, and did not stop until I left two days later! Day and night they went on with their beat, stopping to take a bit of rest, filling in on their sharp village brew, and beginning again! I sadly could not go with the people for the night events as I caught a cold. Just like that. I agree that it was almost 37 degrees Celsius. Must be the dust, I told myself. And went off to sleep.
The next day I did not do much. Went around to the temple, got back to the school and took a few shots there. I must say, the children here have a different spark in their eyes. Might be their rustic skin, browned by walks to school in the scorching sun, the oil in their hair which doting mothers massage into their heads after a bath, the sweet smelling talcum powder, or just the hunger for knowledge. And their urge to show what they are capable of.
Next day was great. Went to another village close by called Kestuli. My dad’s youngest cousin got married a few weeks back and his wife is from Kestuli. I went along with cousins as the son-in-law’s entourage! I got to see first hand the treatment given to a son-in-law. Respect comes in all possible forms, right from the cool water given to wash our faces, the special sheets brought out for everyone to sit on, to the sweet smelling water from earthen pots kept in front of us!
Had a very good lunch, spicy, thick coconut based mutton gravy with rice bhakris, a thinner variant of the gravy to have with rice…brilliant!
Then came the betel leaves, paansupari as it is called. My grandmother used to eat betel everyday after lunch. I made one for myself and for others. I was so full after the lunch that I forgot to take pictures of the plate full of betel leaves, shreds of tobacco, the famous green container of white lime (chuna), and to my surprise, a bundle of beedis! I was later told that it is a norm to offer beedis.
Visited a lot of relatives’ houses, had sweets and were offered tea at every place we went to. Left at around five in the evening.
Booked tickets for Bombay for the next day came home and started packing. And that’s when the electricity went off! It usually comes back at seven, but that day, the bulbs flickered back to life at eleven, causing my grandma to panic. I have been seeing her pack for the last 20 years or so, and her style has not changed at all! I remember my grandfather used to scream at her from his bed to stop and go off to sleep. She has this annoying habit of packing things into small bunched up packages, gathlya as they are called. And she will spend hours gathering stuff, locking cases and doors, opening them up again, misplacing keys, rustling plastic bags, asking questions…she used to do that when I was seven and has not stopped it yet! So, she spent almost till one in the a.m. shuffling about the house till she was completely satisfied, and came to bed.
We left at six thirty in the morning, amidst the usual meeting everyone, money exchanging hands and wishes being conveyed.
It has been like that for as long as I can remember. And I hope and pray it never changes.