Thursday, 8 January 2015

Mother - The Fire Maker



The strike of a match stick, or a click of a gas lighter and the fire burns fed by the natural gas; It had become so easy to make a fire these days moreover the fire is smokeless and burns strong or weak according to the turning or twisting of the knob.

A decade or score years back, the story is totally different with regard to making a fire, in the kitchen. It involved expertise of the mother in making a fire, to cook food and to keep the house warm. The fire is either produced form the cinders left from the previous cooking or from scratch using dry twigs or papers and most commonly from the resin smeared branches and barks of a pine tree called “mebchi” (in dzongkha) or “lengtshong” (in sharshop).

The fire tested the lung power of the people nearby; to blow with the right amount of force producing a right gust of wind from the mouth, supplying oxygen to make it burn until the food or whatever that is there, is cooked. Having dry firewood eliminated the requirements of continuous blowing.

It was a common sight those days, the firewood stacked on the perimeter walls of the houses to dry, making the wall taller by the added stacks of firewood, all collected on the back of the dwellers of that house. It was kind of status symbol to have higher stacks in different colours, as ever passing time, made the firewood change colour according to the batches and age, the newly collected firewood remaining still light-brownish in hue.

The age old firewood made the fire in the kitchen burn, without requiring to be blown saving the lungs of the moms for breathing only. The mothers of that time are commonly known as “nangi aum” and she is the head cook, store keeper, treasurer and the caretaker of the whole family. Due to the hard work that she was required to undergo she was mostly excused from working outdoors, in the field or collecting firewood. She is respected by the entire family members and children look up to her with love and much deserved respect and awe.

The missing of the thick mud-stamped, perimeter wall around the houses, made taller by the stacked firewood of different colour of ageing wood, along the widened Thimphu – Paro highway, sure is the sign of development and encroaching customs from outside which is preferred, as it made the life easy.

The walls had become thinner build with bricks and cement. The sign of status once had become the sign of shame, as stacked firewood may send the message to the onlookers that this house does not have a gas stove or modern amenities for cooking.

The influx of comfort and the changing living standard brings in the change in the attitude of the people. It was the hardship that bound together the family, requiring division of works within the family and they co-existed together in a large joint family with cohesion. The fast food and the ready to eat stuff that are readily available in the market and also with the abundance of eateries in the towns and cities the importance and dependence on the ”Nangi Aum” diminished.

The ease in making in fire, took away the love and respects that is associated with the maker of the fire the “nangi aum” together with it some part of our culture too.