Looking back into my life, I see how things have changed in my life over these years. When my friend said, “today is Bihu”, with a hint of taunt in his voice as I was getting ready for office, without taking a bath, I realized how things have changed dramatically. It was the one of the two days in the year my mother would not leave me from bathing, even if I didn’t bath on all the other days in the entire year. And today, I’m going to office without bathing, that too for the second day continuously. I smiled when I realized I missed both ‘Uruka’ and ‘Bihu’- the two days my mother would drag me from anywhere, like a cowboy dragging an adamant cow, and put me under the tube well and bathe me. And now, I had bathed the entire year except these two special days (a day or two maybe I have skipped which I don’t remember).
‘Uruka’- perhaps it’s the day among all the festive days that I like the most. I still remember preparing meals at the cowshed (in front of our house adjacent to the bamboo fence bordering our house from the road) with timber and bamboo and dried leaves of all kinds which was unusual from the regular days, when food was cooked on gas-stove. People feasting all round in the dry barren rice fields- and Bihu songs (some of them having disgusting vulgar lyrics) coming from all around from the ‘Bhelaghors’ (a temporary house made of hay and banana leaves for spending the night and guarding the ‘Meji’ and then burning it in the morning), where the kids and youths would be feasting- occasionally some loud shouts of merriment or the sound of the cracking bamboo fence in one of the neighbours house, the boys running and the owners chasing behind them. Yes it was fun! My father would always stay till late that night (maybe the only night in the year he stayed till late) warming himself by the fire left after preparing the food to guard the bamboo fence around our house, so that no one can steal it. And despite all the guarding, someone would take the bamboo gate or one or two bamboo poles- and next day my father shouting and us smiling at his rage.
And the next morning-my mother would drag me from my bed to give ‘lag lag’ (ritual of beating a fruit tree with a stick and urging it to bear fruits) on the fruit trees. How much I hated getting up early, but once I’m out of bed I kind of enjoyed the ritual- shouting ‘lag lag’ at the top of the voice, competing with the neighbours and beating the tree with the bamboo sticks, prepared the previous day, so hard that, sometimes, my uncle had to say not to beat it that hard else it’ll break before bearing fruits! Ahahah.. As I grew older I realized how stupid this ritual was? Shouting ‘lag lag’ (‘bear bear’) and expecting the tree to bear fruits early or in more quantity. And if someone’s tree started bearing fruit newly my uncle would say last year they must have given ‘lag lag’ really nice! How funny was it! Wasn’t it? But we enjoyed it. Sometimes stupidity gives more pleasure than logic. And I’d beat the fruit trees with all my strength as if releasing the anger on my mother on the poor tress and shouting ‘lag lag’. Sometimes I’d even beat the non-fruit trees and joke my brother ‘let’s see what it bears!’
And then the worst part- bathing. Somehow sprinkling a few droplets of water on my body and completing my bath in a cold January morning, while my small brother keeps shouting ‘make soon else we’ll miss everything’, I’d wear my new clothes and head towards the Meji (bonfire-a tall conical structure made of hay, banana leaves and bamboo, to light it on this day). Some people would already be there warming themselves by the fire of the Meji and the younger ones playing ‘Koni juj’ (Egg-fight: whosever egg breaks first loses). People would collect the strongest egg from months for this day! I don’t know how they determined which egg was stronger, but they did. Anyway after warming a little I’d walk to the nearby village where my Mama’s house is, seeing all the kids playing marbles on the streets (they were not pukka) and the elder ones playing cards. As if it was the day the elders got license from their wives to gamble officially!
Once reaching there I’d also play marbles with my cousins ( I didn’t play with others as I was a horrible marble player and felt shy to play with others), and then feasting on ‘larus’ (laddoos), ‘pithas’ (cake made of rice flour coconut etc. Although I don’t think the work ‘cake’ gives the actual meaning still I find no other word to describe it) and ‘doi-sira’ (curd and rice-flakes). And then they would come with us to our house and the feast at our place. They were such happy days.
And today I’m going office. That too without bathing! It’s not that I’m scared of bathing. With the availability of geysers why would I be! But the problem was there was no water. From last three days there was no water. Somewhere near our society a pipe had bursted causing this severe water shortage. We washed our bottoms with Bisleri bottles! And for “Uruka” we ordered Chicken-garlic and Surmai Fry from a nearby restaurant as our feast. That was our Bihu now!
I sprayed half a bottle of deo, wore my clothes and headed towards office.