Everyday in our house in Jharia, Rotis were made for the dog, crow and the cow. I did not live on a farm and we did not have dogs as pets. These rotis were made every single day for them who were stray, homeless or should I say ‘free’, which really would be more apt. In Fatehpur Galli, no one had pets. Somehow keeping an animal or bird, captive and providing them with the best food and bed, did not gel well with the lane. My grandmother would take a few Rotis every afternoon and go down to find a dog and a cow. The rotis for the crow were torn into pieces and thrown on the terrace. If my grandmother was out on a Teerth Yatra or a pilgrimage, the servants, when they went home for the afternoon nap would take the rotis and give it to the animals. This was not a big deal or some big charity we were doing, it was a routine. Similarly putting grains on the terrace for the birds, was a way of life. Gauri Bai had Bajri and Jowar grains in a Dalda tin with a small round Aluminium mug or measuring cup, we used to go to the terrace across and throw it for the birds. It is only when I came to Mumbai, I realised, what I thought as a way of life, was not a norm here. Simple practices which enriched my life.
Then after some years, my Dad’s cousin kept a Pomeranian dog. All hell broke loose in her house. This was her way to rebel against her family and do something of her own. They named the dog Jackie. Her family of senior citizens, did not like the dog coming in their way or around them as they sat to eat. The dog was not allowed to climb the bed or go in the kitchen. Later everyone just got used to the dog around. He died in some years and then they got another dog and then a pair called Jackie and Julie. The house was big and the dogs did not come in the way. My Aunt was immersed in showering her love on them. Over the years, four dogs came in her house and eventually died. Heartbroken, she did not keep a pet again. It involved not just commitment and patience but a lot of attachment and heart ache.
Here in Mumbai, our help Lakshmi, makes a bite size roti first, before she puts our Roti on the tawa to cook. That small little piece is a symbolic of keeping aside for the cow, bird and the dog. We used to take Atta or flour and sugar and put it around an ant-hill or a Banyan tree. This was for the ants. Feeding the smallest animal was important, making an ant-mountain in your own house was not. Every time the rotis are made, when you lift the ‘Paatlo’ or the wooden round platform/ rolling block where you roll the roti, there is a round shape made of the atta / flour which spreads out. Lakshmi always prays to it. She says ‘Chand banta hai usko aise hi nahin uthaatey’. She means that it makes a circle and we pray to it as Sun or Moon and then wipe it or clean it. These small things were just there to keep us in the present. Really, not let the mind meander and make the cooking mechanical. The fire was always worshipped and you never threw water on a hot ‘Chulha’ or even a hot ‘tawa’. In Hindi, the round shape is always referred to as ‘Chand’ or moon and not as ‘Surya’ or Sun. May be Sun is too hot to handle.
“Too hot to handle but ready to scandal”… I am even embarrassed to write this sentence. I think during college days, the guys used to say something like this. I don’t know if my over active imagination is telling me this. It was used for whom the boys termed as ‘Fast’ girls. The definition of a ‘fast’ girl keeps changing with time but it is always used in reference to a girl.