Friday, January 13, 2006

Bihu tales

It's the night of feasting and then prowling the neighbourhood to whack anything that could be burnt in the bonfire.

Like Lohri, in Assam it is Bihu celebrated on a cold wintry day in January. Of course this is not the Bihu that brings in the new year. That happens in April. As best as I remember, this January Bihu is simply to feast at night, and burn the traditional bonfire with a prayer, first thing in the morning.

But in between the feast and the bonfire ritual, a whole night of activites take place. First families, friends and the neighbourhood gather to cook outside and eat around a fire. Plenty of singing, dancing and games take place as sweet potaotes and corn cobs are poked deep into the fire to roast. After dinner, teenage boys act smart and go out. The idea is to steal neighbours' wooden and bamboo fences to burn the traditional bonfire with. Now most neighbours are alert and sometimes even put up extra lights around their houses to spot prowlers.

We girls never went. Though I did have a friend who was supposed to be a star performer on these nights. She could pull off a job very neatly without getting caught. Of course, we held her in high esteem.

My brother was often a part of these groups. Peer pressure. All the stealing he was used to, was getting his own things pinched all the time. And we wondered why he was included in the group with such a poor record. And then we knew why. My darling brother contributed in a big way.

One year, when the group couldn't steal anything as people all over were alert, my stupid brother led them to our house! Imagine, his own place! They neatly removed the bamboo fencing from the front while my parents caught their forty winks. And next morning the bonfire at the club (where all the boys celebrated) was crackling happily, fuelled with our fence. My poor parents got a shock when they saw the bare lawn and flowerbeds. Some of the rascals had even lined the road outside with mom's treasured flowerpots. Much later my brother confessed.

The next year, the lad was warned not repeat his stupid act and threatened with dire consequences. Though of course, the parents remained alert this time. Son was last seen going out with his prized cricket bat to the club. Ahh... all well. The feast happened. All danced and sang around the fire at night. We were proud not even a twig could be flicked from home this time. And next morning the bonfire at the club was crackling happily. We wondered who were the poor victims this time. Much later brother confessed. Again. Remember the prized cricket bat? Martyr brother let it go up in flames just so his friends could have a bonfire to pray to!


Blogger WA said...

Wow I bet your brother was popular amongst his friends.

And anumita, the Bihu kind of reminds me of Pongal (harvest festival)in TN celebrated mid Jan. The day before is celebrated as Bohi where they burn stuff, kind of sounds similar.

3:35 am  
Blogger Akruti said...

Bihu is like Bhogi which we in AP are celebrating today,at 4am we have a bonfire and it feels wonderful to be a part of it,Well,these days a three day festival of sankranti is celebrated only in villages:).
And today,i am working,my brother is working far off in Delhi,mom is in a meeting,strange that with the complexities of professional life we forget the simple pelasures which makes us happy.
And your brother sure sounds popular man,wow,his own cricket bat? i have become a big fan of him now;) afterall how many of us can do that?I would have led them all to my friends house but not to my own for sure:D

11:20 am  
Blogger hope and love said...

ur bro is very cute.. so gallant of him..

3:32 pm  
Anonymous pallavi said...

Wishing you a very happy Bihu !! :)

3:39 pm  
Anonymous sherriff said...

India truly is a land of ends and the other start...and that what make living here so interesting....Hindu festival, Muslim festival, regional festivals...and now we have borrowed/adopted some from western years, valentine day...just count them from Ganesh Chaturthi till end of January...During my childhood I lived in place called Rampur dominated by punjabi community and I remember the evening spent around Bonfire...kid coming to our house for Lohri...our own version of Halloween

Bat is one of fav. possession of any guy...and ur brother sacrificed it for camraderie...born leader

hey u forgot to mention flirting which goes around these night one maroo line to u

5:45 pm  
Blogger Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Oh boy! Your brother sure got some more updates from you after that :)

7:10 pm  
Blogger paddy said...

thanx for telling us about bihu , happy bihu to you or how do they actually wish.

7:43 pm  
Blogger Abhishek said...

so ur brother was a CROOK!

9:48 am  
Blogger anumita said...

wicked angel: Yes, they are all similar in some way or the other and I think the purpose is the same. Only the names differ.

akruti: Yes, bro was very popular for all his benevolent (read stupid) ways. Happy Bhogi, Neels. I hope you managed a little something inspite of being busy.

hope and love: Yes, bro was good laughing material. Though now he gets his kicks by laughing at us.

pallavi: Happy Bihu to you too!!

sheriff: That's why I love living here. Just so much to do and celebrate. Life's so perfect in this country! We were all too dumb to flirt. You know the kind of crowd we celebrated with (family, relatives, family friends, neighbours), were all brotherly-sisterly types.

sudipta: Updates? My bro is elder to me and I blindly supported him those days.

paddy: Yes, wishes dont really need any methods. Thank you :)

abhishek: What's a crook?

12:10 pm  
Anonymous sherriff said...

Life's is not perfect in this country...except for middle class and higher income group like u and me....struggle for majority of ppl. for reasons we all know...juss read in the newspaper that a guy was burnt alive by girls family bcoz he dared to luv her...feudal society...but these festivals are a good outlet for pentup energy and frustrations....otherwise more than 1000 million ppl. wud have gone mad long ago

4:34 pm  
Blogger anumita said...

sherriff: Maybe you are right. But call me an optimist or an escapist, I always like to find strands of happiness, reasons to feel good. What I meant by perfect is probably a state of being wihch could differ for different people in similar circumstances.

3:34 pm  
Anonymous amitken said...

Wow! ur brother is a man. sacrificed his bat so that his friends cud hv a good time. :o)

Happy Bihu! (it's lil late.. but still)

5:35 pm  
Blogger Ardra said...

and did u celebrate?
there seems to be corresponding festivals in every state- the spirit remains the same...
Happy Bihu!

8:00 pm  
Blogger Swathi said...

though i havent lived in Assam,I used to frequent the place when my dad was posted there, Bihu is funtime n i love their traditional dance.

we in South have our own version of this festival of fire called 'Boghi'

1:50 pm  
Blogger Chakra Sampath said...

thats nice knowing abt Bihu. As many have pointed out, Boghi is a similar thingy down South.

if only we have a friend like your bro.. :))

3:12 pm  
Blogger Prerona said...

wonderful story :) as usual
happy bihu and happy new year sweets
got ur message but couldnt reply as was very rushed while at home
how was ur holiday season?

6:31 pm  
Blogger Jay said...

Hahaha oh well, I suppose that's the true meaning of 'sacrifice', eh? I'm sure the gods were pleased, even if your parents weren't.

10:09 pm  
Blogger Parna said...

awww....poor bro. peer pressure i tell, you is a killer :)

12:13 pm  
Blogger Nupur said...

aww!!! :D That sounds like so much fun!

Happy Bihu.

7:04 am  
Blogger Ajay said...

happy bihu.... visiting ur blogg for the first time..... found it interesting.... keep posting..

10:23 am  
Blogger anumita said...

amitken: I think he was stupid. Thanks for the wishes.

ardra: You are right. Everyone I knew was celebrating something on the same day, only calling it by a different name.

swathi: Your dad was posted there? Yes, all the 3 bihus are tremendous fun.

chakra: Why someone like bro? You can have him. With the number of friends he has, I wont be surprised if you guys already know each other!

prerona: No probs. How was the trip? Had fun?

jay: The gods, his friends, the neighbours (who saved their fences), were all happy. So I suppose the happy ones outnumber the furious ones.

parna: He still succumbs.

nupur: Yes, it used to be.

ajay: Welcome and thanks.

4:37 pm  

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