The Best, The Craziest And The Weirdest

by | Jan 26, 2019

This blog is about my experiences with the local community and, in my humble opinion, their subtle, loud, huge and tiny aspects of daily lives. It is about the ways in which they show respect to elders, a ritual for one of the Hindu Gods and an English word quite prevalent here.

Agya

When I started reading Oriya bit by bit, I learned a lot of useful phrases through apps and websites. For example “kemiti achanti”, which translates to “How are you?” or “mu janim nahin” (I don’t know) which I ended up using everywhere. A lot of words come from Sanskrit and thus it resembles Bengali and Hindi. For replying affirmatively with a “Yes”, the most suitable phrase as per the apps was ”haan tike tike”. I got to hear this often, specially from the older people. But the word “Agya” caught my attention. The younger people would often reply with this. A respectful “Agya” also led me to notice several other things. They would bow their head while talking to someone older, and bow while walking if they pass by two older people talking to each other. It was specifically one conversation with a teacher that had “Agya” at the end of every sentence which made me realize how respectful people are towards each other.

This gesture has been imprinted on their minds. While working as an India Fellow at Thinkzone, I spend a lot of time with the teachers here. I get a chance to host the monthly teachers’ training at my home and also get to be a part of two other training sessions at Kendrapara district. The relationship with them has grown organically in the last 6 months. They have now begun to see me as a friend and share their problems readily. These teachers come from all age groups, consisting of college going students and women in their mid-thirties. In this wide spectrum, there are only a few teachers who are younger than me, and while being friendly, they don’t forget to express their respect. It took me a month to stop them from touching my feet to greet, and yet some of them still try and do it but apart from that, their general way of talking is so respectful that it becomes overwhelming.

Tiffin

This word shattered the ego that had unknowingly become a part of me, as I thought that I knew more English than the people in my community, and somehow that made me a superior person. Since the day I arrived here, I have been working with one of the managers in the organization who loves to use the word Tiffin in almost every other conversation. He would ask, “Tiffin karoge?” after every visit. The first time, I was utterly confused, thinking what does he mean by that. Was he going to pack something for me? What would it be?

I had associated the word “Tiffin” with Lunch Box. That was its casual usage in my house when my mother would say carry your Tiffin with you, when I leave for school. I had never been more wrong in my life. Slowly, when I started to explore food options here, I found it to be one of the most prevalent English words in the region, used much more than sorry or thank you. Here, Tiffin refers to snacks like samosas and vadas which are sold in local shops.

Much to my arrogance, I actually thought that there was something wrong with people using the word Tiffin for snacks. I remember explaining someone how it may mean something else and never doubted my knowledge until one day when I went to a shop and saw “Tiffin cakes” being sold by a well known brand. That shook my belief and made me question my biases which had led me to trust an unknown company more than many known people in the village. Dictionary says that Tiffin means a part of the meal which is right because in a lunch box, that food is often only a part of a meal.

Mangala Puja

My only association of crossroads and mythology comes from the ten seasons of the CBS show Supernatural. In Christian mythology, and in this TV Show, crossroads are the places where a specific demon dwells, and it strikes a deal with you. This deal means that you can get whatever you want, and in return, you give some years of your life away. There is a small ritual where you keep certain things in a box and bury it on a crossroad after which a demon arrives with a tempting offer. A typical crossroad demon deal, for example, could be where I want to become a successful musician, and for that, I will die as soon as I turn 40. The demon then comes and takes away your soul at the decided time.

Weird, right? Here, I got to know about such a ritual in Hindu mythology as well. Mangala Devi is one of the most worshiped Goddesses in Odisha, specially on Tuesdays. She has temples all across the southern and eastern India. The form of worship here differs a bit from how it’s done in Karnataka or Kerala. It is influenced from the belief of her being a manifestation of the Buddhist Goddess, Tara, Banadurga and/or under the Utkaliya form of Vaishnavism.

Every Tuesday, people in the form of Maa Mangala’s devotees wake up early, bathe and offer a ritual on any crossroad, nearby their home. They draw up a circle in the middle of the crossroad, decorate it with flowers and light a lamp there. It is not magnanimous, but finds its way to several households. People, mostly women, pray for the longevity of their children’s lives. On Tuesdays, you will thus find every crossroad decorated with Hibiscus or Marigold flowers beside a burning lamp.

There are thousands such practices and behavior in this community. The more I get to know about them, the more comfortable I feel to be a part of them, to be around them.

Half Half None

Half Half None

The following blog has been co-written by co-fellows Daraab Saleem Abbasi and...

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1 Comment

  1. Sudhanshu Shome

    Kya baat hai…..amazing

    Reply

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