Champa is my favorite sweeper, as I have seen her since my childhood. She belongs to the Valmiki caste of Hinduism. They have been considered untouchables for a thousand years. Champa is of medium height, swarthy complexion, with bulging eyes that look like tumuli, sunken cheeks making the cheekbones more prominent. She is thin despite enormous engulfing power! A trademark for labor workers, liposuction without surgical tools! Perhaps manual work sucks fat and doesn’t let it store.
One day I was sitting in my courtyard, as it’s my habit to read the newspaper with a sip of tea early in the morning. Fresh air blowing through long poplars and petals of frangipani is real bliss in summer. In the background was a scampering scratching sound of a broom, which Champa was handling, her mouth was red with the saliva of betel nuts. Drop by drop like red tears oozing from the corner of both lips because with wrinkles cheeks have lost its elasticity.
Suddenly I felt myself sink down and down on the earth, chair with four legs embedded in the soil, I was immovable, Champa’s hair was turned completely black, silver threads of head swept away! My grandmother erupted out like lava, and yelled in a straight stick at Champa “I have told you hundred times, let not touch yourself to the boring well, if you are in need of water then ask for me or someone else of the family!
Champa was not pale!
She seemed quite habituated. Thousands of years have made a solid adaptation of receptors.
“Ok, I would ask for next time.” Champa made a shrill sound with a bit of ease.
My grandmother was strident about the strange rules of Hinduism, and the curse of the caste system.
My talking terms with grandmother were distorted. My tiny mind tried to seek clarification from my mother.
“Champa cleans our toilet with water but why can’t she touch the boring well?”
Mother always ignored my curiosity and never answered!
That is a matter of a long-ago and my grandmother is no more. Champa is still in our house, she is quite comfortable with her bizarre condition, cleans the toilet but doesn’t touch other things of the housemaster. Though now the situation in my house has changed in that way, she can touch boring well.
One day I saw a thin wooden stick of a broom broken and left in the ground. When I tried to pick it up it got vertical like a fountain pen and began to pour out ink well. A black brook made a creek in my vision. I tried to scan it, perhaps it was demons’ ink.
My mature eyes caught the chapter “The Dharma Of The Four Social Classes” in the sacred book of Hindu religion manusmriti.
I tried to get the caste dredged out of me, but much to my amusement, they were stuck in surreal magic, beyond any debate or solidification!
Receptors of human beings always get adapted even with nauseating olfaction after an initial retaliation, it remains in the subconscious mind despite our abhorrence of conscious mind.
Unless something irks us strongly in a thrashing blow, we learn to survive along with it for years.
I read a letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to her sister in which he is talking about an arrangement of Brahmin cook for her mother.
Quite an astonishing and laughing stock!
A person who effaced the feudal Hindu laws to make a modern fabric of India was helpless in his own kitchen.
Nehru liked to puff cigars along with his girlfriend Edwina, but his own wife always remained draped in the head.
A modern revolutionary was a medieval monger when matters came to his wife and mother.
I like to have my meal in desolation, no company is needed. At first, I see food in solitary bliss, engulf it, then with chewing slowly feel its taste! I was called petulant in my childhood. My mother was always grieved at my enormous amount in my grown-up years.
“When you grow up nobody is going to choose a fat bride. Suffering would be mine!” mother was always apprehensive. Her apprehension catches me sometimes also.
One day I asked Champa what he liked to eat, and how her children’s study was going on?
“Look, the government gives our salary after four or five-month late, as soon as it comes in a collective bulk, we transfer it to the mutton shopkeeper. I never see that.” Champa sighed.
“Then how the rest of the household expenditure is managed?” I asked
“My son also contributes, they are also sweeper.”They bring basmati rice, we like them as the quality is important.
“But you should send your children to school, as the government has provided so many facilities for scheduled caste in government jobs. Cut short your food freak and expend it on education.”
I made a quick calculation for her. Mutton is 500 Rs per Kg. Deleting its frequency would save enough money for the education of her sons.
“Once your sons would be in government jobs your generation would uplift” I suggested to her.
Hearing it for a brief moment she got amused, and responded: ” that is right but look in the real matter, if we don’t eat mutton then how would our bones move?”
It was mum!
Mother’s apprehension descended upon me again!
For a brief moment, I went up in black brooding motion. Champa is in black hole rotating for thousands of years.
A vicious cycle of flooding, brooming, flooding. She is quite adjusted with her background in social distancing.
Bones are for brooming and fingers are for social distancing!
I know there is a nuanced difference between a petulant person and a person of taste!
But the cocktail of both one is devastating.
I was brooding in my own aura, suddenly getting distracted by an archaic sound!
At once I saw pages of Manusmriti dusted beneath in the library for long years leaped up in the air and began to clatter!
Copyright @Dr Pragya Suman