Its contents nourish my body and its storied past and memories nourish my spirit
By Jyoti Bachani
A container of memories
Every time I make roti in California, I reach for flour in a container that is one of my prized possessions. It reminds me of my extended family, and my nani, maternal grandmother, who passed away when I was only ten.
Growing up in Delhi, every weekend was spent in her small two-room house. My grandfather who was a civil engineer, had built this small house along with the others in the neighborhood, for the Hindu Sindhi refugees who had relocated to Delhi in 1947 when the British divided the country into India and Pakistan.
The papad container
My mother was not yet ten. She grew up in that house, as one of ten siblings. During my childhood, my aunts and uncles, and cousins would gather there every weekend. Occasionally, an uncle or aunt would talk about the life of luxury they had in Sindh, and point to a few things in the house that had been carried as part of the relocation following the partition.
This old container was one of them. My nani used to store papad in this container.
I was visiting Delhi in 1991 when I found this container in my uncle’s home. The small two-room house had been demolished and a three-story building had been built for the three brothers who still remained in Delhi. The container was in a pile destined to be sold to a Kabadiwala – a junk collector – for recycling.
Rescuing the container
It brought back a flood of childhood memories for me, so I asked my uncle if I could have it.
He thought I was joking, and when he realized I wasn’t, he tried to dissuade me by explaining that this alloy tarnishes easily and cannot be used without kalai (tin coating).
I remembered the Kalaiwala as a door-to-door vendor who used to come and polish the inside of the utensils in everybody’s home.
My uncle wondered why I wanted to carry ‘junk’ halfway around the world, but when he realized that I was serious, he found a Kalaiwala to get the inside readied for use.
Since then, this container has traveled with me to several of my homes. Its contents nourish my body and its storied past and memories nourish my spirit.
Dr. Jyoti Bachani is an Associate Professor of Strategy and Innovation at Saint Mary’s College of California. She is a former Fulbright Senior Research Scholar, with degrees from London Business School, UK, Stanford, USA, and St. Stephen’s College, India. She translates Hindi poems, and has edited a poetry anthology called “The Memory Book of the Poetry of Diaspora in Silicon Valley.”
Courtesy: India Currents (Posted on June 7, 2023)