|Esteemed pedestral that humble jhadoo occupied….in Simla of the Sixties|
Amma had some very strict rules that we learnt to follow regarding the humblest of the humble…..jhadoo!! There were three very different and distinct types of Jhadoos in our home and such were the strict rules governing the conduct of these Jhadoos that none would transgress the powers and area assigned to each one of them.
The Jhadoo used for brooming the living area was, invariably, made of Khajoor leaves….very neatly woven and tied together at one end in coloured khajoor leaves. The other loose end would spread like peacock feathers to do the humble task it was destined to! It would go under the books and corners of the small little house and bring out even the tiniest bit of dust out in the open. Amma would assign us, by turns, the task of cleaning the house with this humble jhadoo. I think that being petite and flexible we could easily slide under the bed and bring out all the little specks of dust from every corner. And how dedicated we were that even when Amma could not cross check performance of the task by gliding under the bed for inspection, she knew that we would do the job to utter perfection. All houses in the neighbourhood had the same cleaning process…. driving away every loose bit of dust out of the home! This jhadoo was having a very strong handle but was much flexible down the handle giving it mobility and flexibility to clean the narrowest of spaces. The pointed fang like leaves of palm would be working better than a vaccum cleaner in our tiny little hands…. And no one had heard the words like “Child labour”….thankfully!! What life lessons this humble object had if only we could learn at that age and time! To be strong enough at the base to move around but with roots intact….and to have the flexibility and bending capacity to clean up any accumulation of untoward elements!!!
Once the task was done…the humblest jhadoo would find its place in a corner….behind the door or the lone side table that we had! It had to stand proud and straight but hidden from the gaze of others!!
To clean “challa” a different Jhadoo was used ..a jhadoo made of sharp “teellis”… This jhadoo would be much bigger in size and would be difficult to manage when new but over a period of time it’s pointed ends would become smaller, sharper and much pointed, it would be tamed as per the requirement of any home. It would become small in size….to be kept in one corner of the challa. Amma would scrub the challa with its bristle like pointed ends…after cleaning of utensils, washing of clothes or any other mundane task when challa would be used. This jhadoo would drive away any droplet of water on the surface of challa by scrubbing it clean. Amma would sometimes scrub harshly at the points where she dreaded accumulation of any water drops! This jhadoo would be of darker hues when brand new but gradually it would become sharp and brighter in hue after use. It not only cleaned the dirt from the challa but got itself cleaned up in the process. What a deal it was!!! We would use its bristles to makr bows and arrows during the frenzy of Ramleela days reducing its girth to much slimmer proportions….so slim that Amma would notice and admonish us! It’s pointed ends would be used to put in ear lobe holes when the stem of Vudyamata, the fern, would fail to enter it. But of course a little snaring of kaura tel, the mustard oil, on it would make it slippery to glide in smallest of the holes. What a yeoman service it would provide to the ever ingenious pack of kids in the humble mohalla of Lower Bazaar in Simla of the Sixties!!
The third type of jhadoo was called “joodi” by Amma and it was the most prized one for her. A much smaller in size, it was made up of fine hairlike jute threads, the one used for rope making. Its prime area of cleaning was the tiniest area near the Angithee. It would never be taken out of the dedicated area and whenever Amma was done with cooking she would bring out this small “Joodi” and clean up the area. This small “Joodi” enjoyed immense power and privileges…it could clean up the spillover on the Angithee itself …a power nothing else had except the “Koochee” dipped in fine clay and goloo!!!
This Joodi would never leave the sanctity of the humble ara near the kitchen.
Surprisingly all the three different jhadoos had their own area to clean and none could take over the other’s area. Everyone, even the humble jhadoos, knew their boundaries and none were transgressed!
These humblest of creatures enjoyed all due respect. Amma would say, “This is Lakshmi….driving away all the “dridar” from our home away!” If by chance anyone would put a foot on a jhadoo….he would instantly bow low and seek apologies… the same way as we did when our feet touched a paper or a book by mistake…. Amma would say…”A new jhadoo is always welcomed in the house the way a new bride is!!!” Later I saw in villages of Mandi and Kangra that a new “Jhadoo” or “Bonkri” as it is called at some places, is covered in red chunni along with a big jhadoo or even a stick….moved around a tree…just like the ritual of phere in a marriage and brought in with live and respect! And why not as this humble bring would be keeping your home and hearth clean of all impurities…physical or otherwise!
Sometimes sitting around the Angithee and listening to stories of the ghosts and Churails …Amma would tell how Daains or the Witches would fly over to Daain range of mountains on a particular Amavasya night using brooms as the flying carriers. We would laugh over it and look at the humble Jhadoo standing in the corner…..and would not believe a word about this story. Much later when I visited Daain Park near Kamand Mandi I thought could it be true that all the witches would have an annual assembly here….coming from different parts astride the humble brooms?? Jhadoos were really enigmatic!
Where did we get these humble beings from in Simla of the Sixties…. What I remember is that all grocery shops had the “Teeli” wale jhadoos displayed in a corner of the shop but the other delicate ones could be bought from some special shops only.
There was a quaint little shop opposite to the Chandel Medical store selling ropes, khadaon, baskets and the humble jhadoos. The old couple lived in the upper floor of the small shop. I was much intrigued by the shop as it’s books and corners are full of so many queer little things whicht seemed, no one bought any more. But the old man would open his shop religiously and sit there. The jhadoos and khadaons and the ropes in different sizes and shapes were the hallmark of this shop.Amma bought her Jhadoos and “Joodis” from this shop. And then there was an old lady in Laddakhi mohalla who weaved baskets from khajoor leaves….she, too, would weave a jhadoo of khajoor leaves on order. I remember buying it from her as well!!! Jhadoos would be welcomed and initiated to the home on an auspicious day…and why would it not be when all cleaning was fond by the women of the house themselves!!
Our sweepress of the mohalla had her own Jhadoo which was much sturdier and robust….as it would clean all the outside space of the mohalla, the drains and the stairs. She had a dedicated place where she would keep her jhadoo once the job was done. We were strictly warned never to touch that broom, leave alone using it !!! How strange…we never questioned it! We accepted whatever was said by the elders of the mohalla! Different jhadoos….had different positioning in cleaning stratification of the homes of the humble mohalla of Lower Bazaar of Simla in the Sixties!!!
Though I am trying hard to recollect but an not able to is regarding how these humble creatures were disposed off when they had outrun their utility .. I can neither remember nor can believe that they were treated as trash even when they were of no use …I don’t remember having seen a used broom put in the trash bin … Perhaps they were washed away in the flowing water to give them ceremonial goodbye for the services they rendered when in working condition. Would be glad to know more about it from my friends in the group.
But whatever it may have been…looking back at the dimple and humble life in the mohalla of Lower Bazaar of Simla in the Sixties….I can vouchsafe that we learnt to value and respect each and every person or object and treated all as a part of a big loving family. There is no doubt about it….my gratitude to life and the lessons it has taught us!!! And my gratitude to the humblest jhadoo….though it was used at times to reprimand us as well!!!!