English : First Flight
Chapter 5 Glimpses of India
The lesson “Glimpses of India” deals with a lesser known aspect each of Goa, Coorg and Assam. Goa is known for its churches, culture, music, beaches and scenic beauty. But the important role played by the baker in a traditional Goan village, is not really known to outsiders. Similarly, the author provides information about, Coorg, its valorous people and its scenic beauty. Assam, is described for the vastness of the lush green tea-gardens found here.
The authors provide three unique glimpses of India by describing the essence of each of these places.
I. A Baker from Goa
-by Lucio Rodrigues
Lucio Rodrigues, the author, tells us that his elders usually thought fondly of the old Portuguese days when a baker used to play a very important role, and the loaves of bread were a part and parcel of the Portuguese bakeries. The Portuguese are gone, but the bakers are still there and so are their mixers, the moulders and the furnaces. The baker still parades the streets of some Goan villages with the ‘thud and jingle’ of his traditional bamboo in the morning. The sons of the old bakers still carry on the family business and are known as vaders even today.
The author fondly remembers that when he was a child, the baker would visit the streets twice daily, once in the morning when he started his selling mission and again on his return trip after emptying his basket. The children loved the jingling thud of his bamboo and ran to welcome him. They would run out for the sweetbread-bangles and selected them very carefully from the baker’s basket.
The baker presented an interesting sight in the morning carrying his huge basket of loaves. The jingling sound of his bamboo stick brought out the lady of the house and if the children flocked round the baker, they were rebuked and pushed back. However, the stubborn children managed to peep into the basket by climbing on a bench or the parapet.
Marriage gifts had no meaning without sweetbread called bol. Thus, the baker was a very important part of a village. The lady of the house was expected to prepare sandwiches at the time of her daughter’s engagement. During Christmas and other festive occasions, cakes and bolinhas were essential.
The bread-sellers of the good old days always wore a single-piece long frock called the kabai. Afterwards, the bakers started wearing shirts and three quarter pants. This dress became synonymous with them to such an extent that anyone who wears a half-pant, that reaches below the knees, is called a pader.
The author further states that the baker would receive his payment for the supply of bakery goods at the end ofthe month. In the good old days, bakery-business were quite profitable and the bakers and their families were prosperous. So any person who is roundish and plumpish is still compared to a baker.
“A Baker from Goa” is based on the theme that a baker is a legacy of the Portuguese and is of vital importance in a traditional Goan village. The account describes the variety of bakery items like bread-bangles, bol, bolinhas, and the like, prepared on ceremonial occasions by the Goans. The presence of the baker’s activities is thus an integral part of all festive occasions in Goa. Whether it is marriage or a daughter’s engagement ceremony, Christmas or other festivals, the baker and his furnace are absolutely essential for the people of Goa.
“A Baker from Goa” is an appropriate title for this memoir because it deals only with the bakers of Goa. Not only was the baker or the pader a part and parcel of the Portuguese life and their bakeries, but even after the liberation of Goa, the paders maintain the tradition of selling the bakery items door to door. Moreover, a Goan baker’s and his oven’s presence is felt on all important festivals in Goa. Thus, we can say that “A Baker from Goa” is an apt title for this piece.
The author Lucio Rodrigues wants to impress upon the reader that every area, state or a region has one peculiarity or another which is not known by most people. In this sense, the pader, with his peculiar dress occupies a pride of place in Goan life, and no Goan can think of a life without him. He is there at the door-step in the morning just like the newspaper. The institution of the pader has become so wedded to the Goan life that it will always remain immortal. Indirectly, the author suggests to revive and preserve our old traditions that add to the rich diversity of India.
Pen Portrait of a Goan Baker
A baker in Goa is a person who marks his arrival with the thud and jingle of his bamboo. He gives a wake-up call in the morning to supply bread and any other bakery item to the residents of the village. A baker can be seen twice a day – once in the morning, with his basket full of bakery goods and again in the afternoon after his basket is empty. The ‘jhang, jhang’ music of his bamboo-stick is a signal for children and they rush to relish the bread-bangles baked by him. The Goan baker makes his musical entry by stamping his specially made bamboo staff on the ground with one hand and supporting the basket on his head with the other. He would greet the lady of the house with ‘Good morning’ and then place his basket on the vertical bamboo. He would bring loaves for the elders and bangles for children. A baker in Goa is known as pader. In the good old days, he used to wear a peculiar dress called Kabai, which was a single-piece frock reaching down to the knees. However, later on bakers started wearing shirts and three quarter length trousers. The Goan bakers were happy and prosperous people. Even today, a baker is a part and parcel of the life of a common Goan.
-by Lokesh Abrol
Coorg, lying halfway between Mysore and the coastal town of Mangalore, is a small district with heavenly beauty. The author describes this beautiful land situated amongst wavy hills, inhabited by a ‘proudrace of martial men, beautiful women and wild creatures.’
Coorg or Kodagu, is the smallest district of Karnataka. It has evergreen forests and is known for its spices and coffee. About thirty per cent of the area of Coorg is covered with the evergreen forests. Monsoons bring in a lot of rain here.
The best time to visit Coorg is between September and March when the air is refreshing and the weather is perfect. The place teems with coffee estates and bungalows canopied by huge trees.
The Coorgis are fiercely independent people. It is believed that they are either Greek or Arabic in origin. According to one story, a part of Alexander’s soldiers did not return and chose to move to Coorg in the South. They married local girls and settled here. Since the martial temper of Coorgies, and the practices followed by them during marriages and religious rites arequite distinct from those of the Hindus, it shows that their origins are from the land of Alexander. The Arab origin theory is supported by the traditional dress of the people of Coorg. They wear a long black coat tied with an embroidered waist belt called kuppia, a dress similar to the kuffia worn by the Arabs.
Coorgis are a very hospitable and valorous race. The Coorg Regiment of the Indian Army has the maximum decorations. The first Chief of the Indian Army, General Cariappa was a Coorgi. Coorgis are the only people in India who are allowed to carry fire arms without a licence.
River Kaveri flows through Coorg. The district is rich in flora and fauna. River rafting, canoeing and rappelling are popular water sports here. One can also enjoy rock climbing and mountain hiking. When one reaches the top of Brahmagiri hills, one sees the panoramic view and walking over the rope bridge takes one to the sixty-four acre island of Nisargadhama. The largest Buddhist Tibetan settlement is in Bylakuppe in Coorg.
The theme of the section on Coorg is the unique richness of this place and its people, the Coorgis who are the pride of India. These ‘fiercely independent’ people have drawn their origin and valour from either the Greeks or the Arabs. They maintain such traditions that are distinct from the Indian mainstream, yet they are patriotic to the core. Any Indian would feel proud of the Coorg Regiment. The flora and fauna of this small place are a treat to watch. The article explores all these aspects of Coorgto emphasise the theme.
“Coorg” is an appropriate title for this short article, because the author has managed to condense all relevant information about this place, its culture, climate and people. Lokesh Abrol, the author, talks only about Coorg and its people. Starting with its size, its location and its ravishing natural beauty, he talks about its valorous inhabitants. He gives ample details about their descent and their invaluable contribution to the Indian Army. The reader is also informed about the evergreen rainforests, spices, and coffee plantations of Coorg. In sum, one gets a glimpse of Coorg. So, “Coorg” is a befitting title for this write-up.
Through the write-up “Coorg”, Lokesh Abrol gives the message of unity in diversity. He shows that it is possible for any community to be a part of the mainstream and yet maintain its unique identity. Coorgis stick to their traditions of marriage and religious rituals, yet are a part and parcel of India. Coorg Regiment is one of the most decorated ones in the Indian Army.
Pen Portrait of an Average Coorgi
Coorgis belong to a martial race. It is believed that they have either a Greek or an Arab origin. They like to maintain their distinct traditions of marriage and religious rites that are different from those of Hindu mainstream. The traditional dress worn by Coorgis is a long black coat having an embroidered belt. It is called the kuppia and it resembles the Arab kuffia. Coorgis are hospitable by nature and are known for their valour. They are the only people in India who are permitted to carry fire arms without a licence. The Coorg Regiment of the Indian Army is one of most awarded unit. In sum, inspite of their distinct traits, Coorgis are thoroughly patriotic and every inch an Indian.
III. Tea from Assam
-by Arup Kumar Datta
Pranjol, a young boy from Assam, and Rajvir are classmates in a school in Delhi. Pranjol’s father is a manager ofa tea garden in Assam. Rajvir is travelling to Assam along with Pranjol to spend his summer holidays with Pranjol’s family.
The train halts at a station. A vendor shouts ‘chai-garam, garam-chai’. The two boys order tea for themselves and enjoy sipping it. Almost all the passengers in the compartment are enjoying hot tea. Rajvir informs Pranjol that eighty crore cups of tea are consumed daily throughout the world.
As the train moves forward, Rajvir is excited to see the magnificent scenic beauty of the vast expanse of tea estates. At the back one can see dense hill forests and in front of the hills there are vast stretches of tea bushes.
Rajvir is thrilled to see the tea gardens. However, it is a routine sight for Pranjol as he was born and brought up in these surroundings. He tells Rajvir that Assam has the largest concentration of the tea plantations in the world. Rajvir also tells Pranjol that he has read a great deal about tea and knows about a few legends regarding the origin of tea. One story is about a Chinese emperor who always used to drink boiled water. Once a few leaves of the twigs burning underneath the water fell into it. The emperor found the flavour delicious and its leaves got the name tea.
Rajvir also tells of an Indian legend about Bodhidharma, a Budhist ascetic who was troubled with sleep during meditation. So, he cut off his eyelids and ten tea plants grew out of those lids. Drinking the leaves of these plants, when put in hot water, kept a person awake.
Tea was drunk in China for the first time around 2700 B.C. Rajvir further adds that chai, chini etc. are Chinese words and stand for tea. Tea was introduced to Europeans in the sixteenth century and they drank it more as a medicine than as a beverage.
The train halted at Mariani junction. The boys collected their baggage and got down to the crowded platform. Pranjol’s parents were there to receive them. They drove towards Dhekiabari, the tea-garden managed by Pranjol’s father. After an hour’s drive, they entered the estate.
Tea pluckers, carrying bamboo baskets on their backs were plucking freshly sprouted tea leaves. Rajvir asked Pranjol’s father, Mr. Barua, if it were the second-flush or sprouting period which lasts from May to July and gives the best yield. Mr. Barua was impressed by the young boy’s knowledge and he complemented him for it. A happy Rajvir acknowledged this appreciation and expressed hope to learn a lot more about tea.
Arup Kumar Gupta, through the travelogue “Tea from Assam” wants to acquaint his reader with a few facts and beliefs regarding tea. He also wants the reader to know about the contribution of Assam to the field of tea and its share in the supply to tea drinkers. He writes about the vast stretches of tea bushes, the legends surrounding the origin of tea, and other interesting facts regarding its cultivation and consumption.
“Tea from Assam” is an appropriate title for the travelogue. The entire account deals with Assam, its tea and tea plantations. The author gives generous details about the vast stretches of tea-bushes spread across the landscape of Assam. The reader gets ample information about tea, its origin and the legends connected with tea or its journey to Europe from China. So, the title “Tea from Assam” is appropriate.
The writer wants to convey the message that pleasure and scholarship can be combined to make knowledge effective and lasting. Rajvir is on a summer holiday trip to Assam with his friend, Pranjol, and gathers a lot of information about tea and tea plantations of Assam. He does a lot of research before he goes to the tea-estate managed by Pranjol’s father, Mr. Barua. It shows that doing one’s homework before any new venture is a very valuable activity. Everybody, particularly the young people, should try to emulate Rajvir.
- Rajvir, who has stayed all through his life in Delhi, has a novel experience ofthe vast stretches oflush green tea gardens in Assam.
- He has a scholarly bent of mind and loves to gather information about new things and new ventures. The information given by him regarding legends about the origin of tea and sprouting period at tea plantation are quite revealing.
- He is a curious boy who observes a lot and is keenly interested in new things. He is a lover of nature and enjoys every opportunity to admire it. He notices all details during his train journey and makes his experience fruitful.
- On the whole, Rajvir is one of those young people who love to learn and are inquisitive.
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