5 April 2021

“Ason”s with a lot of history

I am not sure there is an exact English word for “ason” but what it is is a floor mat that is used for sitting down. All throughout my life (till my parents moved to Kalyani), at my parents’ place as well as in my brother’s place, I have always eaten food sitting on the floor. Sitting at a table to eat is a rather modern concept in the Roy households.

These two mats were extremely special in our household. For one, they are much thicker and for another, they have nice prints. These were kept for special occasions. Growing up in a family where there was not much money left over after our education expenses, special occasions were rare to come by. I can tell you exactly how many times we had invited others for lunch or dinner (thrice is the answer) in my entire school years from home.

But there was an annual ceremony that we religiously celebrated and these two mats had a field day. And that is the day of “Bhaiphonta” (or “bhaiyadnuj” as it is called in North India). This is the day, sisters celebrate their brothers. There is usually a small or sometimes elaborate ceremony, exchange of gifts and true to Bengali style – lot of good food, especially sweets!!

My earliest memory of these mats are from 1972 when I was a kindergartener threatening to get into first grade within a few weeks. My uncle (mother’s brother – you saw the picture of his family a few posts back) who lived nearby was the guest we used to have. My mom gave “bhaiphonta” to him and then my sister gave “bhaiphonta” to me and my brother.

There is a rather funny-now, embarrassing-then story from 1972. You see, growing up, in our culture, respect for elders was a big thing. Especially in our household, where that value was drilled into us. My uncle who was younger to my mom, would do his “pronam” – basically you go down on your knees and touch the elder’s feet with your hands or head. Not being exactly conversant in all the rules and regulations, at the tender age of six, I simply followed what he did and did my pronam to my two years younger sister!! That caused some laughter all right!!

The tradition of that sister-brother ceremony on these two mats has weathered the passage of many decades. It still happens at our house. My brother is able to attend. You might remember that a few years back I had surprised everybody at home by showing up for bhaiphonta without anybody having any inkling of my visit. If you go to that post, you will see these two mats continuing with their solemn duties.

The three of us decided that to keep up with our parents’ memories, my sister will take care of keeping the mats and every bhaiphonta, we will use these two mats. You know, just to create a Roy household tradition.

And that might also give me something to look forward to – bhaiphonta trip to India every year!!

What do you think?

Posted April 5, 2021 by Rajib Roy in category "Vacations

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