Monday, 3 November 2014

The Legend of Thumia of Jhijhad- Food series 2

Jhijhad is a Mohulla of the Joshi clan also known as Diwan Rath for having been Diwan to the Chand kings of Almora once upon a time. After the British signed the treaty of Sugauli with the erstwhile Gurkha rulers and the area became a part of the British Company's lands, the Joshis with their long history of erudition, continued to rise by dint of their merit .
The beautiful stone buildings of the Joshi's still stand across the road from my grand mother's house. But most of its illustrious members having departed to the plains, most homes dating back to the past era have come to have a somewhat derelict air about them. Only elderly family members, their attendants and dogs live there, except in the summers when the younger ones come visiting as tourists.
Once during the days the clan's stars were in ascendance, the house was known for its generosity. Durig that period a Thokdar ( village head) arrived in Almora for a case that required multiple hearings in the Zilla Kutchery( district courts), and asked the locals for a safe place with well cooked meals. There were no hotels and inns in small towns then. So the Thokdar was directed to the Jhijhad Joshis' . He spent the day in the kutchery and then went back to Jhijhad for meals and night stay. No one asked him who he was nor what caste or creed. The multiple daughters in law and their supervising mothers in law served him all his meals in the vast family kitchen where he had selected an innocuous seat behind a pillar ( Thuma). Since it was forbidden to talk while eating, everyone ate in silence and left for their work or bed depending on the time. The family members took it for granted that he must be a relative of one of the daughters in law and therefore merited courtesy with no questions asked about his identity. Somewhere during the months that followed someone christened this silent vistor Thumia ( he who sits near the pillar), and he began to be referred to by the kitchen brigade as such . If he was ever late, the commander in chief would enquire where is Thumia ? Sin will be on my head if he has left without eating . Thumia though, always turned up more or less on time for meals and was served as graciously as any member of the family.
Six months passed thus and Thumia having won his case left for his native village . When he failed to turn up the menfolk were asked to check if his bedding and bags were still around . When it was reported that they were not, it was assumed that the honoured guest Thumia must have left. A month later the people saw a long caravan of mules arrive in town, loaded with all kinds of gifts of food and hand woven woollens. It headed straight for the Joshis' house and was led by no other than Thumia himself. It was reported that once it reached Jhijhad,  Thumia went up to the head of the house and touched his feet saying he had never known the sort of unquestioning generosity and care that was given him for months by the members of the household . Jai Ho ! May you all remain victorious he said and asked his men to unload the gifts for the entire clan.
Thus Thumia. Thus bonds of humanity.
(next: the legend of Dumcheeas recounted by my father)  


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