The story of Labbho Daei
Pasrur, new home
Labbho Daei was only 13 years old when she was readied as a bride by her father ‘Lala Ji’ and sat in a ‘Doli’ to come to her new home in Pasrur. Labbho was used to city living in ‘Gujjarawallan’ as the only daughter and only child of a rich merchant. Her mother had passed away when Labbho was a young child and her father had raised her with all love and care. Tonight, she was leaving her father’s house for ever and was entering a strange new world of small village of Pasrur accompanied by her husband Hazari Mal and a hoard of other mostly male relatives.
The journey from Pasrur Railway Station to her new house in the heart of the town opposite Pasrur’s famous ‘Khan Gah Masjid’ was only a few kilometers. On way, the procession stopped near a water well for some rest. Labbho was fully clad with a ‘ghoonghat’ which was covering her head, forehead and face. She could not see what was happening around her but could hear the voices of some men cajoling a shy boy. Labbho was trying to decipher if the sweet voice of the shy boy was her husband’s. She heard the other men encouraging the sweet boy to take some water for her bride. Blood rushed to her face as she heard the Doli curtain being drawn and found a small ‘Kullar’ of fresh make filled with water and held in trembling yellow and brownish hands appear under her wail. A strong fragrance of fresh baked earth and sweet moisture tingled her all over. Her sixth sense told her that the trembling hands must belong to Hazari Mal whom she has been just married. She closed her eyes with joy and said to herself ‘with such brown hands, he can not be as dark as a steam engine, my Bua must have making fun when she told me that all Men in Pasrur are as dark as night and they usually get ‘gauri’ wives’. She felt very relieved that her husband is a handsome , golden coloured man.
Her dream came to an abrupt halt as she felt something touching and sticking to her lower lip. While Labbho was in her dream world, Hazari Mal after much waiting pushed the earthen pot up to help Labbho sip some water. Labbho was delighted at the sweet taste of water from the well and starting trembling at the thought of the handsome man whose trembling hands were trying to hold the water pot steady. Their common dream was broken again when she heard her father in law ‘Sone Shah’ pulling his son out of the ‘Doli’ and ordering the servants to continue the journey home.
Her new home was a big palace. While entering the house, her husband’s sister ‘Rali Bai’ whispered a child’s boast in her ears that their house was the largest and best in all of Pasrur. Her husband had an older brother Kishan Chand who held the prestigious post of ‘Bank Manager’ in the local bank. Her own husband Hazari Mal was a Gold Merchant while his younger bumbling brother Nihal Chand or Nayala as he was affectionately called did not do any thing. After a few days, Labbho got used to every one in the family including her Husband’s cousin sister from Jandyala Guru, daughter of Narpat Rai who had come all the way to Pasrur to join in the marriage.
Labbho soon discovered that her first taste of Pasrur water was actually from a well outside Pasrur boundary and that all wells inside Pasrur’s (radius of about 1 to 1.5 Kms) had bickrish, bitter tasting water. All the other wells just outside the town had water as sweet as her first taste from Hazari Mal’s hands. She also learnt that farming in Pasrur was done either by the well water or rains either of which was never very favourable. Step outside Pasrur area and the nearby towns enjoyed plenty of rain fall and well water.
With in a month, Labbho started helping other female members of the household in daily chores. She was fascinated by sweet low and gentle sound made by a row of bells hanging on a rope between two ‘Choburze’s on the left side of their castle like huge house. One day, she noticed that not all the bells on the rope are making the same sound. Her mother in law known as Elder mother ‘Maa waaddi’ ran outside the house and asked everyone in the house to take their drying laundry clothes and cows inside the house and it is going to rain in a ‘Garhi’ (a unit of time measuring 24 minutes). Labbho was astonished at the accuracy of mother’s weather forecast based on the sound made by the row of bells. She was determined that one day she will learn from Maa waaddi how to predict weather from the sound made by the bells.
On next equinox day (when day is equal to night, there are two equinox days in a year) which was makar Sankranti day, an elaborate ceremony was held by the whole family. There were prayers and then the bells were moved from the left side of their home to the right side ‘Choburze’s. The bells were moved by a number of men who did not let any of the bells touch the ground. Both sides of the rope were hung and tied at the same time. She was told by Maa Waaddi that now that the seasons are changing, the bells in their new position on the right Chburz will tell us about the winter storms while on the left position they indicate coming summer storms. Maa waaddi also told her on how to listen to the pitch, frequency and differences in the sound of row of bells to determine wind direction, wind velocity and wind heaviness (moisture) to predict approaching rains.
Pasrur in 1920’s was small village with a population of 6 to 8,000 of which 2/3rd were muslims and 1/3rd Hindus. There were few Sikh families and about 40 “Bhavraah’ families. Labho was married in the head of the Bhavraah family. Labho liked her new house and her position in it except when it was time for weddings. Maa Waadi would insist that Labho wear the family jewellery when she goes to attend the wedding. After all she was the ‘bhau’ daughter in law in the ‘Choudhry’s’ family. Even if Labho chose the lightest of the gold jewellery items to wear for the weddings, she would find her self weighed down by two to three Kilograms of gold on her neck, chest and arms. She often complained to Maa Waadi that they were too heavy to wear but Maa Waadi would insist and tell he how lucky she is.
The Khan Gah Masjid situated across the empty square space in front of their house was the second most popular mosque after the Jama Masjid. Labho used to watch through the ‘parda’ inside the house with facsination hoards fo devout muslims going there four times a day for their Namaaz. On one Teej day, she saw a large procession of local Muslims carrying ‘Taajiye’. As she was watching the procession with delight, she felt scared as she saw the procession coming straight towards their house. She looked up to Maa waddi and was releived to see that Maa Waddi was not worried. The procession came and stopped in front of their house and few leading men in the procession called out “Shah Ji, please come outside”. The ‘Taajiye’ were set down on the ground and the entire procession came to a stand still. Sensing trouble, Labho caught the ‘Chunni’ of Maa Waadi and looked towards her in apprehension, but Maa Waddi was not disturbed just mumbling in her mouth something about where she has kept the money.
Labho saw her father in law and all the three brothers come outside and haggling with the leading men of the procession. Labho was scared to see the big crowd and ran to her Bua, Narpat Rai,s daughter who was visitng for the season from her father’s house in Jandial Guru near Amritsar. Narpat Rai’s daughter consoled Labho not to worry. This is an annual affair, the ‘Tajjiye’ always come to Choudhry’s house first and ask for a donation of Rs 101/-, two sets of clothe and one bag of grains. Every year the two sides haggle over the amount of contribution. Each side knows that they will settle at Rs 31/- but both sides try to score a point. Choudhry would first offer a few ruppes only to which the leading men would ask him to open his heart, look at his position in the village and make a generous donation. Leading men would set down the Taajiye in front of Choudhry’s house and refuse to move unless Choudhry opened up his purse to their cause. Like every year, this year also, a deal was struck at Rs 31 which once paid, the procession restarted and continued on its way.
Labho felt a special connection to her Bua from Jandiala for calming her down when she was scared. When it was time for her Bua to go back to Jandiala, Labho asked Nayaala her husband’s youngest affectionate brother to get the best Haandi of Pasrur and get it filled with thin ‘Rewadi’s”. Nayaala took her Bua’s husband to some of the ‘Kumhars’ who make and bake the Haandi’s. Nayyala asked the Kumhar to show him the strongest Haandi he has got. Kumhar, sensing a good sale and a regular sale from Choudhry family, told Bua’s husband that Pasrur is famous for its Haandi’s. (A haandi is a clay pot which was used to cook rice, long before brass or stainless steel became popular. Brass pots were the prerogative of a rich few in 1930’s.) Bua’s husband was not impressed and made fun of the Kumhar. The Kumhar, took up the challange and told Bua’s husband to pick up any Haandi and drop it from above his head. If it breaks the Kumhar will give him a Haandi for free. Bua’s husband knew all about Haandi’s for he had a Kohlu (oil extracter) in Jandiala Guru and used to store extracted oil in Haandi’s. He had never seen a Haandi that would survive when dropped from six feet above. He picked up a Haandi and dropped it from above his head. The Haandi survived the onslaught, surprised, he picked up a second Haandi and dropped it to find it intact. He bought six Haandi’s. Nayyaala explained to Bua’s husband that Pasrur is famous for its Haandi’s and for its Til Rewadi’s. Pasrur has a special clay which when baked in its hot summer sun, makes for a very strong clay pot. Nayaala then took him to a local Rewadi maker. The rewari maker took special care to give some of the best Rawari he had with ’til’ when he learnt from Naayala that the rewari’s are going to be given as a gift to the son-in-law. He boasted to Bua’s husband that Pasrur makes some fo the best Rewari’s and that he has chosen some of the best for him as he is a ‘jamaai’ of the village.