Memories of a Receding Past: 6

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Right at the junction and in front of our house there used to be lamp which would be manually lit in the evenings and put out in the morning.  It was a gas lamp and a man, in the gathering dusk, would trudge slowly down the lane carrying on his shoulder a ladder that was just long or tall enough for him to be able to reach up to the lamp to light it. There were, if I remember, three such lamps down the north-south length of the road and he would go to them one by one to light them. He would observe the same routine in the mornings but only to extinguish the flames by merely capping them for a while. This must have been very early in my life, maybe in the late 1930s or even early in the 1940s. Some evenings the man wouldn’t appear at all and the lanes would remain dark and forbidding. Nonetheless, what occurs to me now that the town, obviously, had gas lamps in some areas, if not all, and had to have pipes to take the gas to them. That a feudal administration had thought of providing such an amenity in those early years of 20th Century takes it a few notches higher in my estimation. Eventually, of course, the gas lamps were replaced by electric lights but that was much later – around mid-1940s.


At least once a year we would have farmers as close neighbours. They would come after the harvest in their bullock carts loaded with their produce and also with the essentials for their sustenance for a stay of a week or two. They would line up their carts along the high wall in front of our house. The carts used to be fully covered with hessian to protect the crop that they brought for sale. The bullocks would be freed as soon as they parked the carts and would be provided the feed which too was brought along with their own rations. They would be all stocked up and cook near the carts their daal and chapattis. Daal would be cooked in a brass vessel over a chulha made of sheer clay and cow-dung using firewood to raise a fire. The aroma of the freshly-made daal and freshly-baked chapattis would drift up to us in the gentle breeze forcing us children to get out on to the veranda to get more of it. Those days there was no chemical farming; it was only organic and the fragrance of the daal and baked atta was, quite frankly, out of this world and so must have been the taste.

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More by :  Proloy Bagchi

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