The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 4
By Domnic Fernandes
A “sup” is a large dustpan-shaped kitchen appliance made of bamboo - a winnowing fan.
It is a multi-purpose item. It comes in two types or sizes; both are household implements made of woven bamboo, shaped to form an extended plate with one side curving up into a triangular pocket.
One sup is a little flatter than the other and is used to “tandull ani dusro orov asddunk” (winnow rice and other grains), while the other, which is rounded, is used as a measure.
It is also used to gather and clean paddy at harvest time, in the fields, before the paddy is brought home.
Once the paddy is harvested, before it is transported from the field to the home, good paddy is separated from “pol” (chaff) and this is done with the help of a sup. The process is called “bhatak varem ghalop vo bhat varea korop” (to separate paddy from the chaff using simple implements and the power of the breeze.)
One of the “bhat movpi” (paddy thrashers) fills up a sup with freshly trashed paddy, lifts it up with both hands to shoulder level and stands against the breeze. He then slowly releases paddy from the sup which gets blown away by the breeze from behind.
In the process, good paddy falls straight down on the soviem and the chaff flies away. If there is no strong breeze blowing, a “kamerem” (female laborer) holds a “konn’ vo morl” (woven palm leaf) in both hands and fans the paddy from behind the person holding the sup.
Here is a sup-related Konkani proverb: “Varem ieta toxem sup dhor.” (Hold the winnowing fan in the direction of the wind.)
Next, a sup is used to separate “kunddo” (bran) from husked rice. The process is called “tandullank varem ghalop vo tandull varea korop” (to separate rice from the bran by using the power of the breeze.) Here again, if there is no strong breeze blowing, a kamerem holds a konn’ in both hands and fans rice which is released from a sup.
With the arrival of electricity in the Seventies, some people used large-blade pedestal fans, especially ‘Almonard’ brand fans to tandull varea korunk.
A sup is also used to separate whole rice from “konnieo” (broken rice).
A few handfuls of rice is placed in a sup and it is then moved back and forth, gradually throwing it up in the air and catching it back into the sup. As a result, konnieo come to the fore of the sup, which are removed by hand, and whole rice remains at the back of the sup. Bran, if any, is blown away from the sup with a blow of breath.
At big functions like a wedding, bhikareanchem jevonn, etc. large quantities of grated coconut had to be ground on a ghonnsunno.
People usually own one ghonnsunno per home. Therefore, the randpinni (female cooks) would grate coconuts at a wedding house and send it to a neighbor’s house in a sup to grind it there. They made sure that a plantain leaf was placed on the sup, as otherwise “kantleli soy vo churn” (grated kernel) got into the grooves of the sup, thus inviting ants.
Here is another sup-related Konkani proverb: “Supantle hanstat, vorlentle roddttat.” (Rice grains in the winnowing fan laugh; those in the vorli cry because they are destined for the pot!)
As we all know, an elephant has large ears. People, therefore, refer to them as winnowing fans.
Sometimes, if you observe minutely, you will come across people who have large ears, which resemble a sup. To them, our elderly would remark: “Tache kan supa sarke!” (His/her ears are like winnowing fan!)
Furthermore, a sup is used to dry “ambeachim solam” (raw mango slices), “suko galmo” (tiny dry prawns), “sukeo mirsango” (dry chilies,) gonv (wheat,) nachnne (millets,) etc. and also to spread sugar on it and keep it in the sun to drive away ants, which might have invaded the sugar container.
What an idea! Wasn’t the Mhar community creative?
A smaller version of a sup is called “supli.” It is used to clean grains like “nachnne” (millets.) It is also used to collect dirt from the house.
As mentioned earlier, most houses in the past had mud floors, which was treated with cow dung. Every night the floor was swept with a “vhiranchi saronn” (broom of palm leaf stalk) and the dirt was collected in a supli. Today, we use plastic dustpans.
In Goa, salt was one of the monsoon provisions. In the days of yore, as soon as the month of May began, people would be busy making preparations to store salt.
Salt was stored in a “mittachi konnki” (a bulging barrel-shaped salt container made from bamboo.) And, who do you think manufactured this container? Of course, the Mhar community!
If the konnki needed repair, they would call one of the bamboo weavers from the Mhar vaddo and have it repaired, or have a new one made.
Every year, prior to monsoon, the exterior of the konnki was treated with a thick coating of “xenn” (cow dung) so as to cover its pores and over that a “sampddeanchi sai” (a skirt made from the front tips of palm leaves) was fixed.
The opening of konnki was closed with a large, round kurponn also made from bamboo. A “tizal” (large earthen utensil used especially for cooking large quantities of sorpotel, roast meat, vindalo, etc) or a kodem would be placed upside down on the top of the konnki so its neck rested on the upper ends of sampddeanchi sai.
The konnki was covered in such a way from outside that not a single drop of rain water would penetrate either through its top or from its sides.
Wasn’t the Mhar community imaginative in providing us with an indigenous storage for salt?
Nowadays, there is no need to go through all these difficulties to store salt. You just go to a grocery shop/supermarket and buy a packet of Iodized Salt!
Agriculture used to be the only means of livelihood for a major chunk of the population in Goa. And paddy was their staple diet. This being the case, tilling of paddy fields was one of their main professions until the 1960s. Our ancestors made their living mainly by tilling paddy fields.
Once the paddy was harvested, the paddy was brought home, dried and stored in an “orovacho koddo” (grain storage).
A koddo is woven from bamboo. It is usually a flat mat of thicker layers of bamboo measuring approximately 12-20’ long X 6.5’ high, including feet.
It is strengthened by placing a little thicker bamboo poles at about a foot’s distance from each other. The ends of these poles are left out at the bottom for about half a foot so the koddo can stand on its feet in an upright position when placed on the ground.
To make a koddo, both ends are seamed together by overlapping it for about a foot and it is given a cylindrical shape. A small, square, door opening is kept at its bottom through which paddy is removed.
Just like a mittachi konnki, every year the exterior of a koddo is treated with a thick coating of “xenn” (cow dung) so as to cover its pores.
Before filling the koddo with paddy, sand is placed on the floor and dry hay spread over it. The koddo is then kept in place and paddy filled in from its top opening. It is finally covered with dry hay. Sometimes gunny bags are also placed over the hay.
Bhatache kodde (paddy storages) were available in different sizes – eke khanddiecho koddo (one khanddi koddo), don khanddieancho koddo (two khanddi koddo), panch khanddieancho koddo (five khanddi koddo), dha khanddieancho koddo, (ten khanddi koddo), and, rarely a kumbhacho koddo (20 khanddi koddo).
If the Mhar community did not manufacture the kodde, where would we store our paddy? Later, by the Sixties, some people replaced “manche kodde” (grain storages made of bamboos) with “fatranche kodde” (grain storages made of laterite stones,) which also had an opening at its bottom, which was closed with a sliding metal plate door.
Nowadays, very few Goans till paddy fields; they buy their rice requirement from grocery shops. As such, there is no need to prepare orovache kodde.
If field conversions continue in Goa, there won’t be any fields left to be tilled.
However, kodde have found another use by the foreigners. They use them to prepare an “oddop” (fence) to cordon off their properties to discourage and keep off locals. They buy them from Mapusa market. They are made by the migrants.
“Koddsorieo” are bamboo woven kodde of a little lighter quality, which were and are still used for “zhodd vo addos” (a protection cover).
Until the early Fifties, very few houses in Goa were built with stones – most houses were built with mud bricks, which had to be protected from rains during the monsoon season or else they would get soaked with rain and collapse.
Mud walls were protected by raising a zhodd vo addos.
Whole bamboo poles were planted in the ground in a slanting position, about a foot away from the mud wall and their tops were tied to the “vanxeachea pontak” (rafter ends.) Half split bamboos were horizontally tied to poles at a distance of about eighteen inches. Thus, a framework was prepared to which a zhodd/addos was fixed. Either “konn’nnam” (woven palm leaves) or koddsorieo were tied to the framework with the help of “sumb” (coir rope).
A “balcão” (balcony) of a house was covered all around with a zhodd, as otherwise rain water splashed inside and ruined the floor, which usually was made of mud and covered with cow-dung.
Well-to-do people preferred to make a zhodd of koddsorieo instead of konn’nnam for their balcão.
Today, there is no need to fix a zhodd to protect walls because houses are built with stones and plastered with cement.
Come to think of it, the Mhar community was instrumental even in protecting our homes!
Goans being agriculturists, their main occupation was cultivating the fields.
As soon as it rains, (1) paddy fields are ploughed; (2) over that a “gutto” (flat horizontal wooden plank) is applied, which makes ploughed ground flat, and (3) over that a “dantro” (teeth-like horizontal wooden bar) is applied and then “rov” (sprouted paddy) is strewn, which falls in fine tracks caused by a dantro.
The other mode of cultivating a paddy field is to follow step number one and two above and then transplant paddy saplings.
Once rov/paddy saplings take firm roots in the ground, “nonddnni” (the process of removing weed) begins. This work mostly takes place during the month of July when it rains quite heavily.
In those days, hardly anyone used a raincoat in the fields. Raincoats were used only by the elite and some middle-class people.
During rainy season, male laborers generally used a “kamboll/kambllem” (a black blanket made of pure wool), which was folded into a shape like a cone and placed on the head; its bottom had hanging tussles, which helped rainwater fall straight to the ground.
The kamboll did not only provide shelter to the user but it also provided warmth on the inside, as it was made of wool. It was fairly heavy. Rainwater fell on it and rolled away. Many used it as a blanket at night; it probably was one of the best blankets compared to other available blankets.
Here is a kamboll-related Konkani proverb: “Thonddaient kamboll zodd konnank lagta? (Who feels the weight of a blanket when it is cold?)
As far as “kamerim” (women laborers) were concerned, they used a “konnddo” (protection of palm-leaf cover against rain) when they worked in the fields during raining season.
A bamboo framework was prepared and it was covered with “konn’nnam vo morlam” (woven coconut leaves.) The Mhar community manufactured the konnddo.
There was another type of konnddo, which was prepared entirely from bamboo wood. It had a deep, round curve in the middle to accommodate one’s curved back when bending and working in the field.
It resembled a “kongo” (snail) with a fine peak on its top. It was covered with a thick layer of cashew leaves, which were woven together with a vhir - just like a potravolli.
This konnddo, too, was manufactured by the Mhar community and it was used mostly in the fields by middle-class women.
Nowadays, you rarely see laborers in the fields using konndde. Most migrant laborers simply fold and place a piece of plastic cloth on their head – just like a kamboll, which reaches their knees, and wrap another piece of plastic around their waist.
I recollect a konnddo-related Konkani proverb: “Nonddnni koxii zanv, konnddo ghott!” (It doesn’t matter if the process of picking weed is not followed but the style of konnddo is great!
There is yet another similar Konkani proverb which goes thus: “Nonddonk kollona, konnddo boro haloita - applies to those who make empty sound. Similarly, “Ticho konnddo varean halta” means her konnddo shakes with the breeze, or she is making empty noise.
To be continued …………….
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