We, Indian people have many culturally and religiously intertwined rites. Most of us don’t know the significance behind those Indian rites. For example, we have a pantang larang on not to leave our plates dry after eating – some of us wash our hands in the plate itself and leave and this is especially true in Indian males (my late father used to do it). Sometimes some would wash their hands in the plate which still contains some food left uneaten.
One of Indian rites that my mom does every night, without fail is kinda weird as far as I WAS concerned. After everyone ate dinner, she’d leave some leftover rice ranging from a mouthful to several grains of rice in the rice cooker bowl and pour some water in it. The next morning, she would throw the soaked rice away before cooking a new batch of rice for lunch.
I observed this peculiar act by my mother and asked her why does she does what she does and she explained that by leaving some rice left uneaten overnight, Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity would not leave our home. I argued with my mom, over this preposterous belief and my mom said that she is simply following what her mom did. So, I asked my grandmother and she said she was following what her mother did.
Indian rites under siege
Since I cannot bring my great-grandmother back from the dead, I pieced together the yesteryear stories of my mom’s maidenhood and my childhood spent at the village where my mother was born to make some sense of this ritual.
Both my grandparents were rubber tappers and cowherds. In the wee hours of the morning, before setting out to tap trees and herd livestock, they would have the soaked leftover rice as breakfast, either on its own or with condiments which would make the McD, Burger King, Subway going youth of today wince. Those are raw small onion, green chilies or fried salted fish. Uppu karuvadu, oore veche soru.. Rings a bell?
Our progenitors at that time did hard labor so they need the surge of energy contained in the carbohydrate rich breakfast each morning, hence this practice that’s contained in Indian rites. And, they don’t soak leftover rice in rice cookers; they soak it in earthen pots. I remember my grandpa feeding me the soaked rice whenever I balik kampung for school holidays and it dawned on me now that it is one of the many Indian rites that WERE purposeful. My grandparents used parboiled type rice and the starch was given to the cows to drink. It was extremely exhilarating to watch the cows slurp up the starch, their muzzles having drippy white mustaches afterwards.
So I got the idea that the soaked rice is not meant to be thrown away. But no one at this current era would have soaked rice for breakfast. We are all modern people, right – the closest we get to soaked rice is McDonald’s porridge.
There was another purpose in leaving some rice at night before retiring to bed. In the olden days, beggars, go to house to house at meal times to beg for food and in the mornings, such beggars would be given the leftover soaked rice as breakfast. In those days, where the caste system was applied, the beggars, who were considered as low caste weren’t allowed into houses – they were made to eat outside. My mother shared her childhood memory with me – it seems there was a crippled old lady who would drag herself on the road, going from house to house and beg for food. She had no family and when she died, the villagers cremated her. It was a normal thing in those days. Not many of us know this; I didn’t know as well. Shirdi Sai Baba too begged for alms to sustain Himself. In Mahabaratha, when the Pandavas brothers 5 were in their first exile, they begged for food, despite their princely status, in disguise as Brahmins, keeping their heads low to escape murderous ploys masterminded by Shakuni and the Kauravas, namely Duryodhana.
So, fine, since we no longer eat soaked rice for breakfast and the begging culture has expired, I wonder why the practice is still around.
It’s perfectly alright to follow Indian rites and culture but they should progress to suit changing times and developments.
By all means, practice Indian rites but don’t squander in the name of rigid ritual.
Boghi is the day we burn old stuff found in our homes in the spirit of ‘out with the old, in with the new.’
When selecting items to burn in the Bhogi conflagration, save old clothes which still are in good condition and donate them to orphanages instead of turning them into ash – what is old to you is brand new for some underprivileged people.
If you have last year’s UPSR, PMR, SPM and STPM work books, exercise books and notes, don’t set them on ablaze on Bhogi; give them away to relatives’ children, orphanages or poor kids in your neighbourhood – light up their lives.
That way you will have a more meaningful Bhogi.
A little goes a long way..
The true significance behind the Bhogi ritual is to set bad, negative and dark thoughts and intentions afire and welcome good, positive and illuminated thoughts and intentions.
I personally believe that pouring water into rice cooker and not letting used plates dry up as a matter of easy washing – the rice starch crust would soften up and not much scrubbing is needed. Ithukku ipdi oru poreli.
My mom still soaks leftover rice every night without fail, but instead of throwing it away, she feeds the soaked rice to birds and they come by the dozens; they’d wait at the gate for my mom to come with soaked rice each morning and if there is no soaked rice, my mom would feed the birds with a fistful of raw rice. The sight is priceless. I’m sure goddess Lakshmi will approve this and stay put in our home. 🙂