“Household chores – that’s what a girl did most of the time. What else? There was no school for us. Only my elder brothers attended school. Every morning we first drank tea. Then, we used to gather fodder for cattle, clean the aagan (front porch of the house), take care of younger siblings, and eat whatever mother used to cook. Back then, a girl could not cook for adults until she was married. So, in Kalimpong, when I was unmarried, I did not cook. Well, I could cook vegetable curry and a couple of other basic items but not rice and daal (legumes soup). My younger siblings were allowed to eat what I cooked. However, my parents, grandparents and other adults used to avoid the food I cooked. Interestingly, cleaning the kitchen and doing dishes was acceptable to everyone. The boys also could not cook before their bratamanna (a Hindu ritual for boys). It was a common practice in the Brahamin families. All children were required to sit below the chauki (a raised seating area) while dining. If Chettri or Jaisi (castes lower than Brahmin) visited, they were kept closer to the chauki but they also sat below it. Other castes lower than that were not allowed to enter the kitchen house. That’s how society was then. I started cooking after I got married and moved to my husband’s house in Lamitar [Samtse district, Bhutan]. At my in-laws, I cooked in a big pot. When I was young, I could not pick it up. Someone had to help me with it. Other than that, I also used to take cows for grazing. When I was young, I played with some friends in the neighborhood. Neither can I recall their names, nor the games we played. We must have played something. I do remember making butterflies out of jhumras (old tattered clothes). We wrapped the jhumras around multiple times to make a shape. We used daal (legumes) for eyes, similar to the dolls these days. However, you could not find dolls for sale in the market during those times. Playing on linge-ping (a tall swing made out of bamboo) was another favorite activity for me. We usually had one year-around in the neighborhood. Of course, the time for games was only when there were no pending household chores. I recall carrying food to the fields for the family members who were working. I also worked in the fields with them when I was not cooking. That’s how my days passed for over 60 years.”
Ganga Devi Dulal, 87, is originally from Samchi, Bhutan and based in Springfield, Massachusetts at the time when this story was compiled.Story and Photo compilation by Biraj Adhikari for BNS.