By- Nganthoi Lourembam
It’s the season of Utsav Tarpon. This month is fully preserved to offer feast to the deities in the name of those departed souls. This is the time we get to eat variant dishes prepared by the Bhamons (Manipuri Brahmins). I remember as a girl I had to go early in the morning and help the ladies in washing and cutting the vegetables which will be soon cooked by the Bhamons. I used to get impatient to eat those dishes specially PakoraThongba (fritters with gravy) but the feast would be served only after the dishes were offered to the deities and then to the departed souls. I remembermy aunt telling me a joke about these Bhamons; though we were supposed to eat the feast much later, the Bhamons eat all the dishes even before offering to the deities since they have to taste the salt. I am still not sure how far is that true. Normally we eat lunch at 10 or 11 am, but during the feast we get to eat at 1 ‘o’ clock. I was so impatient back then just by looking at the plates (made by banana leaves) filled with rice and different curries. Waiting for the prayers to finish felt like eternity and when the time came, one of the Bhamons would shout Chak Take (meaning lunch is served) and I ran with my friends to get ourselves a plate because often the number of people outnumbered the plates. And if we didn’t get a place to sit then we had to wait for the next round along with the Bhamons. No one wants that at least the children. The moment we sat down we would admire the beauty of the dishes; it’s so vibrant and every dish looked tasty. If we had smart phones like now our Instagram would be filled with these food pictures. But thank God we didn’t have phones then because the uncles and aunties sitting next to us would have given us a slap if we had taken pictures instead of eating them. And the most funny part is the dishes I so admired were so many that the moment I start eating all my hunger would vanish. I could never finish my colorful plate.
When this month arrives it brings the aroma of feast. I remember wearing warm clothes when I was cutting vegetables in the early morning. The streets used to be blinded by fog. It was a beautiful part of my childhood memory. I used to call it the month of different dishes.
Recently after several years I attended a feast offered to my great grandfather. Everything changed. It must be only my thoughts but the aroma is gone. How am I sure that the population of our state increased was after seeing many new faces in the feast. All my cousins got married and had kids. My nieces and nephews became taller and bigger. The Bhamons were new and looked younger. The food was served in steel plates not in the banana leaves and the saddest part is the water was no longer served in Khujai (a traditional water container larger than glass) but the water bottles were provided for each plate. Maybe I lost my appetite the aroma I used to admire was not there anymore. Change may be good in terms of road and infrastructure. But it makes me wonder ‘how far we need to change’? The flavor that once I admired got lost with the change of banana leaves maybe. However, for me the taste of Utsav Tarpon will always be the one I remember from the past like someone said if you want to be happy in the present then recall happy times from the past.
By- Nganthoi Lourembam