Saturdays have customarily become a day when we host a guest for a non-vegetarian dinner. This Saturday was a dampener though. M declined the invitation since there’s a chuttak (the ‘t’ is pronounced as in Tamil) in his family.
A chuttak is observed when a member of the family dies. In this case, the death was thankfully not in his family. It was in one of the families at his village. Since M has only recently come from the village and his family has ripe connections with villagers, they observe this tradition, in whatever corner of the world they are.
But foremost, there are two Ws to be answered here. First, why am I doing a post on this age old tradition which I find stupid at times? Second, what is this tradition actually?
Okays, I take the first one first. Actually since the last two posts, the mahaul on my blog had become too depressing. So I decided to do this post. It will recount a few of my observations and also some memories, which I think will balance the gloominess on the blog.
Second, what is a chuttak actually? Okays, it is observed in Bihar and Jharkhand when someone in ones immediate or distant family dies. This normally extends until the sharaddha ceremony, which is after 11 days of death. Here are some dos and don’ts to be observed during the chuttak period.
Do not eat non-vegetarian food until the shraddha ceremony is over
Men have to shave off their hair (That’s the reason barbers are not doing very well here. Most men get themselves completely shaven for 8-9 times in a year. The younger generation at least revolts against this part of the custom)
Obviously, there are more rules for women to follow. The women shall not apply oil to their hair and also not wash their hair. Also plain dressing is prescribed.
No visit to the temple or worshipping at home
During the chuttak period, travelling is barred, with some applying conditions
My memories are attached to the last clause.
My grandmother passed away in December. According to her last wishes, we held the shraddha at our village home. Chachaji and father set base a good 15 days ahead of the ceremony. The house was in disuse for long and there were many repairs to be done. It had to be a grand affair so that everyone could see that my grandmother had raised so loving sons. The third generation, that included us, reached here a week before the shraddha.
The ceremony was as splendid as planned. At least, the villagers praised the food, daan, and the hospitality. It was time for the immediate family to move back to work now. Both father and Chachaji had exhausted their leaves. I had my exams. My brothers too had their jobs.
The third day after shraddha was agreed as propitious to make the return journey. A day before, father booked two cars to ferry us back. The night before was hectic. Everything had to be packed since the house would remain closed until the next occasion. The women got a chance to peek into all the treasures that their late mother-in-law had so guarded. Finally, everyone hit the bed thinking that they have to rise early.
Before the alarm clock would have ringed, a loud knock on the main door woke us up. It was from a boy from the village. A certain kaka had died in the wee hours of the morning. He was in his 70s and the cold weather was too much for his budhi haddiyan. It was grandfather who announced that we will have to postpone our travel plans because of the chuttak.
This was how everyone reacted. Everything had to be unpacked. The enthusiasm hit a new low. Suddenly everyone found the village to be so unliveable.
“This village is so remote that if something happens, you will die on way to the doctor’s place.”
“For every other thing, you have to rush to the city. God, I will die if your devar insists on staying here after retirement.”
Father devised a solution after talks with some elders from the village. According to them, we could leave after observing one day of chuttak in special conditions. The special conditions here were not as special though. Still the elders were accommodating.
The day finally came. The cars arrived on time. The women insisted on crying on the shoulders of every village women, but father didn’t want to waste any more time.
Barely had an hour passed that father received a call from a certain bhaiya from the village.
“Hello, is it Prakash. Prakash, Damni Bua died immediately after you people left the village. I think you should return for the chuttak…”
“Hello, hello, kaun bol raha hai. Wrong number”, and father cut the phone.
Everyone started laughing and we continued our journey.