Thursday, March 09, 2006

The role of naais in the Indian society

As many of you may be knowing that in olden days, the naai (barber) played a very important role in the Indian society. He not only cut the men folks hair, but also arranged marriages, took messages from one family to the other and also took gifts and various savories made on festivls,for example, from one sister to the other who were living after their marriage in the next or nearby village only.
Once in one village, the naais became be-iman, i.e. dishonest. Whatever was given to them, they kept half of it in their own house and delivered the other half to where the whole of the food/savories were supposed to go. This created lots of ill will, as the youngers sister who was the recipient and her in laws, did not like at receiving such little amount of food/savories. However, as the sisters only met once or twice a year or even after long periods on some special occasions this incident was ignored.

On one such occasion an elder sister called the naai and asked him to take some puris and kheer to her younger sister who lived in the next village. The naai made a potli of the stuff and asked the lady if she had some message for her younger sister (as there was not even an email in those good old days to communicate! what a pity?

The sister first said no, nothing but then after some thought said alright tell her: ghootaghutt andheri raat ghata tope hai rahi hei; hamare solehnwi raat tumhare kaun si hei rahi hai.
(rough English translation: It is a very dark night and the clouds are all there, i.,e. the kheer is very thick; in our area it is the sixteenth night, what is in your area?)

So, as per the naai's practise he went home took half of the kheer and put equal amount of water in it and put eight puris in his house and then proceeded to the sister in the next village to deliver the rest. Once he delivered the stuff, the younger sister asked if her sister gave any message. The naai now taxed his memory and said: your sister said that ghootaghutt andheri raat ghata tope ho rahi hei, hamare solahwin raat, tumhare kaun si hei rahi hai.

The sister was quite perplexed at first at this message but being an Indian girl, her mind worked quickly and now she saw how the kheer was too thin and how could her sister only send eight puris to her; she was also aware how the naais had become be-iman in that area.

So, she told the naai to reply to her sister as follows: Bhaka Bhakk ujeri raat, taaro koi koi hei, tumhare sohalwin raat, hamare aathei hei rahi hei. (Translation: It is a very white night and there is hardly any star in it (i.e. very thin kheer and hardly any rice in it), in your area it was sixteenth and here it is only eighth).

Upon his return to the elder sister, the naai gave the message to her. Now they were all ready and explained to the naai that he had stolen the goodies; he was caught red handed and his pitaai was done thoroughly (he was thrashed thoroughly) for stealing the goodies meant for the younger sister.



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