I just received a couple of ‘Jamai Shashthi’ food promotions on my whatsapp. I have always, trust me, always wondered what was the hullabaloo about Jamai Shashthi. For all those who are non bongs, Jamai is son in law and jamai Shashthi is a day dedicated to the son in law. I can still accept for the first couple of years but year on year, how do men turn into giant-sized hulo berals and get ready to be pampered by their mother in-laws? Buro buro (old) jamais, all eager for Jamai Shashthhi! Don’t get me wrong. I am not against food, nor against food as a backdrop for bonding and conversations.
Jamai Shashthi at my home
When I was little, Jamai Shashti was fun for me. It meant all my cousins would come home. Dida, my grandmother, would set out ‘dalas’ for every family. Dalas or ‘kulo’ are these basically bamboo trays, elliptical in shape, indigenous to Eastern India and are used on all auspicious occasions. So each family had a dala dedicated to them and each member would get a new dress as part of the dala. Anyway, other than that, there would be a whole lot of food and it would always be a grand feast.
My grandmother would also narrate a story about why shashthi pujo started to the women of the house. After that, Dida along with the rest of the women (my mother and my aunts) would go to the household pond, each with a ‘pakha’, hand fans and dip the pakha in the water and wave the fan in front of our heads, saying’ shath shath’. They would also hold a mango and some ‘dhan and dubba’ (wheat and grass) and bless everyone. There would never be any special or extra attention given to the jamai in our home. It was called Jamai Shashthi but for Dida, it was shashthi pujo meant for the children and the jamais, of course.
There is always a lot of food
Apparently, the food that was cooked was usually what the Jamai liked to eat. So, there you go, one minus point to Dida. It was much later that I understood the meaning of the story that Dida would read out. It is quite demeaning for women and doesn’t hold good anymore. Dida was extremely progressive, she had her own business and she ran the home. Yet, she would diligently perform all the rituals. Ma says that every year, before the story, Dida would put a disclaimer that she doesn’t believe in any of it. Perhaps, it was just a matter of habit. I don’t know and I never actually got a chance to ask her.
It also bothered me that Dida, Ma and my Aunts woud eat folahar (fruits) while the rest of the family would gorge on the delicious treats cooked by Dida. Nowadays, with time, the rituals have more or less vanished in most households, sans the pampering of the Jamai. I still don’t get it and what amazes me is that the men agree to it too. Why do they need special treatment?
Do we really need to celebrate jamai shashthi this year?
Every year, restaurants make good business on Jamai Shashthi because many families choose to go out and eat, than cook at home. Not being judgemental here, to each his own. One may ask why this year? I realize new mother in-laws and new Jamai may want to bond over food and no harm in it. In these tough times in the restaurant industry, this is also an opportunity for them to conduct some business. Anyway, till such time life comes back to normalcy, ordering food will be there. Celebrate over food on any day but not name it Jamai Shosthi and carry out the rituals.
Not that I want a bou shoshti, but when men and women are equals in society, why the special attention to men and son in-laws? I can only hope that these misogynistic rituals vanish over time.
Image – The Oberoi Grand Kolkata, though not of Jamai Shashthi but Pujor mahabhoj