Author Archives: guptea

Hans Brinker and the Dam

Piece

One of the stories I heard, growing up as a kid, uhm… whether that be in elementary school or through my parents was the Dutch story about Hans Brinker, uhm… who is not usually named that, it is just his official title in the book. Uhm. And he’s a dutch boy that puts his finger in a damn and saves his entire village from drowning. I’m not sure what it is about this story that has been popularized so much, and I don’t know why it is taught so much in american schools. Uhm. But it is something that is stuck in my mind as the story that’s been passed on from generation to generation. Cause after looking it up I found out it originated in an 1875 book. But yeah, that’s my favorite piece of ferkl- folklore. 

Background

M is a close friend from Minnesota who studies film. He is a really serious guy with strong roots in Minnesota. He told me that he heard this story from his school and his parents and it stuck with him for whatever reason.

Context

He sent me a voice clip over Whatsapp in which he said all of this. I told him to send me a piece of folklore earlier that day. 

Thoughts

The story is an example of a martyr figure, a young boy, that saves his village through self sacrifice. It is probably indicative of values of the community. M mentioned that it was taught a lot throughout american schools and this could be an attempt to instill specific moral values in children, namely those relating to self sacrifice for the good of your community. 

Overturned Footwear

Piece

One of the  most prevalent superstitions growing up in an Indian household was the belief that if your shoes or footwear was overturned, then it was said to cause fights- give off negative energies in the house. So you’re never supposed to- you’re supposed to flip the footwear so that the underside is facing the ground. You know. It isn’t even about the superstition anymore but I, like, subconsciously flip over my footwear because it bothers me now. And I figured- I- brrrbbrr- I figure it comes from the fact that you know, overturned shoes, you know, people used to trip on them or whatever, that’s why.

Background

    N is a close friend from India who grew up in a half hindu, half muslim household. I stayed with him for a couple months and I came to realize parents are rather traditional in their habits despite being progressive thinkers. One of the habits that N seems to have picked up on from his parents is correcting the positioning of shoes.

Context

    N relayed this information to me over a facetime call. It was something that we had discussed earlier in our lives and I had asked him to look back and narrate bits of that conversation.

Thoughts

    N had an interpretation of why this custom could be in place. I agree with him although I heard another reason as well as to why this custom is followed: the dirt from the bottom of the shoe may get into the air or food.

Ram and the berries

Piece

    On one day of Ram’s exile, he was approached by a woman who was a big devotee of him. She has a beautiful- you know- pure love for him because he had this persona of a warm, loving, kind, wonderful person. 

    So… what she did is… she told Ram that she wanted to host him and give him some fruits that she collected. Seeing the warmth in her eyes, Ram said that he would love to eat in her house. At the house, she had three plates of berries, one for Ram, one for Sita, and one for Laxman. They sat down and started eating. Ram was very happy because all the berries were sweet. The berries were the berr berries you know? This- those berries are either sweet- or sour, red or white but you can’t tell from outside. So he was eating the berries and all of them were sweet. 

But in the middle, he noticed there was a small bite taken from each of the berries. He asked the woman what these bites were so- and she said that she had taken a bite from each berry to make sure that it was sweet for him. Ram laughed and happily ate all the berries. 

Background

    This story is a small sub story from the ancient epic, The Ramayana, which is one of the ancient holy stories about Ram, the 7th avatar of Vishnu. There is a complex backstory for Ram involving being exiled from his own kingdom with his wife and his brother. The story is a classic hero’s journey tale in Hindu mythology and many sub stories have emerged in the folklore of the Indian people. 

Context
    My mother told me this story over the phone after I asked her about stories she would tell my brother and I as children. 

Thoughts

This was a story that my mother would often tell me when I would be grossed out by eating the same food that my brother or my father had eaten. I honestly don’t know if this story is included in the ancient story or if it is a story that my mother’s ancestors might have made up to get naughty children to eat food that has already been touched.

This story teaches us not only to respect everyone and appreciate their gestures, but also to be free and generous with our love and devotion to a good person.

Til gul gya, goad bola on Sankrati

Piece

Original script (if applicable)

तील गूळ ग्या, गोड बोला

Phonetic (Roman) script

Til gool gya, goad bola

Transliteration

Sesame jaggery get, sweet talk.

Full translation

Eat sesame jaggery candy and talk sweetly.

Background

This is a Marathi phrase that is said on a holiday called Sankranti. It is spoken to everyone on this day while feeding each other Sesame and Jaggery candy.  

Context

My mother told me this piece of spoken folklore when I asked her about traditions specific to my people: Maharasthraians. This holiday is specifically celebrated by Hindus in honor of the Sun God, Surya. The day is also called Makar Sankrant or Makar Sankranti. It is said that you are supposed to reap benefits from your business or life if you eat the “til gul” (sesame and jaggery rolled into a ball)

Thoughts

    On asking my mother why sesame and jaggery were used specifically, she told me it is because the two ingredients help the body maintain heat in the winter. Sankranti is celebrated in January, one of the coldest months. It varies according to the lunar calendar but the point is that the people of Maharashtra consume sesame and jaggery to keep their body temperature up in  these cold months. In addition to that, this is the beginning of spring and the end of winter which foretells a new harvest. 

Recipe for Channa Masala

Piece

Channa Masala

450 gms tinned, cooked channa or 2 cups of channa soaked in water overnight. Cook in 4 cups of water and salt to ½ teaspoon Salt For approximately 3 – 3.5 cups cooked channa

1 small onion chopped

¼ teaspoon ginger 

¼ teaspoon garlic 

Grind all the above three ingredients to a paste  —-(1)

¼ teaspoon cumin seed powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

¼ teaspoon chilli powder

¼ teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon Aji’s masala powder

1 large tomato diced into small cubes

3 table spoons coriander leaves chopped finely

2 tablespoons oil

Heat a large heavy bottom container; add oil, followed by paste 1.

Saute` till pink or light brown in color. Add tomatoes, 1 tablespoon coriander leaves, turmeric powder, chilli powder, cumin powder. Saute until the mixture starts to look rich brown and the oil starts to separate. 

Add the cooked channa and cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until flavors blend. Add coriander leaves and serve hot with rice. 

Background

This is the legendary recipe for Chana Masala  (chickpeas in spices) passed down through generations on my mother’s side. This is my favorite food and my mother’s favorite food and so on. 

Context

This recipe has been passed through the ages. It isn’t exactly something that is unique to my family as all of India has their own takes on Channa Masala. This shows multiplicity and variation in the folklore. Interestingly enough,  there is a “secret ingredient” in this Channa which my mother calls Aji’s masala powder which means “Grandmother’s spice powder”.  All this time, I thought it was my grandmother’s spice powder, but now I realize that it is just  a term for a special secret mixture of spice powder that was passed down from my grandmother. 

Thoughts

    Recipes are interesting pieces of folklore as they are so important to survival. Food permeates through tradition and generations. An interesting thing about food is the multiplicity and variation in each instance. For example, my mother’s cooking varies from day to day and every time she makes the   dish is slightly different from the previous time. 

How Kolkatta got its name

Piece

This is the story of how Kolkata got its name. So, once there was a European man who was travelling in the train. And then he asked a local farmer *does comically heavy British accent* “Excuse me sir, buy what is this place called then?” And the local farmer didn’t understand what he was saying and uh… he had some bushels of wheat- no rice, bushels of rice in his hand. And he thought the man was asking when he cut it. So he said “Kal Katta. Kal Katta.” (hindi/bengali for “I cut it yesterday”) *laughs* *imitates British accent again* “Oh Calcutta? Is that what it is called then?” So that’s how its *laughing hysterically* -that’s how the name came about. 

Background

P is Bengali but grew up in Maharashtra. He has a lost connection to his parent’s original homeland. His parents and grandparents often tell him stories about Bengal. Kolkata is the capital of Bengal. This story is a historical joke told to him by his grandfather. 

Context

P told me this piece of history over the phone when I called him about my assignment. At first he was joking around about what kind of folklore to give me but then settled on this with an air of flippancy. He is a close friend hence the casualness. 

Thoughts

This historical joke, likely untrue, requires a knowledge of Hindi or Bengali in order to understand the punchline of the joke. The local man with his bushels of rice is representative of the people of Bengal while the ignorant Britisher is a personification of their hate toward the colonizers. The joke showcases the ignorance of the Britishers yet how much power they held to be able to simply name an entire state of India. 

A moth goes to podiatrist’s office

Piece

So a moth goes into a podiatrist’s office and the podiatrist is like “What is the problem, Moth?” and the moth goes “What is the problem? My life’s a mess doc. My son hates me, my marriage is falling apart, and I’m starting to get old fat and bald. I look in the mirror and I see a shell of a man I used to be. I don’t know. Things are not good.”

So the podiatrist is like “ Man that sounds rough. But like why did you come here, why didn’t you go to a psychiatrist’s office?”

And the moth’s like “Cause the lights were on.”

Background

This is a joke narrated by a close friend from my school, N. N has a kind of dry clever humour that you can’t help but laugh at. He told me that this joke was from his uncle’s collection of many similar jokes. 

Context

N sent this joke to me in the form of a whatsapp voice note when I messaged him about my assignment. 

Thoughts

This joke is funny because at first it sets up the idea that the moth is like a human by allowing the audience to anthropomorphize him by describing his life experience. Then, when the audience thinks that he is human, the joke suddenly reminds them that the moth is actually just a moth and a slave to the nature of the moth. It turns the audience’s expectations back to the original which makes anyone chuckle. 

Cajun Seafood Fettuccine

Piece

Recipe: Seafood Fettuccine

Make normal fettuccine noodles and then in a separate saucepan, you use velveeta cheese, the kind that comes in a mac and cheese mix and you take the shells out and just use the cheese. You mix it with whole milk or any heavy cream and then dice tomatoes, onions, and celery and then cook it in the sauce.

Then take the seafood, can be crab meat (usually) or shrimp or crawfish. Then you add cajun seasoning which is usually paprika mixed with several other spices. Use Nunu’s if you don’t want to make it yourself.

Background

    This is a Cajun recipe for a dish that my girlfriend grew up eating. She is from the south where seafood is really prevalent. This dish’s recipe was passed down from her father’s side. Her father is italian, hence, the fettuccine. 

Context

My girlfriend was cooking a dish that she makes a lot so I asked her if she had a recipe for it. It turns out that her recipe was a traditional recipe that spanned several generations. Although she is creole, not cajun, her father might have lived around other Cajuns and picked up this recipe. 

Thoughts

    The prevalence of seafood in many southern delicacies is probably due to a large amount of protein available from the sea creature lush coasts that the southerners were close to.

Never trust Alligators

Piece

Uhhm. So my grandpa used to tell me this story. I think the girl’s name was Sally. So she lived in the Bayou. Do you know what the Bayou is? The swamps and stuff. And has all these really scary critters. But like people live there like Cajun people live there.  But I’m not Cajun, I’m creole. But yeah Sally was Cajun. I assume she is Cajun. 

But so she— uh… She was like “Mom can I have a dog?” and her mother was like “We don’t have the money to feed you nonetheless a dog.” and anyway later Sally is finds a cat and she is like “Mom can I keep the cat.” and her mother is like “No we can’t afford it. Cause then I’d have to feed the cat.” and Sally finds a squirrel and asks her mother if she can keep it… and the mother is like “No cause we don’t have any fuckin’ money Sally” *laughs*. Sally wanders around to find pets to keep her company in the Bayou.

    She is sitting down by the swamp water and she is really lonely. Then she sees a set of eyes rise up in the water. And she’s like “Oh my god. What a cute little lizard. I’ll just sneak it in my house and it’ll just eat flies and stuff or like insects. I’ll just hide it in my room.” And so she gets the lizard thing and she realizes that it is a baby alligator. And she’s like “Okay, baby alligators just eat frogs and stuff so I’ll just raise it vegetarian.” 

    Anyway, her mom comes in the room one day and she’s like “Hey Sally, I have a surprise for you.” She got her a puppy. And Sally is like OH MYGOD! I have a puppy and a lizard. This is great.” *laughs*. Things are great until one day, her mom goes into her room and there’s no Sally and there’s no puppy. She goes into Sally’s bathroom and sees an alligator in the bathtub… Very full… and… and that’s why you don’t trust alligators. *laughs*

Background

    My girlfriend is from the south of America where there are a lot of swamps. She heard this story from her grandfather who she describes as a blind crazy old man. She told me that all the stories that he ever told her were about why you should never trust alligators. This is really funny to her and she was relating a story humorously that illustrated the humour of her grandfather’s alligator paranoia.

Context

My girlfriend and I were hanging out and joking around and she was telling me about her family at home. I thought this was a good time to collect some folklore. She is trying to convince me that her grandfather is crazy in this conversation through telling me one of his dozens of “anti alligator propaganda pieces”.

Thoughts

    Alligators are probably one of the most dangerous predators in the region that her grandfather was from. Although this story probably never happened it is insightful and revealing of the older people’s warnings to the younger generations in the area. Alligators are dangerous and they should never be adopted as pets. 

Shivaji the Tiger and Avzal the Bear

Piece

Alright so this one is the story about how Shivaji survived an assissination attempt. He was going to meet Babur Khan, or was it Avzal Khan haan haan yes it was Avzal Khan! So Shivaji was going to discuss a truce with Avzal Khan. They were going to meet in a place where no weapons were allowed so it would be safe.

But here’s the thing ha, Avzal Khan was a huge man and had arms as big as logs and a chest as big as an elephant’s. So Shivaji was on his way to meet him… and uh… on the way one of Shivaji’s spies came to Shivaji in the dead of night and told him that Avzal was planning on strangling Shivaji to death when they met by giving him a deathly bear hug. Now, here’s the thing ok. Shivaji was extremely clever. He was very smart and knew that something like this would happen. So he said okay to his spy and continued on his journey to the location… of the… of the meeting. 

Anyway, all the while, Shivaji grew out his fingernails and sharpened them so that they were very very sharp. On the day of the meeting, Shivaji cleverly wore a plate mail armour under his clothes. So when the meeting came, Avzal Khan hugged Shivaji and tried to crush him but he couldn’t because of the chain mail. Then Shivaji used his tiger claw hands to tear open Avzal Khan’s chest and killed him instead. 

Background

Shivaji was a warrior king and the founder of the Maratha empire. He is idolized in Maharashtra, a state in India, amongst the people of the state. There are tons of stories, books, and films that center around Shivaji’s cunning, bravery and wit. The antagonists of these stories are the Mughal emperors who are depicted as cruel and evil in most of the stories. This is a story from the vast folklore around Shivaji.

Context

My family is Maharashtrian and this is an example of one of the many stories that my father told me about our heritage when I was growing up. 

Thoughts

It is unfortunate that the main antagonists of the stories are generally Muslim mughals. This has caused a lot of Islamophobia in modern day Maharashtra which has led to some unfortunate political circumstances. This story would probably be told much differently by the descendants of the Mughal empire.