Author Archives: bhumbla

The Tale of Hukma and Hukamiya

Main Body:

Informant: This is a story I heard from my Grandma. And it’s called Hukma and Hukamiya. So Hukma and Hukamiya are a brother and sister. And they were farmers. So Hukamiya would take care of the house and Hukma would go every day to the farm, in their land.

Interviewer: They didn’t have parents?

Informant: No, they’re not in the story. So Hukamiya will cook for her brother and he will take the food with him to, um, the farms. So Hukma loved khichdi(rice and lentils) so she would make khichdi for him and he will take it. So one day when Hukma was, um, he sat down to eat his lunch, there was a wolf.

So the wolf said, “I’m going to – I’m about to eat you.”  So Hukma says, “Instead, why don’t you share my food?” This is where I get a little fuzzy on the story. So the wolf says, “Sure, either I eat you or I’ll eat the food” or something like that, y’know? And so Hukma says, “Fine, eat my food” obviously. So he gives the wolf his khichdi. And the wolf says “तू हिला मेरी पूक्षिडी, मैं खाऊ तेरी खीचडी” (too hila meree pookshidee, main khaoo teree kheechadee).

Interviewer: *Laughs* So the wolf essentially says, “You wag my tail, I eat your khichdi?”

Informant: Yeah

Interviewer: So does “You wag my tail” mean “You annoy me” or “You excite me” or something?

Informant: You know, I don’t really know, it just rhymes. It used to be so funny for us, when we were little. And for you when you were little. I used to tell you this story. So, poor Hukma will take his tail and –

Interviewer: Oh so the wolf’s telling Hukma that “You have to wag my tail.” It’s a command.

Informant: Yeah exactly. So then the wolf eats his khichdi. So this happens a few times. And then poor Hukma will come home hungry. And then his sister is like, “This is not good. You have to eat, this wolf is bullying you.” I think it’s a story about bullying, basically. But anyway, then Hukamiya is like, “We have to get rid of this wolf, this bhariya(wolf).” So then what they do is the next time the bhariya comes and tries to grab his lunch, Hukma says, “Hey, you know what? My sister has made really good food at home. So instead of this plain old khichdi, why don’t you come to our home and we’ll serve you?”

So the wolf agrees and they both go to the house where Hukamiya had made a lot of food. So they invite him inside the hut and there’s a stake in the ground inside the hut. So they tie a rope and they tie the, uh, the wolf to the stake. So the wolf is like “Why are you doing this?” And Hukma responds by saying “Oh we’re tying you here so you won’t be disturbed. You can just rest and stay in one place and enjoy your food in peace.” So the wolf, he’s stupid, he says OK. I guess he’s more interested in food. 

And then Hukma comes in with a big stick, big oiled stick. And so the wolf asks, “Why do you have this stick in your hand?” And so Hukma says, “Oh I’m just guarding the house.” Then they put the food in front of him and as the wolf starts eating, Hukma just starts beating him up. *Laughs* And then they beat him so much and then the wolf runs off. And he cries “हाय हुकमिया, धोका कर दिया” (haay hukamiya, dhoka kar diya) (Oh Hukamiya, you have betrayed me!

Interviewer: Why Hukamiya, specifically?

Informant: Oh now I remember! Now I remember. Man, I’ve forgotten this story. It was not Hukma the wolf used to bother, it was Hukamiya. So she used to go out to the fields in the afternoon to give her brother lunch. So on the way the bhariya would accost her and take the food. So then the brother finds out because every day he’s like “Why are you bringing such a little amount of food?” So she tells him. So the brother tells Hukamiya to invite the wolf over and then he dresses up as Hukamiya. And then beats him up after doing all that stake stuff. And then the wolf finds out it’s Hukma which is why he cries out saying that Hukamiya betrayed him. So he was bullying the girl who was weaker and then the older brother comes and beats him up. And so the wolf runs off and never comes back. 

Background: 

The informant is my mother, an Indian woman who was born and raised in northern India (Delhi) and moved to the US over two decades ago. This story is one that she was told by her grandmother and mother. It’s also a story that she apparently frequently told me when I was little.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my mom if she had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones she shared with me.

Analysis: 

There are a lot of interesting things going on in this story but what sticks out to me is that it’s kind of like a flip-flopped version of Little Red Riding Hood. You could think of Hukamiya as Little Red Riding Hood, a girl who runs into a wolf. Yet, in this story, it is not the wolf that dresses up as a grandmother, but Hukma (who fills the role of the hunter) who dresses up and disguises himself as his sister. The sequence of the wolf asking about the stake and Hukma giving an answer and the wolf asking about Hukma’s stick and Hukma giving an answer brings to mind a similar sequence in Little Red Riding Hood. The one where she remarks “What big eyes you have” and the wolf replies, “The better to see you with.” And then she says “What big teeth you have” and he says “The better to eat you with”, etc. Both tales end similarly though, with the wolf either dead or beaten and driven away.

Barber at the Wedding

Main Body:

Informant: This when I was growing up in India, this was still being done. And I’m not sure if it was all of India that was doing this but definitely a lot of Northern India. For some strange reason, when you got married, typically it was an arranged marriage, right? So, at some point, the girl’s dad would talk to the priest. They’d figure out what’s a good, an auspicious day for the wedding. But for some strange reason, and I don’t know what that strange reason is, the barber in the village, he would be the one to take the message about the wedding’s dad across to the groom and his family. It was always the barber. 

Then when you actually went to the wedding, it would always be at the girl’s place. So the girl’s family is already there, the whole extended family. And the groom’s family comes and they all meet and some money is always given or exchanged. So one of the first people who would always be recognized, and don’t ask me why, would be the barber of the girl’s village.

Interviewer: So, no matter what, this is one of you obligations as a barber? No matter if you know the girl’s family or not you have to be involved in the wedding in this specific way?

Informant: Yes, it’s like a village thing, you know?

Interviewer: So it’s a rural thing, it’s not an urban thing?

Informant: Good question, I don’t know the answer. So yeah the barber gets recognized by both families and he gets some money. Barbers typically were lower classes, so he wasn’t treated exactly equal but he would be taken along with the rest of the wedding party. 

Background:

The informant is my father who was born and raised in northern India in the state of Punjab and immigrated to America over 20 years ago. He was raised for a time in a rural village setting which is where much of our family comes from and this tradition is one he noticed being practiced in those rural, village weddings. This did not happen in his own wedding.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my father if he had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones he shared with me.

Analysis:

This is a very interesting tradition. I think it somewhat makes sense that when the two families finally meet that the barber is one of the first to be recognized because it’s the barber that relays the choice of date between the two families. So in a way, this could be recognizing the barber for their part in making the wedding happen. What is less clear is why the barber specifically is given that responsibility in the first place. It could be that a barbershop is typically regarded as a community center. It’s where everybody goes because everyone needs their hair cut. So it could be that the barber, knowing more people than most other people in the village would, is given the responsibility being a sort of “community representative.” Any elected leader of the village would not be given the responsibility as it would be “beneath them.” But the barber, being of lower class, would be the perfect candidate.

The Wedding Singers

Main Body:

Informant: So singing at weddings was big. And I’ll describe this from my memory because I haven’t seen it anywhere else. But I remember, you’d be on the groom’s side. So everyone is sitting on the floor. Typically this would be in the courtyard of … some kind of thing like if there are a few houses it would be in the courtyard in the middle. But then, houses were usually one story high. And on the roof of the house, there would be all these girls sitting all around, on the edge of the roof. They’d be sitting in a row and they’d be singing. So whenever a particular part of the wedding ritual took place, they’d be singing a song that was relevant or appropriate. What they’d also do is, typically, they’d be picking on the groom’s family. 

Interviewer: So these are all women from the bride’s family?

Informant: Yup. And I don’t think there was any restriction on whether or not they could be married or unmarried or anything. While the ceremony is going on, they don’t wait for pauses or anything, they are just continually singing over the ceremony. And they weren’t faint or anything. I mean, they weren’t overpowering but you could very clearly hear them. 

And this is the funny part, I remember one time I was looking up. And their songs, you know, sometimes they would have pathos in them because it was a sad thing because, typically, the bride would not return home after being married off. So they would, the singers would pick on the groom’s family. Like “Oh look at his mustache” or “Oh he’s bald,” or something like that. So I looked up, I was a little kid, to see what all the singing was about. And I remember my older brother telling me, very sternly, “You’re not supposed to look up.” So you can’t acknowledge them. But at the same time, it was very clear that people would feel deprived if there wasn’t that singing.

Background:

The informant is my father who was born and raised in northern India in the state of Punjab and immigrated to America over 20 years ago. He was raised for a time in a rural village setting which is where much of our family comes from and this tradition is one he noticed being practiced in those rural, village weddings. This did not happen in his own wedding.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my father if he had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones he shared with me.

Analysis:

I think I understand where this tradition comes from. India is, by and large, an incredibly patriarchal society. Brides are married off, largely expected to stay home. Even now I see it during dinner settings there is an unspoken expectation that the women clean and bring the food to the table while the men sit and wait. So with the wedding being a somewhat sad affair for the bride’s family, losing their sister/daughter/niece to another family, this tradition is sort of a way of rebelling against that. Disrupting the ceremony, making fun of the groom’s family, ultimately all in vain as the bride will be married and leave. But it’s the bride’s family’s way of expressing their love for the bride and acting out to show, in a roundabout way, that they will miss her.

The Wedding Beat

Main Body:

Informant: This is one that I’m positive does not happen in my part of India, in my part of the community. I had not witnessed it until my brother got married. He was getting married and my sister-in-law was from Haryana (a northern state of India). And the wedding was in Chandigarh which is a big city. So this was after the wedding ceremony but we’re still all sitting around. My brother, the groom, gets called into a room. And he walked in, and there were always these little rituals to do so I suppose he thought it had something to do with that. And I walked in after him but someone stopped me. So my brother comes back out two or five minutes later, red in the face, and he told me that they all punched him on the back.

I mean, it wasn’t soft too, it was pretty serious. I thought it was funny. It was the bride’s family that did it and they laid into him pretty good. So they brought him in there under false pretenses and there were all these women –

Interviewer: So it was exclusively the women in the bride’s family?

Informant: Yeah, only women, not men. So it’s more of women in the bride’s family messing with the groom’s family. Here’s my theory, there were many women in there who probably were abused and this was their way of getting some of their thing out. And at my wedding, and your mom is from UP which is a different state. At a similar point in the wedding, and my brother in law was standing behind me. And some women from your mom’s family came and they hit my brother-in-law, my sister’s husband. But it wasn’t like a fist, like how they hit my brother, it was open hand. It was on the back and they had some powder some turmeric on their hand so now they have a hand print on their nice suit. Funny thing, my brother-in-law starts yelling, “No you don’t hit the brother-in-law, you’re supposed to hit the groom!” Which is why, even though I haven’t heard of it anywhere else, I’m pretty sure this is a tradition in some sense.

Background:

The informant is my father who was born and raised in northern India in the state of Punjab and immigrated to America over 20 years ago. He was raised for a time in a rural village setting which is where much of our family comes from and this tradition is one he noticed being practiced in those rural, village weddings. This also happened at his own wedding.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my father if he had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones he shared with me.

Analysis:

I think this tradition comes from the women in the bride’s family fighting back at the patriarchal society they find themselves in. While done in jest, it could be argued that the women beating the groom is a warning for him not to do the same to the bride and to treat her right, otherwise he knows what’s awaiting him. Additionally, the example of a powdered handprint being left on a suit could suggest that the women are leaving their “mark,” much as a man would leave on a woman by beating her. They’re leaving a physical and a visual reminder that there is an entire family who is looking after the bride so she is to be treated well.The fact that the two examples discussed happened in different, yet nearby states, lends credence to this being a widespread tradition in northern India.

New Years Tradition: Throwing out the Water

Main Body: 

Informant: I don’t think my family did this all that much. Maybe they did, I’m not sure. But I know for sure other families did this where … sometimes they would open the door and throw a big bucket of water out.

Interviewer: Just throw a bucket of water out? Did have to be hot or cold or anything like that?

Informant: No, I – the temperature didn’t really matter.

Interviewer: Oh, so why do that?

Informant: I think it’s supposed to be getting rid of any bad luck for the next year. Like the water symbolizes all the old, bad luck and you’re just getting rid of it and getting a fresh start.

Background:

My informant is a friend and a fellow student at USC. She was born and raised in Florida but her father comes from Nicaragua and her mother comes from the Appalachian region. This tradition is something she got from her father and is something her entire family does regularly. She is under the impression that this is a common tradition that many families from Latin American countries participate in but she is unsure as to which countries specifically do or don’t participate in it. She thinks of it as another fun, special New Years’ tradition.

Context:

I had set up a Zoom call with my friend because she said she had some examples of folklore that she could share with me. This sample was shared during that call

Analysis:

This seems like a fairly straightforward tradition to me. Water usually doesn’t symbolize negative things, but I imagine there would be substantially more clean up involved with anything else. Additionally you could say there is significance in throwing the water out directly from one’s doorstep. The door is a threshold, it represents the line between what is in your home and what is not. By taking the water from inside your home, cross the threshold, to outside you are effectively making clear that the water (or bad luck) is no longer welcome in your home, in your life. There could be aspects of this that are tied to Latin American culture, or Nicaraguan culture specifically, but I’m not well versed enough to comment on them.