People of BKC, Dr. Vijender Waghray

Dr. Vijender Waghray reading a couplet from his notebook of poems. August 5, 2019

Dr. Waghray, 93, was an eminent physician of Hyderabad and loved to maintain a book of poems he frequently read out of. He had his education in Mufeed-ul-Annam which was in Urdu and then his medical education was in English. Her he is reading from that book when I met him last year in August. The prominent pieces of poetry are from Ghalib. His book of poems was kept close by and he read from it. Dr. Waghray passed away at unfortunately before I arrived with my camera.

Lota- an object in a household

Things, artifacts, household items of value to a family that have been preserved. These could be documents like a grandfather’s old passport, a house deed, an old diary, puja items, jewelry, furniture, books, cutlery/crockery and more. It is valuable due to its connection to the past with a story about it. Objects are located in landscapes that consist of people, places and events associated with them. These are intertwined and they overlap. The silos are set up to temporarily make sense of the reality facing this research and then to enable the larger picture to emerge.

A household object is part of a daily routine in a family, starting with affirmations of faith and circulating the rituals of meaning, to trying to manage the burden of moving into another landscape of aspirations that calls for glorifying the objects or discarding them in order to organize and present a new way of life.
Objects hold meaning in as much as they are part of the supporting structure of a lifestyle. They demand a certain care.

Interesting questions stay in the story as to who were the merchants that sold these objects or where are they now? Who had the first ability to use the machine gun like pen attached to a wire in the store that allowed for the writing on the metal? What brought this about as a cultural marker of ownership of household objects that even to this day has great significance?

This object here is a lota, a brass vessel used as kalash in pujas. The ritual meaning of kalash and the significance of the water held inside is paramount in a puja and is available to understand.
The letters on this brass lota are marked B. L. and they stand for Bidri Lal. This lota is the provenance of the Waghray family from Kachiguda, Hyderabad.
The lota travelled to the US with me (Malini Waghray) and came back to be a part of this archival research. While in the US it was a part of my dual-cultural living between the US and India and a remained in my puja as well. It has a special place in this research work hence.

Here is some history about Bidri Lal from the Green Book, which is also on a shared a google drive.

Bidri Lal had his early education in Mufeed-ul-Anam School and City College and B.A. from Osmania University. He joined the agriculture department of the government of Hyderabad and after working in Warangal, was transferred to the office of the director and later promoted as gazetted registrar and retired. He was married to Shama Bai, daughter of Gajanand Pershad Shah.

His grandfather Narayan Das, alias Bachhu Lal, apart from being a Mansabdar was employed in Sarf-e-Khas and posted in the Peshi (personal office) of Nizam the 6th, Nawab Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, who had succeeded to the throne in 1869. Narayan Das was one of the members of the Brahma Kshatriya community associated with Bansi Lal Shah, who started Mufeed-ul-Anam School. He was the cousin of Bansi Lal and was honorary treasurer of the school from 1880 to 1889. Bidri Lal was the son of Navratan Lal and great-grandson of Keshav Das Waghray who migrated from Khanbad, Gujrat.

Navratan Lal, son of Narayan Das was educated in Madarasa-e-Aiza, a prime institute. He had joined the Paigah Asman Jahi as an officer in the Accounts Department. Later he was Deputy Accountant General and Deputy Nazim Mukharij. He served the Paigah till his retirement. He was a member of the Managing Committee of the Mufeed-ul-Anam School and was honorary treasurer from 1899 to 1947.
There will be more to the story as the days pass and we leave the virus behind…

Paandaan

Paandaan or the betel leaf box (literal translation) was considered a part of every day meal routines and hence part of the trousseau. Most of the paandaan items were available in regular bartan (kitchen-ware) stores, or jewelry stores in the later years. Before that the jeweler was given the task of making it from silver. By the time my parents got married, they were given (as part of the dowry) a silver box with some pre-made paan (betel leaf) and some supari (betel nut). Every family decided what to give based on what they could afford and in some cases the boy’s family would say not to give anything because they already had everything and these things were handed down to the next generation.

In most homes there were two boxes. One heart shaped box to store the actual betel leaves and the second rectangular one with several compartments and little boxes to house the paraphernalia. These were made of a white metal or silver. The little boxes were almost always made of silver. The silver boxes would hold the wet ingredients like chunna (calcium hydroxide) and kattha (made from the khair tree [Acacia catechu]). Both these ingredients were also stored in their dry form in more silver boxes that were kept in the bottom of the big rectangular box. This box had a tray that had compartments and the bottom held all the extras.

Shashi’s mother Mohana Devi from Boggulakunta, Hyderabad showing the paandaan.

The rest of the supplies were lavang (clove), elaichi (cardamom), black supari (calcium hydroxide), regular supari , whole and chopped, zarda (tobacco) and khimaam (liquid tobacco which is mixed with dry leafs of tobacco before filling a pouch to keep tobacco fresh). Some people had saunf (fennel seeds) and dhania dal (coriander dal) in their paandaan and with different containers for those.

Some people used their finger to smear the chunna and kattha, some used the back of a tiny spatula which was also made of silver. Some people used wet chunna and dry kattha powder sprinkled on the chunna. Then you put the supari and elaichi seeds in the middle of the leaf and folded it to form a beeda (tube) and secured it with a lavang. The khimaam and zarda were always offered on the side.

The paan leaves are the betel leaves and have known medicinal benefits. In order to keep them fresh, the leaves were always wrapped in a wet cloth. This would make them last for over a week. It was a ritual to make paan after a meal each day. When you had a get together, you made a whole stash of them to offer to your guests after the meal.

Paan or the betel leaf box

In weddings, you had a selection of different varieties of the basic paan. The other additions were sukha khopra (dry coconut), gulkand (a mixture of rose petals and sugar cooked in the sun) toasted sesame seeds, sweet supari and tiny silver sugar balls. They used to foil the paan with silver leaves. While growing up I saw my grandparents generation chewing paan on a regular basis but my parents’ generation were occasional paan consumers.

by Shashi Sehgal

Hammaam

The hammaam was made of either copper or brass. In most of our relatives’ homes I remember seeing copper ones, there were a few brass ones. There were a couple of different styles but the way they worked was the same. There were basically two cylinders, one inside the other. The inner one was usually made of iron, it was about four or five inches in diameter and about four inches longer than the outer cylinder, which was about twelve to fifteen inches in diameter. The inner tube had no cover. The outer cylinder had a lid. The bottom of the inner tube had a grate. You filled the outer cylinder with water, the inner one with either firewood or charcoal. You light the fire from the bottom after stuffing it with a few crumpled newspapers, similar to the way we light the charcoal chimney here that we use to start the grill.

Every morning it was the duty of one of the family members to light the hammaam. It took about twenty to twenty five minutes for the water to boil. Towards the bottom of the outer cylinder that stored the water was a faucet, to get the hot water. Everyone got to take a bucket of hot water and add whatever amount of cold water they liked to take a bath with. As soon as you got a bucket out you had to add a bucket of tap water to the hammaam. This ensured that the whole family got hot water.

Once everyone was done bathing, they used the rest of the hot water to do the dishes and laundry and then emptied the whole contraption out. It was washed and shined. The ashes were cooled and used to scrub the oily dishes, the fire was put out using water, the remaining charcoal and wood were cooled and dried for the next day.

I have some fun memories of this contraption. During holidays we stayed at different cousins’ homes and everyone wanted to shower the last because they got all the hot water they wanted. We would try to cheat in all the different ways we were trying to be ‘fair ‘. Like drawing the shortest stick, or the first one to finish eating dinner or something just as crazy was used to decide who would get the last shower. I remember breaking my stick to have the shorter one or saying I was done eating by stuffing my mouth with whatever I could in one bite and then looking for snacks an hour later!

When we got found out we would all get into trouble! Most of the time the boys didn’t care, it was all of us girls who wanted the extra hot water. By the time I was about twelve, everyone had more or less transitioned to the electric hot water heaters.

I remember seeing the hammaams in Begum Bazaar with the really large pots and pans. I wonder if these are sold still and if they serve a purpose.

by Shashi Sehgal

Chowgda or the spice box

The chowgda is a spice-box that has been passed down from the generations in the family I am married into- the Waghray family of Kachiguda, Hyderabad. They have lived in Kachiguda for the past 50 years or so and before that they were a part of an extended family in Alijah Kotla, Charminar, in the Old city of Hyderabad, Telangana.
The chowgda housed the spices like zeera (cumin), rai (mustard), methi (fenugreek), turmeric/haldi (curcumin), mirchi (red chilly powder). But since some spices react with, in this case the pital (brass- an amalgam of copper and zinc), the inner lining or khalaiye, was laid which was made of tin that would be replaced regularly to keep the metal out of the food.

The chowgda or spice box was in use in the family when the number of people in the family were 50 and above, adults and children included. Sitting together for a meal meant bringing a group of your peers to share a large plate/ paraat and food was served in your plate only if there were 5 people available. This was a way to avoid wastage but also to make the food go around sufficiently and take care of a large family.

Cooking for the family was a routine that continued throughout the day due to the fact that so many mouths had to be fed- breakfast, lunch and dinner. My source is Meera Devi, my husband’s aunt, who would say that the three square meals were actually two meals- brunch and dinner with a small chai-snack in between at 3 pm. Her way of life has not changed much to this day as she prefers eating a brunch style meal at 10 am and dinner at 6 or 7 pm.

Shashi Sehgal, my husband’s second cousin, living in California since 1986 had this to say, “I have heard the same story from my dad, Padma bua and Laikh Raj Chacha about the meals. The other thing they talked about was how the dadis (grandmothers) took turns to do the cooking. Some did the chopping of the vegetables, some made the rotis and some made the dal. The ones who made the brunch, rotated out so a second group made the dinner. Every few days they changed shifts. Baa dadi was the matriarch of the family who was the only lady of her generation that was alive for a long time, the others had passed on when the nine siblings were still children.”

For a long time now, people have moved on to steel spice boxes which are easy to use/ clean and also a non-reactive metal if it is of a good quality.

I also wonder, what location of the brass factory in India did this chowgda arrive from? In a way that metal items in homes in India get utilized, it has a BL sign engraved on it, BL for Bidri Lal, by husband’s great grand father and it has it’s tell tale signs of wear and tear. Was the factory from Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh? What manufacturing was happening then and who were the local retail sellers for this product? Where are they now in Hyderabad and what are they engaged in at this time? Some questions remain unanswered and continue to linger.

by Malini