“It is often in the darkest skies we see the brightest stars” – thought Partho when she reached Kashi after her wedding. All of 20, newly married, her eyes twinkled with dreams and renewed aspirations. She hailed from a village near Patna. She was this coy bride who was determined to explore the world around her.
Partho’s parents longed for a male child. No wonder her name was deliberately a male one. Her ears would echo how her father cursed her mother for not bearing a boy child. She often thought to herself – are women just meant to bear children?
She thought of her mother, who was a gifted cook. She could cast a spell with her spices and dish out the tastiest food. Partho pondered what if she could also do some ‘jaadu’ like her mother. Her milieu was that of a backward society, yet she yearned to do something meaningful in life.
Incidentally, Partho inherited her mother’s culinary skills. While everyone relished and showered compliments on the cooking of the newly wedded bride, Partho’s mind always resonated that she will not just be a ‘childbearing machine’.
Luckily, the loggia of Partho’s present residence saw more spices to be dried than clothes. She romanced her hands through sunbathed tailed pepper (kabab chini), Kashmiri red chillies, and remembered listening to childhood stories.
“It is not gold that decided how the world looks today, but it is the spices” – she exclaimed while sorting the kachra (waste) from the spices, while her mother-in-law gazed at her in awe.
“You know Mummyji, my grandfather would tell us – the want and need of spices transformed the situation, the state, and the destiny of the world. It is the spices that decided how the world would look like. The currency that is more expensive than gold is spice”.
The neighbourhood women started calling her jadugarni, because of the aromatic food that Partho dished out. The appreciations made her more passionate about the whole idea of sorting the ‘khada masala’, picking the perfect vegetables, and timing the spices while in the act of cooking.
Partho’s husband, a progressive human, saw immense capability in Partho. A coworker’s wife happened to join the Kashika unit. One day, when everyone in the family gobbled methi paratha with dum aloo, the husband floated the idea of his wife joining Kashika. Partho’s in-laws were positive about the idea of their daughter-in-law stepping out for work at the Kashika unit.
Partho makes her way into the Kashika unit
It is a bright autumn day when Partho enters the Kashika unit. The first thing her eyes spot are the peppers that are being sun-dried.
She murmurs “black gold”.
“You know didi, this black gold made the Dravidian kings wealthier than the northern kings”.
She runs her fingers through the green peppers which awaited more sunbathing and were yet to turn black.
“Abhi aur bhi dhoop khilana hae inko”, she asserts. Partho feels enchanted at Kashika. It is like a dream come true for her. She has always used a ‘sheel batta’ for masala pisai. But upon seeing the industrial masala grinder, she is sharp enough to identify the same.
Partho is young, ambitious, and a fast learner. She tells her friends at Kashika that she got a gold box from her mother. Her friends are quite amused. Partho quips, “Arrey, my mother’s spice box is nothing less than gold to me. That is my only ‘stree-dhan’, my magical spice box!”