There was a commotion outside and Deep’s mother had to come out of the kitchen. She found that Deep is on a heated argument with some one, at the entrance door ! The Sil-Katau man was telling “Look boy, I told you I can give you Tajmahal for Rs. 4/- and not less than that”. At this juncture, Deep’s mother laughed out loud .. “ Tajmahal going at a such cheap price ….what is this all about !!” The man then explained “Look Maijee (Madam), as you know, the prices of everything has gone up, and, now my rate is Tajmahal Rs.4/-, Fish Rs. 3/- and Plain Lines Rs. 2/-. “ At this point Deep’s mother told that man, “Look, he is only a small boy, and he really wants the Tajmahal …. you can do one thing … take Rs. 3/-, you may give a little smaller Tajmahal” . The man smiled and said “Okay, I will take Rs. 3/- from you, and, I will not reduce the size.. be assured.”
Soon the man took out his small bag , took out different sizes of chisels and the two hammers and concentrated on his job…. tuk, tuk, tuk, tuk. Deep sat beside him on the ground and started watching his hand movement. He was now visibly wearing an amused and mesmerized look.
It was noon time, I was waiting for the school bus which will bring my grand-daughter home from the school. And then heard “Sil-Katau…. Sil-Katau”. The sound was emerging from among some building premise nearby, and soon the man surfaced. I called him and showed him my house, and asked him to wait for me till I come. I returned home soon with my grand-daughter and asked her to inform her grandma about us. The child surely got confused about the whole thing, but informed her grandma, who came running. Once she saw the Sil-Katau man, she knew what is it, and, soon came out with the Sil and the Nora. These are two important kitchen tools, still found in many old-tradition families. Sil is a 14” long, 10” wide and 2” thick stone tablet. Nora is cylinder type black stone hammer about 10” long. Fresh spices are ground on this Sil (stone tablet) with the help of the
Nora (black stone hand grinder). With constant use, the surface of the sil and nora becomes smooth. Hence the surface need to chipped with chisel periodically. The Sil-Katau Man is a chipping craftsman who can make various designs…. “Criss-crossing lines”, “Fish” and of course “Tajmahal”! I could not hide my childhood nostalgia and asked “Can you chisel out a Tajmahal ?”. The man apologised and said he can only make lines and that he has only one kind of chisel and a lone hammer !
He finished his job within about 10 minutes, and the lone enthused witness to the act… my grand daughter did not get any thrill nor awestruck by the craftsman ship. I handed over Rs. 15/- for the act to the sil-katau man, and, told him to come again about a couple of months later – lest we lose a dying tradition !
Photo Courtesy: Srichandra