From Cycle Lamp to Transistor,Articles We Miss of a Bygone Era

Published: 19th September 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2015 12:46 AM   |  A+A-

The ageing population can easily list many items which have permanently disappeared or are no longer widely seen in their daily life. The reason could be change of rules or invention of new gadgets and modes of transport. In my school days, a cycle could be  used after sundown only with an oil lamp that had a small window to light the wick and a screw to adjust the height of the wick so that the lamp can shine brighter or dimmer. The fuel was kerosene to be filled with a small funnel. The lamp was permanently fixed  on a flamp in front of the cycle and if one had to remove it from being stolen, he had to be careful not to touch the top portion of the light.

This kerosene lamp gave way to dynamo in the following years and this lamp itself evolved in various sizes and shapes and a tail red clamp was attached to the coil. Some cyclists used a battery operated light.  The mandatory lamp was to ensure the person’s safety. Due to rampant violations and widespread harassment of cops, pressure was put on the powers-that-be to remove this rule and now cycles can be used sans any lamp. 

Another gadget conspicuous by its absence is the valve radio receiver that was a prized possession of many affluent homes in the good old days. In villages and small towns, houses had  even loudspeakers fixed in the front verandah for the benefit of the have-nots to listen to programmes like news bulletins and important leaders’  speeches.  The advent of portable transistor sets altered the scene totally and it became affordable to one and all in the past decades. Now mobile phones have replaced the receiver which used to be played at high volume to show one’s prestige in some circles. Transistor was flaunted by some like a wrist watch! 

Many contraptions made of stone have also disappeared in the  modern kitchen  due to mixies and wet grinders as they occupied more space and were difficult to move around. Only a few will notice that the coffee roaster using charcoal where in a drum filled with seeds would be rotated by hand, and the hand-held grinder have also almost vanished.

The coffee grinder was used to powder roasted seeds to make fresh aromatic coffee. Many moms today may not have seen  an infant cup called  paladai . It is a “low bowl with a spout, shaped like ‘Aladdin’s lamp.’” It has advantages over cup feeding in that it helps babies take a higher volume of milk in the least amount of time, and  reduces milk spillage.

The babies are introduced to bottles these days. The paladai, made of silver in some rich homes, was also used to mix medicine and honey (even castor oil) for pushing the stuff into the mouth of crying babies whose limbs were tightly held by mothers/grandmothers. Another small vessel called guindy  with a spout has now become uncommon. This was used to feed water or milk to small ones.  The oldies now see kamandal only in sadhus’ hands in movies or temples. This was a sombu with a handle that can be filled with water and had a spout. It was used for morning rituals by the devout.

While travelling by train, two accessories  were compulsory for those undertaking a long journey. One to quench their thirst and almost every family used to carry  a pot like jar with a  tight screw -type lid that can carry water without a leak. The container called “kooja” (Koojaa in Tamil is a vessel with a narrow neck and with a lid for storing liquids) was made of brass or silver and was ubiquitous in trains and music concerts for musicians to carry hot milk supplements. These koojas would be refilled with water available on platforms in wayside stations. Now it is difficult to find the vessel as well as the tap with running water.

Another usual accompaniment was a hold-all, seen in plenty in the military compartment, that could be used as a bed and also a parcel bag containing almost everything moved over distance.  The list of vanishing household articles is incomplete without a mention of  the betel leaf box, snuff box, copper water boilers and has been made to kindle the cherished memories of  older generations. 

 swaminathan@ newindianexpress.com

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