Chilimchi-Masharba Nostalgia

By Roshan Bano

Do you remember “Chilimchi and Masharba”?

A decade or a bit longer than a decade back “Chilimchi and  Masharba”   were as much part  as other utensils like mug, soup box etc.!

CaptureChilimchi:  a portable sink/wash basin for collecting the water drained during washing hands; a container with outwardly rims and attached lid with holes on it.

 Masharba:  is a narrow necked, rounded base container with stout to pour water; exclusively for hand washing, face washing and wazoo.

Let me tell you that the Chilmchi and Masharba themselves as utensils may not be nostalgic but the way Hand-Wash to have meals used to be carried out is a lot more nostalgic. It used to be an interactive and collective activity rather than an individual and isolated activity as is it done nowadays.

The youngest in family (if mature enough) was expected, rather supposed, to facilitate the family members /guests in washing their hands. Holding Masharba in one hand (mostly in right hand except if you are lefty) and chilimchi in another hand, sometimes towel on shoulder.

It starts like this:

You place the chilimchi in front  of the person about wash hand  ,he/she  bring  hands forward over the chilimchi ,you start pouring water , he/she  starts  to wash hand , you pour water till the person is done with washing hand ,  when the person is done with washing hands ,he/she extends prayers and wishes in return for your this service. If you were a girl prayers and wishes were-

Shuwa haanay daman gomanas- May you get married to a nice home and rule there.

Shuwa merarerun- May we get a nice son in law and many more wishes and prayers

If you were a boy prayers and wishes for you were:

Tha oo tha opi-   may you have extended progeny/ offspring

Galtasay guxaqarin- may you have extended progeny /offspring   and many more wishes and prayers

You keep moving while they washing hand till the chilimchi fills in to the rim.  You take it out and empty and return to resume your task until everyone is done with hand wash.

 Some soft and kind hearted folks wash hands hurriedly to spare u early, the naughty ones intentionally taking longer to tease, irritate you. While the indifferent ones busy in ongoing chat don’t even realize and kept wriggling their hands till you inform to them that they are done with hand wash.

If I am not wrong, now they are obsolete or at least rare!  Water tap and sink have replaced the Chilimchi-Masharba! Undoubtly later is more hygienic, efficient, less time consuming and easy. Thanks to technological advancement.

Apart from nostalgic remembrance the existence of Chiimchi -Masharba, their use, the way they were used tells a lot about our culture.

Hand Wash before having meal is a practice associated with developed, advanced, urbanized, modern,  ,educated and cleanliness- conscious people!

Luckily this practice did exist in our culture even when we were not literate, not modern, not urbanized! Hand wash was a must  practice before having meal- be it routine meals (lunch and dinner) at home or refreshments, banquets and feasts in ceremonies/invitations; Just any meal at any occasion .

Existence of specific utensils namely Chilimchi and Masharba available to be used exclusively for Hand- Washing implies that Hand-Wash was rather an institutionalized, essential and must practice.

And of course like any other part of your material culture  Chilimchi –Masharba  and their use is   also embedded and governed with societal values and norms .The rules governed this activity of hand wash show us  the many societal norms and values, preferences, attitudes of our culture.

Prayers and wishes extended for girls and boys differently shows underlying attitudes towards gender roles.  Let’s keep this aspect for some other day!

Note: the wishes or prayers are in Brushaski Language with their English translation.

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  1. An excellent recount of one of the most important practices of your beloved region of Gilgit-Baltistan in addition to put a very pleasant analytical lens to see through hygienic and social relations!!!

  2. I remember an old tradition now completely distinct. when the men especially the male guests were offered (extended) right hand sleeve by elderly women to wipe hands in a gesture of respect and hospitality ” kholay gashap eti kako/nana”. It was reciprocated with a matching gesture in which the guest expressed his gratitude by saying sentences like ”joo gor ayaas” umurate barkat” and do ‘zap ne ba’ a gesture i have no propoer english translation.

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