Remembering Boro Mashi

“The neighbors want to know, “Who will give mukhagni?” — only menfolk are allowed to go with the dead to the cremation grounds. Only sons or designated male family members are allowed to light the pyre, mukhagni (adding fire to the mouth of the dead). Women are second-class, not permitted. Women are to bear children — souls may get attached to them when they return from the cremation grounds — not allowed, not allowed.

Didi tells the crowd and to no one in particular, “Ma will give mukhagni. We will be there with her.”

I hear the collective soft gasp of horror. But no one says anything. The Ghosh daughters are foreign-returned, with Western ideas. They don’t see how wrong this is. How men and women aren’t equal.

We have my father to cremate. We have no time to worry about what the neighbors think.”

-Madhushree Ghosh, “The State We Are In: Neither Here, There, nor in Heaven.” Longreads.com. May 2021.

I was reading this, and it brought to mind Boro Mashi. Boro Mashi was not “foreign-returned, with Western ideas.” She was the eldest daughter of four surviving daughters. And, she went to the cremation ground to give mukhagni for her mother. Scandalous, but there was no one else she would send in her stead. This pretty much tells you everything you have to know about Boro Mashi’s character.

Perhaps the one favorite moment I remember about Boro Mashi is when she came to the United States to visit for a year. She was staying with us, at our house for a few weeks, and I must have said something that was a bit cheeky. I turned, and I saw this stern looking, tiny Indian lady with her hand raised looking at me angrily, although kind of overacted. I was trying to figure out what she was doing, and actually leaned in. It turns out she was threatening to smack me, which when I realized that was what she was doing, I started laughing.

And she laughed too. She had spent her whole life as the eldest sister, very tough, and all the “kids” of my generation did not take her lightly. I only knew her as a very small Indian woman, who didn’t talk much to me because her command of English was minimal. Still, it was better than my Bengali. Being afraid of her was simply inconceivable to me.

But, it endeared her to me. She was strong and willing to stand up for herself. She probably liked me partially because not only did I accept this fact about her, but I liked it. Reading this bit above, I find myself missing her.

Confessions of an Islamic State Fighter | 1843

“Erion’s family say they don’t resent Lladrovci for blackmailing them.
‘We begged as many Albanians in Syria as we could to bring Erion back,’
Suad Sadullahi, Erion’s cousin, told me. ‘We even asked Lavdrim
Muhaxheri. Fitim [Lladrovci] was the only one who agreed.’ Two weeks after Erion had been returned, Sadullahi travelled to Obilic to give Lladrovci the promised money. When they met, Sadullahi began to
appreciate why Lladrovci had turned to jihad. ‘I walked into
that house, took one look at that family – the unbelievable poverty of that family – and I remember thinking to myself: Fitim’s reasons for
joining the Islamic State had nothing to do with Islam.'”

—Alexander Clapp, “—Confessions of an Islamic State fighter.” 1843. [August 2019?]

So rare to have an article that presents an issue live the Islamic State from the perspective of a jihadi fighter.

Driving a Moving Truck – a.k.a. Bedbuggers

“Then we’ll pack everything in the house into cartons. I don’t love packing; it’s inside work and mostly tedious. I do enjoy packing stemware, china, sculpture, and fine art, but that stuff is getting rarer in American households. Books are completely disappearing. (Remember in Fahrenheit 451 where the fireman’s wife was addicted to interactive television and they sent fireman crews out to burn books? That mission has been largely accomplished in middle-class America, and they didn’t need the firemen. The interactive electronics took care of it without the violence.)”

—Finn Murphy, “A High-End Mover Dishes on Truckstop Hierarchy, Rich People, and Moby Dick: On the beauty and burdens of the long haul.Longreads.com. September 21, 2017.

Not a representative quote, but a fascinating excerpt. Something to add to the book queue.

You’ll Never Be as Radical as This 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf

“Disparaged and abandoned by his fellow Quakers, Lay eventually helped win the debate over slavery. He wanted to provoke, to unsettle, even to confound — to make people think and act. His greatest power, indeed his genius, lay in his gift as an agitator. In every meeting he attended, public or private, he drew a line over the issue of slavery. He asked everyone he met, Which side are you on?”

—Remixer, Marcus. “You’ll Never Be as Radical as This 18th-Century Quaker Dwarf.” The New York Times. August 12, 2017.

Which side are you on is probably a good question we all should be asking of ourselves (and others).

Ben Grierson, Equinophobic U.S. Civil War Cavalry Hero 

“If you grew up in church, you get that story in a hot second: He was one of the Elect, horse-wise. God got him kicked, marked with the hoofprint to tell him he’d have to crawl to the ol’ rugged hoss, like it or not, and added the horse-phobia to make it more interesting. Although I’m not sure being scared of horses is even a phobia. It’s just common sense. Any animal with a tiny brain and an iron-tipped back leg cocked like a bear trap is a good thing to be scared of. I had some horsey relatives and every time they wanted to show us Gypsy or Joker, I’d be edging around trying to stay out of range of that twitchy back leg. I’d already read enough military history to know that horses killed and crippled a whole lot of soldiers. One thing I’ll say for cars: they may kill you but at least it won’t be personal. A horse can nurse a little grudge for weeks, then kick your brain out the back of your head.”

—Brecher, Gary. “Ben Grierson, Actual Hero.” The Exile: War Nerd.  October 16, 2011.

Not in the authoritative style of most history, but damn if it isn’t much more interesting to read.