Home is where hearth is

Mechukha diary

The warmth of the hearth in a home stay makes one feel closer to loved ones. The crackling of the burning wood, the embers near the jamb and the bits of ashes flying around are reminiscent of the moments spent with near and dear ones around many a bonfire.
As the incessant rain outside refused to die down, conniving with the cruel winter chill, the iron hearth inside the kitchen of the home stay in Mechukha was the only respite. It was an eager wait till the hosts put the fire. A peep into the kitchen every five minutes seemed quite an indecent behaviour for a stranger. But I could blame it on the cold and the dampness.
And then the time came for arranging the firewood inside the hearth. I shivered and shuddered and took my place, the best seat, near the hearth. The flames danced from one log to the other, spreading the heat. The water-filled container is already in place on the flat upper surface of the hearth. The comfort weakened me, both physically and mentally. “Am I missing home? Am I longing for the four walls of my room where I can hide from the world,” I wondered. My thoughts wandered, from home to the mountains of Mechukha and melted in the darkness outside.
“Chai?” our host at the Bazashree Homestay asked, startling me. By then, other guests, a bunch of young graduates from Aalo, had already crowded around the hearth, one strumming the guitar, another fiddling with a flute and the remaining three arranging the bottles and the glasses. A hot cuppa was not a bad idea before proceeding to the next level of homeliness.
The host couple knew the rituals to please their guests. After all, they have been in the local hospitality business for decades now. And yet one would not feel the coldness of a professional in their behaviour. The Chenna (Tasha and Tsering Lhomu) couple are simple, affable and as careful as local guardians should be, even if it is for a few days.
Tea was followed by hot water to fill up the remaining half of the glasses. The evening ‘get-together’ never got better. The teetotaler host was already busy cooking dinner and the hostess was readying the spices. Six tomatoes and a few chillies were roasting in the firewood. “Chutney with a smokey flavour,” I was already salivating thinking about the sumptuous dinner that was to be.
As my hostess prepared the chutney, I stared at the mortar and pestle that were crushing the tomatoes and chillies into a paste. My hungry soul pined for a dollop.
The jovial raconteur among the young graduates had already started his stories — about their friendship, the songs they sang together, their home and families. Words changed into tunes and the raconteur turned into a singer. It was getting warmer inside.
The rain continued and the wintry wind outside pinched the skin. The kitchen was the refuge, the hearth was our lifeline.

~ NM

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