Nepal's Banksy was here!

Nepal's Banksy was here!
Strong message, Simple words

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Millet porridge and Raksi

Ox plough at work, ploughing a number of times works up a tilth.

Jude shows willing when a group of girls pass by carrying baskets of manure

Squatting, a woman farmer spreads manure in the traditional way. The same tool is used for all jobs. Notice she is burning
some organic matter that could be buried.

Ox ploughs have been working ground all winter preparing for the next big planting which will be maize. Teams of women hauling ‘mal’, manure from the ‘bhainsi’, buffalo, and goats can be seen walking long distances from their livestock housing in the villages to the distant water fed terraces. The small conical piles of manure are spread by hand and repeatedly ploughed down to form a rough maize seedbed.

High dry terraces grow a crop of millet

Millet close-up. When ripe and dry the heads are cut of the millet and the straw
cut later.

On the high more marginal slopes, albeit slower, the same routine has begun, and maize will be planted in April to be followed by millet. Lack of water to flood these terraces is a bar to growing rice. Until visiting Samibhanyjang,  a village in west Lamjung situated at 1200m, I was unsure what these small round millet grains were used for.

Adopting a photo pose this young boy is clutching a millet flour roti

 On one occasion whilst waiting for the sun to set over Lamjung Himal I had been approached by a young boy keen to have his photo taken. It was late in the day and I thought that the dark brown somewhat dry roti that he ate was just a burnt offering to keep him quite whilst the real food was prepared. Not so, this little round pancake was made from millet flour giving it the dark colour and course texture.
Millet heads are thrashed with a stick and trodden to separate the grain.

Millet grain, not unlike mustard seed
Most rural houses will have a small mill like this to grind all grains from maize to beans

Now, as our daal bhaat was being prepared there was a chance to see ‘millet’ porridge being cooked. Squatting below the smoke layer in a small room approached only from the outside, Mam was heating some water over the wood fire. Into this millet flour is added, stirring continually.
Mam prepares a few beans for daal bhaat. The floor she is working on is formed from repeated coats of watery clay
applied with a cloth.

To the water , the millet flour is added and stirred until a thick dough is formed.
 This light coloured flour soon turns brown as the heat cooks the grain and the liquid turns to a dough like consistence. Once the porridge has achieved a rubbery semi solid  consistency the cooking is done and once on the plate looks like a unappealing amorphous mass. Mem sir, a head teacher from the local school who also shares our accommodation, much prefers porridge to rice, and soon devours the plateful. The little crumb that I am offered, quite unexpectedly goes down well ,and I can see its appeal. For some families, where rice cannot be grown and is too expensive or distant to buy, these roti’s and porridge will be the starch providing staples.

Millet porridge, meat and veg curry, are accompanied by the ever present daal.
Next morning Mem sir is keen to show us how raksi, a millet based alcohol drink is made. Whole millet seeds are mixed with water and a small ball of locally available  yeast.  This is then left to ferment for a week or so.
Into the pot Mam places the fermented millet

A little water is added
This fermented mixture is then placed in a large metal pot, placed on a fire and mixed with more water. Onto the top of this bowl another vessel with holes in the bottom is placed and into this a small ceramic container is carefully concealed. This clay vessel also contains a little water. The final vessel,a conical bowl fashioned from copper which neatly fits the second vessel, is placed atop and is again filled with cold water. All joins between these metal vessels are neatly sealed with rags and the distillation process is underway as the fire heats the millet mixture.
The middle vessel complete with holes.

Middle vessel in place with the ceramic bowl inside.

A seal is put around the top pot

Nearly complete

Final rag seal is fitted

Mam applies a little wind to the fire using a old pipe

Mem sir proudly watches over the proceedings

Vapourised alcohol rises from the bottom vessel, through the holes in the second and upon meeting the water cooled under surface of the top container condenses and drips back into the ceramic container below. All pretty straight forward but there is a little intriguing adage which made me chuckle. The water in the top container must be changed in order to keep it cool and allow the condensation to continue. If it is changed 3 times the alcohol is very strong and is called ‘ tin pani’, ‘tin’ meaning three and ‘pani’ water.  The interesting thing is that the top vessel bears a striking resemblance to a small kettle drum. The drum section of an orchestra is known as the ‘timpani’. Is there a real connection or not?

Mam finally decants the raksi, and stores for another day

Nothing wasted the spent millet is fed to chicken
During a lull in the distillation process Mem sir took us to a local garden owned by an aged man where we planted some seeds. The ICS co-ordinator and a volunteer Bijay were kean to use the tools we had used in our Healthy Soils training.

 As Juliana demonstrates there is no need to squat.

Plenty of compost

Some are home saved seeds





1 comment:

  1. Thank you Simon for such an elaborative and interesting descriptions of Rakshi Making and usage of millet. I had no idea about exact mechanism and equipments used in Rakshi Making. Liked every photos and looking forward for other more interesting ideas. My best wishes..