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  More than a cooking stove

Of the many simple daily use objects that have been sacrificed at the altar of modern living is the humble angeethi, the earthen cooking stove that adorned each and every home in north India. For Parveen Mittal, a lecturer in Punjabi History and Culture, with it disappeared much warmth and compassion that was present in life.

‘Until the mid-sixties, every home in Punjab still had an angeethi’ she says with nostalgia.

‘Nowadays, except for some remote rural homes, it is not found anymore. Not many realize what an important place an angeethi held in homes. It is true that it was an unpretentious almost rustic object; a mere iron bucket coated with clay. The handle of the bucket made it easy to be carried from one place to another and it was therefore a ‘mobile stove’. Actually this little implement was far more multifaceted than we can imagine: it had a stand called ‘munna’, a small opening at the bottom to clean ashes and even a grill at the centre to place the cow dung cakes called ‘uplas’. And the most scrumptious food was prepared on this little wonder. Everything from early morning coffees to dinner was prepared on the angeethi.

‘The angeethi was not just a cooking device; it had a soul of its own. The whole family gathered around it and food was served to each one piping hot and eaten right there amidst jokes and chatter. I can still remember the taste of freshly roasted papads and the phulkas, light as air that sat almost buoyant on our plates. After dinner, milk was kept on the flame, reduced to half and served to each one of us as a treat before bedtime. Even today, my mouth starts watering at the thought of all those sensually rich delights.

‘In the cold winter of Punjab the angeethi would become the hearth of the homes as it was kept inside to warm the rooms. Somehow, it was a part of each one of us, as even as children we used to help mother preparing the angeethi every morning. I remember how we used to clean the ashes and help coating it with fresh clay.

‘To me the simple angeethi will always remain a symbol of warmth, the true heart of each home; one that we seem to have misplaced’

-A. Divya