Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Global Warming has perhaps affected us in strange ways.

One of them being the disappearance of the "lep" from Bengali lives and households.

The "lep" is a warm blanket made of thin red cotton (called ''shalu") with cotton stuffing inside. Which makes it the softest, cuddliest, cosy-est, snuggliest coverlet possible.

The North Indians had their 'kambals' (woollen blankets). Scratchy and dark, they were too heavy and too warm for Kolkata winters.

The Marwaris had their 'rajais' (soft cotton blankets with silk coverings). Light and pretty, they lacked the weighty gravitas of the lep.

The fashionable had their colourful pastel duvets. The lep was a red Plain Jane in comparison.

For us in winter, the lep was just right.

Every December, after Kalipujo, the leps would be dragged out from trunks and under beds (where they sometimes did double-duty as soft mattresses) and would be solemnly aired and sunned before they were deemed fit to be used.

And when they had absorbed all the warmth and affection of the bright winter sun, the leps would be folded and put at the foot of the bed and declared ready for use.

We had three leps. One small baby lep, which I outgrew pretty fast and handed-me-down to Bhai (my brother), who also outgrew it pretty fast. One ordinary single lep (fit for a single-size bed), which was rather worn out with faded red on both sides. My Maa, being a really good housewife, had stitched a white cotton cover for it to hide its shabbiness.

And one really B-I-G double lep with a coldish, slippery, gold-brown printed satin cover on one side and a warm red cotton cover on the other. Just the right kind of lep for some honeymoon fun (which is presumably why my parents had under it, although such matters were strictly taboo and never-ever discussed). Just the kind of lep that invited you to dive right in, right after dinner and the customary before-bed bathroom visit. This bathroom visit left our feet really cold and cuddling up inside the lep (alone) was the right remedy for cold feet. And little cold persons like us, with only our nose-tips and head-tops showing.

The best thing about leps was, that once you got in, you never, never, never wanted to come out from that warm cocoon.