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TUAL INN SHAOLIIM

The house of a commoner consists of three parts, the front verandah (chial/ Innkaa with Shum-tawng) , approached by a rough platform of logs, the main room (Pialkhang- Common Room), and a small closet partitioned off at the far end, beyond which there will sometimes be a small bamboo platform (Phaitam Tau/Innkaa). The verandah is termed " sum-tawng," from the " sum," or mortar in which the paddy is cleaned, which has its place here. On one side the careful housewife stacks her firewood, and the front wall of the house is the place on which the householder, if he is a sportsman, displays the skulls of the animals and birds he has slain; among them hang baskets in which the fowls lay(ak bubah), and even sit on their eggs, hatching out as numerous and as healthy broods as do the most pampered inhabitants of model poultry farms. The fowls spend the night in long tubular bamboo baskets (ak ghil), hung under the eaves, access to which is gained by climbing up an inclined stick from the front verandah. Hens with broods are shut up each night in special baskets with sliding doors (Ak tuam).

 

From the verandah a small door, about 2 feet by 4, with a very high sill, opens into the house. This door is placed at the side furthest from the hill, and consists of a panel of split bamboo work attached to a long bamboo which slides to and

fro, resting in the groove between two other bamboos lashed on to the top of the sill, in which there is generally a small opening, with a swinging door, for use of the dogs and fowls when the big door is closed. Immediately inside the door, in one corner, are collected the hollow bamboo tubes (tui-thei) which take the place of water pots ; opposite will often be a large circular bamboo bin (buh-pangh) containing the household's supply of paddy. Next to this is a sleeping platform, known as " kum-ai," (Khun-lai) beyond which is the hearth of earth, in the centre of which three stones(Suang-thu / Thuk) or pieces of iron are fixed, on which the cooking pot rests. The earth is kept in its place by three pieces of wood, that in front being a wide plank with the top carefully smoothed ( Tap kuang), which forms a favourite seat during cold weather. The earth is put in wet and well kneaded, and eventually becomes as hard as brick. Along the wall an earthen shelf serves the double purpose of keeping the fire from the wall and affording a resting place for the pots. Over the hearth are hung two bamboo shelves, one above the other (Khin-pi & Khin-dang etc), on which to-morrow's supply of paddy(buh-hai) is dried, and various odds and ends are stored. These shelves also serve to keep the sparks from reaching the roof. Beyond the fireplace is another sleeping place, called the " kum-pui" “Khun-pi”— i.e., big bed — which is reserved for the parents, while the young children and unmarried girls use the kum-ai (Khun-lai); the bigger boys and young men, as has already been stated, sleeping in the zawlbuk (sawm / haam) . Beyond the kum-pui(Khun-pi) comes the partition dividing off the small recess used as a lumber room, and often as a closet. The beds and hearth are always on the side of the house nearest to the hillside (saklam/ bangshak), and do not usually extend quite to the centre, the rest of the floor being vacant, and, in order to avoid obstructing this, the posts which support the ridge are placed slanting, passing through the floor in line with the edge of the hearth. Along the wall opposite to the hearth are lashed two or more bamboos, forming convenient shelves, while a platform of the same useful plant is constructed from one cross beam to another. Forked sticks tied to the wall or to the uprights form hooks, and the large bamboos, wherever used, have openings cut in them which convert each joint into a tiny cupboard (Gilphan).

 At the far end of the house, opposite the front door (Phaitam Kong Khak), is a similar door opening on to a small platform, whence a notched log (lei/ laielawn) serves as a means of descending to the garden or the street. Many houses have bamboo platforms (inn-kaa / Chial-doh))  adjoining the front verandah, on which the womenfolk sit and do their Weaving, while the young men lie at their ease and flirt with any girls who are good looking.

 






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