Every Indian community has its own practices to assist a new mother regain her health & vitality after the delivery. These practices include preparation of special health foods, herbal/medicinal concoctions and postpartum care to the mother & baby by way of oil massages followed by hot baths. Traditional Mangalorean customs are also similar whereby a mother is given the best postpartum care during the confinement period so that she regains her health and is back on her feet in no time.
The confinement period lasts for 40 days starting from the birth of the baby, so technically it is approximately 6 weeks of pampering and care. It is called the ‘confinement period’ because traditionally the new mother is confined to her home and is not allowed to leave the house until the 40 days are up. In the olden days these rules were rigid and a new mom would not dare to break them lest she face the wrath of the elders, especially the grand old ladies of the house and the ‘balnti posteli‘, the ayah/live-in confinement nurse. The new mother ironically also liked being ‘grounded’ as it gave her respite from the rigorous and gruelling hours in the paddy fields or household chores. Some elderly women tell me that in those days the confinement period was secretly welcomed as if it was an all expense paid vacation!! One would get so pampered & fed well and was not expected to step out of her living quarters.
The term ‘balnti posteli‘ literally means one who looks after the balanth (new mother). A caregiver.
Her tasks include massaging and bathing the mother & the newborn baby, washing the baby’s clothes, preparing traditional homemade medicines which include the ‘randho‘ (a kind of a thick ‘lehya’ or herbally infused jam made out of herbs, dry fruits, nuts and spices), ‘thiklem’ also known as ‘suko randho‘ (a dryish & more coarse version of the randho but with almost the same ingredients) and ‘kasai’ (herbal teas or reduced water, bitter potions) and other regular & special foods that were considered most safe & suitable for the well being of the new mother during her confinement.
A good & nutritious diet is provided to the mother to nurture her back to health as the whole process of delivery weakens the body and mind. This diet is also believed to aid good lactation in nursing mothers and in turn benefits the baby. Some medicines help purge a gassy tummy for the mother & child while the others help cleanse the internal system and help the mother regain her strength and vitality quickly.
Today not everyone hires this caregiver as close family members (usually the mother or the mother in law) of the mother-to-be usually help out by arriving with bag & baggage a few months in advance or just in time of the birth so that they can help nurture the new mother, cook for the rest of the family & attend to the household chores. But in my case I hired the ‘balnti posteli‘ although the charges were quite high. I was also lucky to find good ones both the times – those who spent time & effort to ensure that I was comfortable & doing well.
For those of you who are new here, I recently delivered a baby girl, my second child. I must say that it has been an exhilarating experience – going through the whole experience all over again is exciting and overwhelming at the same time. But this time around I decided to make the most of my experience. I collected almost all the recipes of foods that were prepared in my honour. Haha!
Having been there, done that I knew what to expect this time around and decided to record all of my food and non food related experiences on the blog so that it helps those young women who are on the threshold of motherhood for the first time. However do note that some recipes require time & effort. They are tedious, like the randho which takes upto 8 hours to prepare from start to finish and hence I was not able to see how it was prepared. I have however made the effort to plate, present & click pictures of these dishes despite the fact that I was unable to actually make them (as a rule I don’t post recipes that my husband or I have not personally tried in our kitchen). I realised that it was the least I could do to ensure that they get recorded on my blog.
So do stay tuned for the recipes that I will post as frequently as possible. I hope they help all those who are keen to prepare the post natal dishes at home.
For those of you looking for the recipe of the above pictured ‘Randho’ – I am sorry to disappoint you. It is the only recipe that my ‘balnti posteli’ refused to part with.
“If I give you the recipe and you make it at home, who will hire me?” She exclaimed! Well she did have a point, especially because women like her – from the weaker strata of the society and/or school dropouts are now practicing this skill to support their families. Publishing such prized recipes may render them jobless.
If you still wish to eat this preparation or have it made there are several women in Mangalore with whom you can place an order and purchase it by the kilo. It will save you the hard work & time of hunting for the herbs (at ayurvedic shops) and going through the tedious method.