Muri making at Fatehpur

Muri (Puffed Rice) is a popular snack all over Bangladesh. It is an important food item also in our neighbouring countries. It is a common breakfast item and also the first item together with a glass of water with which guests are welcomed in many village homes. Jhal Muri (spicy puffed rice) and Moa (puffed rice ball) are two mostly used food items liked by the rich and poor alike in Bangladesh. It is also soaked in water and eaten with sugar, banana and milk. Tea goes very well with muri. Muri is an inevitable item for iftar during the month of Ramadan in the country.

In villages, families make puffed rice for household consumption. Once prepared, it can be preserved in a crispy form in earthen pots and can be used throughout the year. Therefore, village people prefer it as a ready-made food kept in store for use in times of need. Making muri has been a cottage industry so far. But since recent years machines are also being used to make puffed rice in bulk to be sold in the market. Now big companies have come into the business by putting spicy muri into poly packs of various sizes for townspeople. The problem with making and selling muri commercially is that it has become profit-oriented. So there are accusations against corporate production of using urea for making whiter and bigger size muri in order to attract more customers and maximize profit thereby. Consumer awareness is also rising and therefore search for chemical-free muri is seen to be increasing day by day. And some companies are responding accordingly.

However, in villages home production of muri though meant for market is still free of harmful chemical substances. At Fatehpur village in Bagmara, Comilla, 25-30 families at around 15 homes earn their living by making puffed rice. Zainal Abedin, 45, of this village thus runs his family of a wife, 5 sons and 2 daughters. His one son runs a CNG-driven taxi, 2 sons are rajmistree-s (expert masons), and his elder daughter studies in a primary school.

Special types of rice are used for making muri. On the past 23 March, Mr Abedin said to me, they used Gigor and Tobi rices, which were available in local market. According to them, mills use elsiko rice to make muri. The price of rice swings between Tk. 880 and Tk. 1100 per maund. 40 kg rice yields 24 kg muri. His family together can make muri from 4 maunds of rice everyday. He packs this into a big plastic bag and sells the muri at Tk. 62 per kg.

Some years ago, he left the business of muri making and set up a tea stall, but came back into this again. Into the business, he has his own investment as well as a loan of Tk 20 thousand from CDIP. He can earn 10 to 12 thousand taka a month out of this business with which he can just make both ends meet. Thanks to them, townspeople can still enjoy eating muri which is safe and good for health.

 

Making of kites at Adampur

Kite flying is a popular pastime all over the world including Bangladesh. There are kite lovers all over the country. Every year people in Old Dhaka celebrate the spring by flying kites from their rooftops. But across the country the sport is in decline because of the increasing economic pressure on lives of people in modern days. Bangladesh Kite Federation organizes a national kite festival in January every year at Cox’s Bazar sea beach.

Kites are of many types, sizes, shapes and colours. Some kites are made very large and costly. Usually children and adolescent boys and girls fly small and cheap kites made of paper and bamboo-laths. These are made in various parts of the country. One of the makers of such simple, ordinary kites is the 32-year old Jamal Hossain in the village of Adampur, Sadar South, Comilla.

Jamal’s family consists of his wife, two sons and one daughter. The elder son reads in Class II in madrasa and his daughter reads in Class IV. Jamal’s own study came to an end after he reached Class V because of a financial crisis in the family. His elder brother Monwar entered into the work of kite making in his early age and now runs a kite-making factory with 4/5 workers in Mirpur, Dhaka.

Jamal learnt to make kites from his brother and started the business in 1994. He makes Bangali ghudi, Bihari ghudi, shapraj (king of snakes), katachhera (patched up), etc. Paper, bamboo, flour, tunte (copper sulfate), etc. are required for this. The kite without a tail is called Bihari and the ones made of pieces of colured paper are katachhera. With the help of his family members he can make from two to two and a half thousand kites a day. For this, some days he has to work from 8 O’clock in the morning till midnight. According to him, months of Chaitra and Boishakh are a dull season for kites. He even does not make any kite for one and a half month. Its season starts again towards the end of Joishtha and Asarh. He needs to hire a boy to help him in the work during that season.

White paper is Tk. 1200 per ream and small-size coloured paper is Tk. 700 per ream. It usually takes from Tk. 800 to 900 to make a thousand kites, which he can sell for Tk. 1200 to 1400. The big size kites are Tk. 2200 per thousand. In a week, he can sell kites of Tk. 5/6 thousand wholesale in the Comilla market. This business requires a capital of Tk. 20/30 thousand a month. In that case, a modest income of Tk. 10/15 thousand a month can be made from this.

Jamal has his own money invested besides a loan of Tk 10 thousand from CDIP. He makes a thing for providing pleasure to people of all ages. With this business, he can lead his life in a simple, modest way. He wants to make his son a hafiz or send him abroad for work.