In Tripura, you know a household has a toddler or a baby at home when you see a “waaying” strapped to the poles of the veranda. "Waayings" are shallow rectangular bamboo baskets for young children. It is strung on ropes and used as a swing for the baby to fall asleep in. Every childhood is filled with memories of blissfully falling asleep to the gentle rocking movement.
The "waaying" is entirely made of bamboo and some strings. Earlier, "waayings" were woven by the grandparents to be passed down from one newborn to the next. Now however, they are easily available in the market.
Tripura’s Rabi Debbarma gave me a lesson on how the "waaying" is made and what is its importance. He says that a species of bamboo called “waathwi” is used to make the item. This bamboo is available all year round and has little residue dust or "bomotok" in them. "Bomotok" is the fine bamboo dust that clings to the inside of the bamboo. It is itchy on the skin. The "waathwi" species is preferred because it has low to no dust thereby making it safe for babies.
The bamboo is brought to the courtyard and cut into smaller pieces. It is then split into halves and shaved into thin strips that are flexible enough to be woven. Using these strips, Rabi weaves a beautiful rectangular basket big enough to hold a child.
Rabi says that it takes about two days to weave a "waaying". “On an average, a 'waaying' is suitable for newborns till they reach three years of age. After that the child starts sleeping on the bed,” he says. Rabi is a skilled bamboo artist who learnt the trade from his grandparents.
The "waaying" has a life cycle of anywhere between 4-10 years. Some sturdy waayings are passed down from one home to another once the child has outgrown it. The rocking movement of the "waaying" is very soothing for children. You will find many toddlers sitting on it and playing with toys. It is their own personal crib. Sometimes "waayings" are tied on trees at the native farms where the parents go to work during the day. Aside bamboo waayings, it is very common to see hammocks made of clothes holding a sleeping child amidst rolling fields of rice and vegetables.
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.