Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mats of Reeds

Midas, King of Macedonia, made the mistake of pronouncing that Marsyas was a more masterful musician than Apollo. Apollo called Midas an ass and to prove his point, touched his head, giving him a donkey's ears. Long and hairy they sprouted up, and Midas in a panic covered them up with a tall cap, hoping nobody ever discovered his embarrassing secret. However, he could not hide this disgraceful matter from his barber, but Midas had warned him that he would be put to death if ever he revealed to anyone the asinine state of the King's ears. 

The barber found himself bursting with the secret and couldn't bear to keep the gossip to himself, but was afraid for his life. So he dug a hole in the bank of the Pactolus river and, after making certain that nobody was listening, he whispered into the hole, "King Midas has an ass's ears." Filling up the hole to forever bury the secret, the barber went away happy and at peace with himself.

All was well until the next spring, when a reed sprouted up from the hole and whispered to the other reeds that King Midas had the ears of a donkey. These reeds in turn whispered the secret to all creatures who passed. Soon the birds learned the news and brought it to a man who knew the language of birds and found the information absolutely hilarious. The man told all his friends and soon the entire kingdom knew about King Midas' miserable secret.  

Thus it came to be that when Midas came riding by in his chariot all his people began to shout in unison: "Take off the cap, King Midas, we want to see your ears!" Unable to face this public humiliation, Midas first had the head of his barber cut off, and then he hung himself in shame. And that was the end of poor, stupid King Midas, the man with the Golden Touch.

It is said that the reeds (pepu), including those that grow by the Apatani seed-beds at Ziro are whispering Mida's secret. 

Notwithstanding the role of these pepus in King Mida's death, the Apatanis have been putting them to good use since time immemorial. The mats that cover the areas around every Apatani hearth are made of pepu
The leaves of the pepu are collected, dried and burnt to make piyu, which in turn are made into pila. Pila is solidified into tapyo. The pila and tapyo from pepu are considered one of the sweetest. Anyone who love pike made with pepu pila will vouch for it.

The pepus are generally grown on the agers of the seed-beds - midiñs. As they love damp areas, they may also be found in the vegetable gardens (balus) where other vegetable may not grow well. 

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