August 29, 2007

Onam with a difference

Mind was full of Onam ever since my leave got approved in early July. Boss' unfortunate sickness and long leave had thrown shadows on my already approved holidays. Nostalgic Onam memories were back with more clarity when my mallu super boss allowed me four days of Onam at home.

It was a special train, and there was nothing special about it. Special trains are normally treated inferior to regular trains, may be the only context where the word ‘special’ had no significance. I was very excited about the whole trip; I was so happy that I did not even bother to say a word to the auto driver who broke my new bike’s indicator on my way to railway station as against my usual fiercest unparliamentary words in Tamil. I had already started celebrating onam in my heart. I was in the riverside, taking a deep dive into the water and not coming up for a few seconds, and swim across until I get tired, and tried swimming against the flow when I was out of tiredness. After that unusually long bathing session I would run to temple, at same time answering to questions like “when did you come? Will you be there until ‘naalam onam’(fourth day of Onam)?” Etc. I will have quick round of prayer session in temple and get back to home. Amma would be waiting with breakfast. Breakfast will be served with chides for not drying hair properly after the bath. Have a quick bite and go to moola (a place where we friends meet). Then it was full of onam preparations like plucking flowers for next day’s pookkalam, making ‘thrikkarappan’ for thiruvonam, planning thiruvonam activities etc etc. Then rush back to kitchen and help amma in preparing banana chips and ‘pulinchi’(a dish prepared using tamarind), cut vegetables for ‘Aviyal’ and feel the smell of onam special dishes.

I was so occupied in these thoughts that I didn’t realize that my special train has not even come to the station. The delay put pressure on my already tight schedule for next day at home. When the train was rolling in to the platform I was literally shouting at the loco engine for being late. At last train left the station, 2 hours late from the scheduled departure time. The news of strike for new Salem railway division came as a blow to my Onam dreams. I had not even reached Erode when I was actually supposed to be in the bus to my home from Shornur. Somebody said all trains in the route are blocked due to the strike.

Finally I reached home late by 8 hours, Onam excitement had transformed to a kind of happy screaming while entering my village premises. It was 2 in the after noon when I reached home, and I wanted to have a bath in river as against what a normal person would prefer to do at that time. Took towel & soap and rushed to river. There was no water!, Of course there was some, but not what I used to see during Onam, and not something I was dreaming about over the last one month. There was no diving-in or a satisfactory swim to the other side of the river. I somehow managed finish bath and got back. Next in agenda was meeting friends. I Knew that there were not many now, all have started implementing “Quit India” after 60 year of independence. Of late all my friends were targeting jobs outside the county (the Gulf) and many of them managed to get that. I found it real hard find a couple of the remaining. Sad-fully, those Onam discussions and joke sessions were replaced by drink-meetings in the nearby bars and there were nobody at village library and ‘moola’, where we used to spend hours during Onam.
Amma told me with sadness on her face that she did not want to celebrate Onam this time due to grandmother's demise last year. I could see her disappointment for having told that to me, since it was after quite sometime I am coming home. This time she did not prepare onam special banana chips. she had bought it from Devassi’s shop. There was Onam special lunch but it did not have the taste and feel of Onam. Whenever I went out, I hardly saw anybody in the streets, there were no ‘kummaattis’, no friends to plan thiruvonam; everything was missing. I was forced to join the league of those who celebrated onam in front of television. May be next year will also be like, may be the years to come.

I remember to have read this somewhere; “Onam is heart-full memories of how you celebrated it in your childhood than the festival itself. It is best enjoyed when you cherish those days”. How true???

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August 15, 2007

Memories of I-Day

Until I lost interest in sweets (hereafter ‘Mittayi’), Independence Days were so much fun. I used to dream of a divine power taking incarnation just to distribute Mittayi to all kids of which I get the most. Independence days were actually my dream-come-true days. Look at this, everybody down the street distributes sweets of different types, of attractive colors and tastes that too for no reason. At least I didn’t know why they are being so generous “just for a day”. Being ignorant to the reason was ok with me, as long as they distributed the mittayi on time.

“Independence day season” always started with a trouble, in the first week of Aug. Every year, our class teacher used to ask us to prepare a flag/Country’s Map/list of freedom fighters etc. Ingredients for a flag used to be; green leaves (for green color), a white paper, BJP’s flag (for saffron), navy blue color pencil, cooked-rice-as gum to paste the paper to-, and a stick …But I must say, doing it every year was unexciting, even Pingali Venkayya would have found it boring. But the thoughts of the “mittayi day” ahead made me forget the boredom and compete for becoming the maker of the best flag so that I will get a special mittayi as prize.

The function in my school used to start only by 10 AM. By the time it started, we had to cover a large area consisting of NSS Office, BJP/Congress/CPM party offices, balavadi (nursery school), Co-operative Society, Madhavettan’s Tea Shop (Chaaya-Kkada), Jupiter Club, and Pallissery LP School. As I mentioned earlier, these mittayis used to be of different color, flavor and size. The most common of them was an Orange flavored, round one. It was very hard; I liked it very much just because it lasted for unusually long time, unless i crush it as soon as i “throw” it to my mouth. I never faced the problem of plenty; my unending love for mittayis was so irritating for all (sweet-Gods of Independence Day) that I always tried for a second round collection.

That day I normally don’t take lunch. Where is the hunger anyway when you have stomach full of mittayis! Even if I am hungry, I used to postpone it as much as possible. According to Amma Independence Day is only up to Lunch, after that I should go back to my study and prepare for next day’s class. How stupid, no freedom even on Independence Day! I used to think.

I used to miss most of Doordarsan’s live telecast of Prime Minister’s address to the nation in Red Fort. The only interesting thing in that speech happens when the PM finishes it, where he will speak out loud “Jai Hind” thrice which kids gathered around repeated after him. The rhyming was so good that, even now I wait to watch it in TV on Independence Day. Another vivid memory is of watching Independence Day special movies in TV. I remember to have seen “Roja” at least three years in a raw.

Things have changed a lot now. I did not think about making a flag, or attending the flag hoisting ceremony in the beach. I just browsed through TV channels covering the Independence day celebrations across the country, watched the movie “Chak De India” in line with the Independence Day mood, an amazing lunch and pleasant sleep in the after noon,

Just like any other holiday.