Saturday, January 05, 2008

Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la..

It was 1:30 A.M when I finally finished packing and wrapping the gifts purchased for my sister, BIL, pedhamma and pedhanayana for christmas.
"Better head to bed or risk missing your flight in the morning", I said to myself.
I was sure that I would not find time to do a thing once I arrive at my sister's place. I usually get swarmed by my little nephews and hardly find any time to spend with others in the family. I disappointedly went to bed cursing my poor planning and time management. I felt bad for having not made a christmas card for my nephews who had been eagerly awaiting my arrival for weeks.

5:50 A.M, At the ticketing desk of Delta Airlines

Me: Hi!
(showing my e-ticket to the ticketer).
Ticketer: Sir, You are late,You have missed the flight.
Me: What? Are u sure? Isn't it supposed to depart at 6:45 A.M ( I showed her my e-ticket)
Ticketer: Well, The ticket that you purchased from Orbitz has the time printed in it wrong. Sorry about that. I can put you in the next flight to New York city without any additional charge.
Me: Thanks a lot! When is it?
Ticketer: At 12 noon.
Me: Are you serious? :(

Well, I was disappointed as I would be missing my favourite poori-aloo prepared by my pedhamma for breakfast. In lieu of it, I would be served with a rebuke from my Akka(sister) for having not checked the time of departure in the website. On the other hand, I was happy that I had 6 more hours to make a wonderful christmas card for my nephews.

I wanted to make a picture collage in the card. So, I went back home to pick my favourite snaps of kids & family, then headed to CVS store to develop them and then to St Michaels to pick art accesories. I spent nearly three hours shopping around, thinking about a theme and finally had enough time only to cut the developed snapshots. I packed the cut pieces and art accesories in my backpack and boarded the flight at noon.

I made full use of the flying time in making the card. I glued pictures and added few lines advising my nephews to share their toys, to work together and not to quarrel in the coming year. I finally finished and signed it as SANTA. The person who sat next to me gave a broad smile after looking at all that I have been doing.

Well, I realised that I was in a very happy mood. I was excited about Christmas and the new year. I also found everyone around me in a jubiliant mood. I thought that it was the advent of christmas that made everyone of us merry.

I still had around twenty minutes to reach new york city. I closed the christmas card and happily placed it in my backpack. I then asked myself, "When was the last time when I found myself and people around me as excited and happy as they are today?"

It quickly brought back wonderful memories of pongal that I used to celebrate in my village. I would wake up on this day to see my mom and Ravana athai cooking pongal in the yard. I just loved watching the boiling pongal. I would run towards the yard only to be rebuked by athai who would then ask me to take a bath before coming to the fire place. I would be given an oiled head bath. Neatly dressed, I would go and sit next to the fire stove made of red bricks.
On this day, Pongal was made outside the kitchen in the yard, in an earthen pot smeared with manjal (turmeric powder), adorned with white and kumkuma thirunamams. The stove in the yard was made with red bricks and was fuelled by split fire wood. The bricks would also be smeared with manjal and bore namams and kumkumam pottus.
The other visual treat on these days was the sight of the huge kolam that Jayanthi akka would draw in the front of our house. She would start the piece of art with the preparation of canvas. The loose ground soil would be stiffened by spraying a mix of water and cowdung. When dried, it provided a dark brownish-green canvas for the kolam. She would then draw kolam with rice powder or powdered white marble. After completing the kolam, she would border them with a thick red paste made using brick powder.

The next attraction is the cowshed. Cows would have been cleaned by Arumugam anna or Periyavar thatha. They would be fully ready for the procession on the next day (on Maattu pongal). The cows would be decorated on the next day with balloons tied to their horns. Arumagam anna would also have their horns painted.

The whole ambience would be filled with a unique blend of fragrant agarbathis and smoke emanating from the fireplace. A loud discordant song (usually of L.R Easwari or Sizhkazhi Govindarajan) from the nearby temple would serve as the background music.

During these days everybody in the village would be in a very good mood. The entire village would be bright and the streets were adorned with colourful kolams. One would also see dried chewed pieces of sugarcane lying around at the side of the red streets.

This sweet remiscence came to an abrupt end when my plane landed in NEW YORK city. I was filled with excitement and got ready to be received by my sister. Eventhough the reminiscence was short-lived, it set a cheerful mood that prevailed during the entire trip.

During the entire Christmas vacation, I had been consumed with a joyous feeling. I also found people around me in a similiar mood. The jubiliant mood prevailing in New York city during christmas eve reminded me of the mood that prevailed in my village during pongal.

I felt sad that my nephews would never be able to experience the same kind of joy that I had experienced in my village during pongal. The occasion that they associated with activity and cheer was christmas. My sister and I did our best in our own ways to make it memorable for them.

I am sure that they would joyfully recall as to how their mom erected a christmas tree, decorated it with pine cones, stars, wreaths, dolls..quite similiar to how I recall my mom decorating the house with thoranams of mango leaves and garlands of yellow chamandhis. Just as how the new clothes brought joy to us during pongal, the gifts provided similiar joy and excitement to my nephews. I am sure that they would also associate christmas occasion with the visit of their maama and joyfully recall how he delivered "christmas cards and gifts" from Santa.

Christmas Tree in our house
..... other trees in the city here

Photos by Kurrodu


Blogger Hip Grandma said...

All this reminds me of Pongal in Tamilnadu.Is it the same in Andhra too?I am sure your nephews and neices will remember you the way you recall your athai and akka!

3:17 AM  
Blogger kurrodu said...

My village is in Tamil Nadu at the outskirts of chennai. We celebrate it just as Tamilians do. I learn't from my uncle that several generations back, few telugu families migrated down south as far as Tanjavur in search of more fertile lands. It is possible that our family was one among them. Andhraites call Pongal as Sankrathi and so does the rest of India. I really have no idea how they celebrate this festival.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Archana said...

Lovely post! How lucky your nephews are to have such a thoughtful uncle :-)!

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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6:08 AM  
Blogger Archana Bahuguna said...

Deepak, still looking for the photos that you refer to in the end.

3:10 PM  

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