09 October, 2006

The Festival Roll .....

Its festival season !!

In the Hindu calendar, the festival roll is usually heralded by Avani Avittam – better known to the present generation as Rakhi festival.

This is closely followed by Janmashtami, which little children know as Kitchi Pappa's Happy Birthday (sounds so sweet and innocent, doesn't it) – which brings all the ladies in the households together to make murukku, cheedais and what have you.

Then comes Ganesh Chathurthi – and the endless possibility of gobbling up many many modaks in the midst of the many many Ganpati Bappa Moryas.

Then comes the colourful, vibrant Onam, bringing with it memories and possibilities of rich, vivid, multicolored Pookalams and of course, the veritable, delicious, delectable Onam Sadhya.

This is followed by the crème de la crème, as far as the ladies are concerned – The Festival of Navratri – nine days/nights of prayers, celebrations, fun and frolic.

Navratri is almost exclusively a ladies’ festival – atleast more so among the South Indian community. It is quite commonplace to hear of ladies being hosts/recipients of the traditional Vettalai Pakku while a gent and Vettalai pakku are not commonplace associates – Mama Vettalai Pakku ku poyirukka – sounds extremely peculiar and out of the ordinary, does it not :-))

Navratri in HK is quite a subdued affair, as compared with the so many Navratris amidst which we have grown up. Navratri is a much awaited opportunity for all the ladies to air their salwar kameezes and their kancheepuram silks, Yours Truly included. :-)

Appu had been hearing the words Navratri, Vettalai Pakku etc buzzing in the air and this prompted her to come and ask me “Can you please tell me TSON ?”

She drew a lot of puzzled glances initially but she stuck to TSON – absolutely refused to indicate what the abbreviation stood for, until I used the C Cube (Chocolate Chip Cookie) theory on this and finally figured out that TSON was nothing other than "The Story of Navratri."

She was quite thrilled about the fact that she would get to deck up in her ghagra choli and her salwar kameezes, not to mention the fact that many of her friends would be visiting and that she would also be going over to her friends’ house – for Vettalai Pakku, you know. I could not help but imagine as to the amount of fun she would have had if we had been in Bombay during Navratri – what will all the Garbas and Dandiyas going on well into the wee hours of the morn.

Actually this thought has put a “keeda” into my head. What if a Dandiya programme could be arranged right here, in HK !!! Let’s see how things work out – got a whole year ahead. Couple of years back, I had heard that one family here had been enterprising enough to organize a Dandiya programme on the terrace of their block. Did not hear of anything like that the next year. Highly possible that the HK locals, who are habitually paranoid, would have panicked and thought that there was a stampede afoot. :-O

Thus began the Vettalai Pakku visits ……….

Abhay appeared quite nonplussed and was constantly sporting a fairly bewildered expression – I don’t know if it was because he was facing quite a steady stream of people in and out of the house – and all ladies, mind you or whether it was due to the fact that each mami looked just that little bit more dazzling than the earlier one.

What’s all this zest and gusto about, his body language seemed to say.

The antibiotic course that he was on (since he was down with a congested chest and a throat infection too thrown in for good measure) did not really help make him very sociable either. So gregariousness was not the trait Abhay exhibited when the Mamis came over. Quite the contrary. It was bashfulness bordering on wariness. Poor thing !! Already weak from the antibio and faced with the seemingly endless possibility of “Inge Vaa Da Kanna” “Nokku Enna Theriyumada Kanna”.

Appu, on the other hand, was having a time of her life. She was proudly sporting mehendi on both her palms – which, by the way, had elicited a lot of queries from the boys/girls in her class. And to quote Appu “she felt quite dizzy from all that attention”. Yeah yeah !!

She used to have a field day spreading out the bangles and then selecting how many/which ones to wear and ogling at all the bindis in our bindi box and about which hairclip would go better with which outfit ………………

It took me down memory lane to the days when I was a schoolgoer. We used to have Kolu at home and just getting the Kolu stand ready and the dolls out of their storage boxes, dusting them, touching up the paint if needed – all this had its own charm. Not to mention the amount of fun I used to have in decorating the kolu stand – one year it was the shape of a house, the next year it was a chariot all complete with wheels too.
Also the immense satisfaction I used to derive in painting the earthenware in which my mother used to put the “paligai”.

When I saw Appu all excited about Navratri, one incident came to mind very clearly. During my school days, I used to have two other friends and the three of us were virtually inseparable. And so it was, during Navratri when we were making our rounds to all the other mamis’ houses. As is normally the case, all the houses are loaded with mamis from all over. Another customary feature is to have the visitors sing a song in front of the goddess/kolu. And the mamis used to quite literally go into a frenzy at the possibility of being able to coerce, compel or even bully young girls into singing songs.

“Pattu Therinju Irukkunam – Nalaikke Vere Veetukku Poka Patta Ponnakkum” “Ponnu Parukka Varathe Pattu Paada Cholluva” “Appo Enna Pannuvel” – Oh How I used to detest that sentence and even more so, the sentiments that the mamis embodied !!!!!

And on that particular day, as we we landed at one Mami’s house for Vettalai pakku, we were being bullied by a whole group of insistent mamis who were virtually demanding that we sing a song. I had not seen a more persistent lot. And the three of us decided to really test their patience. And off we launched into a song, which, much to the consternation of the mamis there, was not something on the lines of “Saarasa Mukhi” or “Unnadiye Gadhiyenru Adainthein”. It was “Gumnaam Hain Koi, Badnaam Hai Koi”……

The silence that followed was astounding. It was incredible, totally beyond belief. And of the whole bunch, there was only one mami who really appreciated the humour in the situation and enjoyed our cheekiness and the others’ chagrin – the totally mortified, vexed look on their faces.

Out here, I came across just one instance of “Yaaru Paadappora ?” . Unfortunately, there were no takers. I was really hoping for a belting more on the lines of “Material Girl” or better still “Like a Virgin”.

Now that would really have been something !!

The Navaratri festivities ended this year too, with obeisance to the Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge on Saraswati Puja and Vijaya Dasami.

The festival season continues, for around the corner is the festival that illuminates hearts, minds and houses too ………

Deepawali – The Festival of Lights !!

6 voice(s) said so:

Tharini said...

It was fun reading your memories and being able to picture a lot of this.

noon said...

Oh man - do I miss golu! A lot of what you have written was so much like my childhood days golu in Chennai. Taking the bommais out of the big trunk potti from the little dark room by the stairs, the huge steps (I used to be sent to the top step to keep the bommais since I was the lightest in the family) and the rangoli from my sis, making the little park with sprouts....so much fun. My cousin and I used to dress up as Radha and Krishna and go get sundal from mami's houses - we used to sing the same bunch of songs at each place. I enjoyed reading your post about golu. BTW all these pics are in HK?! Looks like proper India golu with all the aunty's chilling out! :)
your daughter looks happy to be wearing a lengha - looks nice...cute kids. Nice photo of you and your daughter.

itchingtowrite said...

food & festivals seem synonmous. nice post & lovely fotos

Gauri said...

Tharini : It is fun too dredging up old memories. The Gumnaam incident had me in splits :-)

Noon : Thanks !! Yep - the pics are all in HK. We've got a large Indian community here.

Prashant said...

I just love kids...and they are cute......

Anonymous said...

i loved this message gauri. i have always wanted to have all sorts of festival traditions for diya but somehow never have gotten organised enough to do it. in all appu's pictures i could see diya and how thrilled she would be! and so am inspired to do something this year! at least for diwali and christmas!