Wishing one and all a very happy Pongal and Makara sankaranti…
I wish to record the way I celebrated Pongal during my childhood days so I can come back here when I wish to travel backward in time or when Adi asks me “what is it all about – the fun that you always talk about, that I am missing and you had in your childhood”…
The festive mood gets set well ahead of time. I mean around November when dad books the train/bus tickets to Tanjore. The Tatkal scheme was not in effect on those days. The shopping gets over by December and the packing starts early January. Mom usually gets new dresses for my cousins as well (Myself and my cousin sister used to get same type of dress in different color suiting our race). An added joy would linger in the air on years when I had to take time off from college/office. Isn’t that a thrill by itself?
I didn’t miss this fun even for a single year till my thalai pongal (first pongal post marriage)
The sojourn begins on the eve before Bogi. We depart home as a family by 6pm and board the bus/train around 10pm some years even 11pm owing to the traffic after waiting for hours sitting at the edge of suitcase amidst mosquitoes and other creatures. Every time when there is a new bus on the lane or the horn sound of train emerges from the distance I step forward to check if it is our turn. At last when it is our turn the joy of running back to mom to collect the luggages and board the vehicle is still fresh in my memory. If it is a bus travel (Thiruvalluvar transport corporation bus # 323) then I take the window seat next to mom and would happily retire to sleep with my head on mom’s lap and legs squeezed on my seats. Believe me this is how I slept till early 20s… On train (Rameswaram express) dad usually books the second sleeper class.
Before the day dawns we will land at Tanjore junction and either reach my native (Pullavarayan Kudi Kadu) by bus (the straight bus that operates twice a day to my village) or reach Vaduvur (town closer to my village) by bus and hire a car (mostly white ambassador) from there. My village is around 25kms away from Tanjore town. The bus ride will be spent either by catching up on the sleep or watching the paddy fields on either side of the road with cool breeze gently brushing through my cheeks and latest film songs at the background. As we enter into the village we will witness every home burning old stuffs in front of their house. Rest of the day will be spent by juggling between maternal/paternal grandpa’s and chitthi’s (tamil name for mom’s younger sister) home. The best part is all relatives home is a street away so no one can guess which home we will be at any given time. Anyways it doesn’t matter as most of the time will be spent by playing outdoor games. Later today the thalaiyari (messenger from temple) will visit all houses and inform about the auspicious time to do pooja for the next day.
Today we getup before the sun rises, take head bath, wear new dress and get ready for the pooja. Every home will have a black mark or a small cut in front of the house that will be dug along the marked lines to the depth of 2 or 3 feets. This will be used along with firewood and charcoals to cook pongal for the next three days. New mud pot with turmeric plant tied around will be used for cooking. Stirrer will be the half part of empty coconut shell attached to medium sized stick. As milk comes to boiling state and overflows we all will start
saying shouting pongal-o-pongal and grandma will add required rice (new rice) to the milk. Meanwhile a small pillayar (lord ganesha) will be made of fresh cow dung and placed at front yard. After pongal is well cooked, food and fruits will be spread in banana leaf in front of the pillayar and grandpa will perform surya pooja. After the pooja and kowtowing grandpa will walk around the house calling out loud for crow and sprinkling the pongal in a bowl on top of the roof for the crows to eat. We will follow him by hitting a plate with stick, making maximum noise and shouting out to the fullest as “pongal-o-pongal”. There will be a friendly rivalry among neighbors esp. between the kids from the household as which house is going to perform the pooja first… All of this will get done at the late by 7 am. Rest of the day will be spent by greeting relatives, eating sugarcane fresh from the field and playing around. As my paternal grandparents house was located near the entrance to my village everyone who passes will stop by for few mins to chat with my grandpa… The day can be easily spent by simply sitting at the thinnai (porch) along with my grandpa…
Mattu Pongal – To be continued…..