Happy Pongal, Makar Sankranthi, Lohri to everyone in India. It is the festive season now.
What I remember of Pongal as a kid is waking up early in the cold winter morning and walking towards the drawing room to catch a few more winks on the sofa half asleep waiting for Amma to call us to come to the kitchen. We would wait for the milk to boil and rise and shout ‘Pongalo Pongal- Pongalo Pongal’ and prostrate before the Pongal Panai (pot) .It was a time to feast on chakkarai (sweet) pongal and venn (salted) Pongal with some other delicacies that Amma would prepare .
Fast forward a few years.
I am the one who is buying the turmeric leaves, applying turmeric and kumkum to the pongal panai (pot), tying the leaves securely to the pot, cleaning the gas oven and kitchen counter top in the morning ,adding the required ingredients in the panai and simultaneously keep calling my kid an hubby reminding them that its time to wake up. Now my son ambles half asleep towards the sofa and then to the kitchen when its time for the milk to boil and rise up.
I am more than happy and satisfied by the time I prepare both the varieties of the pongal dish and the “neivedhiyam ” is offered to the Sun God! So the lunch and breakfast of the day is done minus any more delicacies that my Amma would prepare.
Pongal literally means “boiling over” as the milk is allowed to boil over, signifying abundance.
I look forward to this morning every year
Perhaps I manage to follow certain customs in ways convenient to me during the current times with some short cuts . Our beautiful traditions have evolved radically but the essence still remains the same and they keep reminding us about the beautiful culture that we belong to.
Childhood is the time when we are most active , bubbling with energy , stress free and with all the time in the world playing and bonding with friends . As we grow into an adult the scenario slowly changes and it is a mixture of fun and stress of a different order be it about academics, one’s looks , peer pressure, relationships, career, marriage , learning new skills , adjustments , childbirth, raising kids, taking care of elderly and the list is really long .
Especially women in India have to make lots of adjustments and for us the twists and turns of life and age sometimes makes us ponder over the uncertainity at many stages.
In the journey of life at different stages of life, there does come a time when one is not sure about the future, a fear somewhere resides in some corner of the mind, yet life goes on. One tries to do what one thinks is best at that point of time. And when ones wishes are fulfilled its a nice, beautiful feeling.
How many women can resonate well with the fact that we tend to put everyone else ‘s needs before our own . Priorities change with time with family commitments and raising kids that time just flies ahead juggling between home front and work front .The fact that when kids are a little older and need us a little less as their circle of friends widen is the time which allows us to pursue our own goals, hobbies & passions which had taken a backseat.
So just stop for a couple of minutes & think, ” what is my oxygen mask” ?
Do things that are highly energetic and reflective. Spend some time in nature and enjoy your surroundings, have a chat with a good friend , watch films, do exercise , yoga , dance , pen down your thoughts, feelings, listen to music and sing along to your favourite song, travel, read, rediscover a hobby or a creative interest , just something you enjoy wherein you are so involved that there is no room for worrying about anything else. Spread your beautiful wings and fly to all the places you wish to be.
Do what you enjoy and fly and soar up in the sky and be perched on the throne like a “Queen” and rule your life and life will open new doors for a better you.
Deepawali is just around the corner and there is a festive atmosphere around. I am reminded of how my parents would wake us up in the early hours on Naraka Chaturdashi day for the customary oil bath. We would be woken up around 4 am in the cold winter morning of October/November . Appa would have switched on the radio and would have tuned into Short Wave band for some south Indian music. The early morning celebrations would start on an auspicious note with Nadaswaram music.
Getting up in the wee hours of the morning was a big task. We are three siblings and we had a rule. As per the rule –“whoever gets up first will take bath first.” That way the other two could catch up with some extra sleep was the idea. But the question was – who would wake up first?? The solution was that whoever’s name is called out first while waking us up would have to take oil bath first and then one of us would grumble to Amma – “Why did you have to call only my name first??”
On the previous night Appa would have applied a little haldi and kumkum to the corners of the new dresses which would have been piled up on a tray . All the new clothes, sweets, savouries, crackers, homemade special herbal medicine, a big vessel smeared with little rangoli pattern , gingelly (sesame) oil would be placed in front of the God.
After waking up Amma would make us sit on a low level wooden seat and anoint our hair with warm gingelly oil. We would then go out and light a cracker/sparkler . The one whose name was called first would go for the oil bath while rest of the two would try to catch some few more winks of sleep.
Post bath Appa would give us our new dress and Amma would give us the special homemade herbal medicine in the form of a small ball . I hated it. My sister used to find it tasty. Amma would ask me to eat it fast as it helps in the digestion of all the sweets and savouries that we would be consuming for the next few days. I would find it very difficult to push it down my throat. We would wear the new clothes and seek the blessings of the elders.
Gorging on the different sweets and savouries would be fun. Phone calls to greet relatives and friends would be with “ Ganga snanam accha?”. Evening time would be spent in lighting diyas, greeting friends and exchanging sweets. Since my growing up years were in northern and western India we would save the bursting of crackers for the next day when the whole neighbourhood would be bursting crackers.
In today’s age enthusiasm is the same for celebrating and I do eagerly look forward to this festival of lights but some things have changed for me I realize.. Waking up at 4 am has shifted to a little later by 2 hours, gingelly oil has been replaced by parachute coconut oil for namesake, shikakai has been replaced with shampoo.
When it comes to sweets and snacks –it’s the shortcut as I prepare just one sweet and one savoury item as I find the deep frying chores in the kitchen immensely boring . Rest are purchased from shop. Diwali herbal medicine too is purchased ( symbolically bought if available) and the packet remains unopened for days to come, and is finally discarded one fine day. Crackers too are brought on a minimum scale now keeping in mind “green Diwali”.
Piling up new dresses on a tray with haldi and kumkum smeared in a corner and placing the sweets , savouries , Diwali herbal medicine and crackers along with the new set of clothes is something I look forward to. Its also time to bond with neighbours and friends by exchanging sweets.
What has also got added is looking forward to make a colourful rangoli apart from the traditional rangoli with rice flour and decoration with lots of marigold flowers and lamps , diyas, serial bulbs.
With my generation some things have changed, and with the next generation some more things will change. We do try to hold on to some rituals ,customs, traditions as per our convenience and the love, laughter and bonding continues to keep everyone together.
May the beauty of Deepawali season fill your home with happiness
Wishing everyone a very Happy and Joyous Deepawali