Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy Uttarayan and Pongal!

You have to hold it in your hands to feel it: the tug on the thread spool by the kite that's soaring in the sky. An unequivocal message: its time to let me soar. Let me go, I belong here.
Very few things in life are as obvious: a diamond shaped piece of paper that was meant to fly - and knows it purpose. When the north winds begin to blow, it's the call of rustling paper dreams that begins to play first, the war-cries come much later.
A true kite-flyer is mesmerising when you watch - the symphony between man and object, the former helping the latter get to horizons that have fascinated mankind since we began to write our own history. There's a joy in the tugs and pulls, silent effort in the navigation, and the thrill of feeling the wind play along. It's a journey and a destination whose celebration is very quiet, and very personal. It's a rare meeting place of man and nature and philosophy: the azure blue above waiting to be touched, its improbable physical frontiers broken by the humblest of all things - a scrap of paper.


My earliest memories of Pongal were that nobody in my class knew what it was. Surrounded by predominantly Gujarati friends and family, there were about five people in my life that I could wish a happy Pongal. Squatting next to my mum in the garden, next to the Tulsi shrub, I'd see her roll small mounds of pongal khichdi, speaking to her ancestors, and to the dog, crow and cow. Small yellow mounds on green coconut leaves, the aroma of food and foliage and mud mingling into memories that are now tagged as childhood. Today, only for today, I pray only for my family, she'd say, her nose and cheeks reddening in a sign I deciphered quite early on, that meant she was home-sick. Seeking her parents, family and language in a foreign land, far away, further than just distance measured in miles. She, who had atleast two dozen people on her daily prayer list, who'd hear a moving story and add the characters to her prayer marathon, she, would then close her eyes and remember the siblings who nurtured her, the parents she hurt when she ran away to get married, the grandmother she never knew, the temples she visited when she was a child, her silk skirt rustling as she raced the younger sibling up the stairs. It was one of the few times when my mother was inaccessible to me - her pain and nostalgia was for her alone.

Today, I still have less than five people to wish happy Pongal. I have much lesser faith in God than I'd like, more questions than conversations with Him/Her. But when I squat down to do the ritual that comes to me in automation, I will put aside thoughts of the son and the husband, of my life and it's tiny trials, and think of my family not so far away. Parents, sibling, cousins and grandparents here and those watching from above. And the dog, crow and cow. My nose is reddening too, and my pain and my nostalgia is for me alone.


maidinmalaysia said...

your post clicked refresh on several old memories:

~ of a chant that went: kaakaa pidi vechan... (promising to unite a crow and a sparrow in holy matrimony)

~ of grandma making tiny red, green, orange and white spheres of rice -- where we could only make broken lumps

~ of a half-saree and a silk pavadai


Brown Girls said...

Back from a long holiday, I just did a marathon reading of all your posts that I'd missed in a month.

Nino's Mum, your writing delights, enchants, astounds, gives me goosebumps and brings tears to my eyes by turns. It evokes history, memory, nostalgia, longing. When I started reading your blog, I was a fan of the lyrical quality of your prose -- the alliterations, the metaphors.

Now it's just, it's just -- ohh -- what I'm struggling to say is that I absolutely adore your writing. It's downright sublime.

Ah, I love your blog!

Brown Girls said...

And happy Pongal :)

Tharini said...

That was eternally lovely. The way your language and writing flows is just spellbinding!

Happy Pongal, Nino's Mum!

Anonymous said...

Happy Pongal and Happy New Year. I did the same today. Just yesterday I would not have been alone but today I am and that's the choice I have made, like your mum.

I celebrated Pongal alone today without pain or nostalgia and somehow that seems even worse.

nits said...

that last one is me by the way (nits)

OrangeJammies said...

you can wish me, though. I'm digging into some yummy yellow even as I type and wish we could share.
Happy Pongal, girl, you and I must someday have a long chat.

momstir said...

Oh! NM. That was beautiful. just simply beautiful and also very visual.

Sujatha said...

Happy pongal to you too, Nino's mom! And how I'm missing my mom's pongal and koottu and vada today! I called my parents and asked me what I did and I said I opened the folder with the pics of Pongal from 2007 and looked at them. I made it sound flippant for my dad, but he knew.

Lovely, lyrical writing.

ra said...

oh what a beautiful post. you've amde some noses reddedn virtually.

Anonymous said...

How lovely...Happy Pongal Nino's mum!

It's still Pongal day here, so have plans for the Kanu-pidi tomorrow. There is something about that ritual, that I've never been tempted to give it up, unlike so many others...

(forget the fact that no self-respectibg crow in the US seems to want to try the yellow/red/white rice :-))

M (another Nino's mom!)

Nino's Mum said...

MinM - you're bang on about the spheres of rice - mine resolutely remain lumps!

BG - *blush* thank you. Its not just that I can't handle compliments to well - but also that you give me far more than I'm deserving of. so much of what you said is true for how you write as well, you know? and yes, happy pongal to you too :)

Tharini - a very happy pongal to you too, and now I'm heading to your blog to find out if the toy-house got finished in time!

Nits - sometimes you echo the words that I've left untyped and it's eerie and in a very strange way, reassuring.

OJ - a very happy Pongal girl, you're I believe, the very reason Nehru prescribed for diversity. big hug.

MS - Thank you. You guys must come fly kites with Nino and me, the next time you're this side, k?

sujatha - if they are YOUR pics and memories to go by, it can hardly be flippant - Rome was evidence. happy pongal!

Ra - :) thank you. how was pongal for you?

M - LOL! I just totally imagined that!

Gauri Gharpure said...


Anonymous said...

Hay Nino's mum, I really could relate with this post. It brought back images of my mother, she is now with God. I know so well, I know that the 'nostalgia and the pain were hers alone'.

how can you write so beautifully and yet with such raw feeling? :)

I am trying to hold back the tears.

Warm wishes, Anjali

Nino's Mum said...

gauri - thanks

anjali - tight, warm hug. and then one more.

ra said...

didn't do anything. cdn't summon up the requisite will and happiness

nitya said...

This is one of the few traditions I still keep up... simply because it brings back the memories of a now lost era... when life was much simpler and friends were a shout away and cousins just around the corner... ah well, at least we can remember.

Nino's Mum said...

nitya - memories can be such carnivores things, no? They just sink their teeth into days and refuse to let go, age and time not withstanding.

wordjunkie said...

Your posts are lovely, and hey, even your response to comments are great. Loved the last one to Nitya.

Nino's Mum said...

wordjunkie - thank you :) And I love your book reviews!