Friday, October 19, 2012

Kerala Summers

A pond near my granduncle's house in the heart of a typical Kerala village.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about the holidays I spent as a child in Kerala. A sense of nostalgia, maybe? Or some kind of sadness that those are times that I have probably lost forever? I really don't know. Today, even if I do go back, times have changed, and so have people.  So, these are some of the things that came to my mind:

The rain. Monsoons in Kerala are amazingly beautiful. To just sit and watch the fierce rains swathe the lush greenery with a dash of pristine white is pure bliss. I have spent many a summer sitting at the verandah of my valiamma's house doing just that. Or simply reading a book and listening to the pitter-patter of raindrops.

Games and discussions with the cousins. This used to be super fun. No adults involved, just us kids. Whenever I visited Palakkad, after we finished gossiping about films, books, and people, our topic of conversation would always turn to the supernatural. The cousins always had something new for me, the so-called outsider. They told me tales of yakshis and rakshasas, handsome gandharvas and spirits that could be summoned through an Ouija board. I used to be petrified then, but looking back it does bring a smile. 

Temples, temples, and more temples. Shashi Tharoor, in his book India: From Midnight to the Millennium, also writes about his school holidays in Kerala. He describes it as a cross between a pilgrimage and a penance- his parents' pilgrimage, his penance. Well, my holidays were also a bit like that. :D 

Ever since I can remember, every trip had visits to at least seven or eight temples. First, the temple town of Guruvayoor. I used to hate the serpentine queues at the gate of the temple, often making our wait stretch into hours. According to the temple rules, women and girls sporting western clothing couldn't enter the temple, and I would always be dressed in a pattu pavadai. That in itself would annoy me, thanks to the indignity of clutching onto the long folds of the skirt lest I trip and fall on my face. And then there was always the possibility of my parents becoming over zealous in their devotion, leading them to suggest standing in the queue for another darshan which translated to more hours! I would be perpetually hungry, (I used to have a definite preference for 'bhojanam over bhajanam'. :D) and asking about meals was rather futile, since the purpose of the trip was to visit Bhagavan, not the Brahmins' pure vegetarian mess outside West Nada. (By the way, I've always been curious- what exactly do they mean by 'pure' vegetarian? I'm vegetarian myself, but I have no claims of being purer than the rest of humanity.)   After Guruvayoor, the next stop would be the nearby Shiva shrine of Mammiyoor. Then, on our way back to Palakkad, a stop at the adima kaavu or the family shrine. Ours is a matrilineal society, so it is customary to stop at Amma's family shrine, a temple dedicated to the goddess Bhagavati, nestled in the corner of a village, buried deep in the Western Ghats. I remember looking forward to the trip since the route to the village is so scenic- brown mountains in the distance, lush green fields, and the vast blue skies, this is God's own country at its best. Following trips to these compulsory temples, there were always visits made to nearby ones as well, especially for birthdays, special archanas, and prasadam which inevitably would be the absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious neipayasam. Dusk at these temples is beautiful, and watching the evening deeparadhana is splendid.

Naamajapam with my grandmother. As a child, I would be asked by amaama to go place a lamp at the entrance to the house when dusk set. This is considered auspicious, and I was taught to chant Deepam deepam while going about this act, since it essentially brings light to the household. (Is it a metaphorical reference to prosperity? Or is it just a tradition carried forward since there was no electricity in the olden days?) I don't see anyone doing it these days, even in Kerala. Once this was done, I would follow amaama to the puja room, and listen to her chant from the scriptures.

Road trips in Kerala. I especially remember long bus journeys from Coimbatore to Kochi where my uncle lives. Watching the ubiquitous toddy shops (where there are surprisingly well disciplined queues), banana chips stalls, Che Guevra posters announcing the next hartal, and roadside eateries with names like 'Emirates Hotel' whizz by is indeed an interesting experience. The potholes on the roads make the journey even more interesting. These are God's own roads, after all.

I'm unable to type any more. I want to go back, both in time and place. :(

P.S: I really did come across 'Emirates Hotel' last August. We stopped there for a chai break and I got to try some really good pathiri :D

1 comment:

  1. Pure Vegetarian - means only Veg ingredients used. There are restaurants which serve Veg and Non-Veg and there is always a chance of the same broth being used as substrate for a dish. So in order to differentiate this, Pure Vegetarian hotels display it so.

    ReplyDelete

Friday, October 19, 2012

Kerala Summers

A pond near my granduncle's house in the heart of a typical Kerala village.
Lately I've been thinking a lot about the holidays I spent as a child in Kerala. A sense of nostalgia, maybe? Or some kind of sadness that those are times that I have probably lost forever? I really don't know. Today, even if I do go back, times have changed, and so have people.  So, these are some of the things that came to my mind:

The rain. Monsoons in Kerala are amazingly beautiful. To just sit and watch the fierce rains swathe the lush greenery with a dash of pristine white is pure bliss. I have spent many a summer sitting at the verandah of my valiamma's house doing just that. Or simply reading a book and listening to the pitter-patter of raindrops.

Games and discussions with the cousins. This used to be super fun. No adults involved, just us kids. Whenever I visited Palakkad, after we finished gossiping about films, books, and people, our topic of conversation would always turn to the supernatural. The cousins always had something new for me, the so-called outsider. They told me tales of yakshis and rakshasas, handsome gandharvas and spirits that could be summoned through an Ouija board. I used to be petrified then, but looking back it does bring a smile. 

Temples, temples, and more temples. Shashi Tharoor, in his book India: From Midnight to the Millennium, also writes about his school holidays in Kerala. He describes it as a cross between a pilgrimage and a penance- his parents' pilgrimage, his penance. Well, my holidays were also a bit like that. :D 

Ever since I can remember, every trip had visits to at least seven or eight temples. First, the temple town of Guruvayoor. I used to hate the serpentine queues at the gate of the temple, often making our wait stretch into hours. According to the temple rules, women and girls sporting western clothing couldn't enter the temple, and I would always be dressed in a pattu pavadai. That in itself would annoy me, thanks to the indignity of clutching onto the long folds of the skirt lest I trip and fall on my face. And then there was always the possibility of my parents becoming over zealous in their devotion, leading them to suggest standing in the queue for another darshan which translated to more hours! I would be perpetually hungry, (I used to have a definite preference for 'bhojanam over bhajanam'. :D) and asking about meals was rather futile, since the purpose of the trip was to visit Bhagavan, not the Brahmins' pure vegetarian mess outside West Nada. (By the way, I've always been curious- what exactly do they mean by 'pure' vegetarian? I'm vegetarian myself, but I have no claims of being purer than the rest of humanity.)   After Guruvayoor, the next stop would be the nearby Shiva shrine of Mammiyoor. Then, on our way back to Palakkad, a stop at the adima kaavu or the family shrine. Ours is a matrilineal society, so it is customary to stop at Amma's family shrine, a temple dedicated to the goddess Bhagavati, nestled in the corner of a village, buried deep in the Western Ghats. I remember looking forward to the trip since the route to the village is so scenic- brown mountains in the distance, lush green fields, and the vast blue skies, this is God's own country at its best. Following trips to these compulsory temples, there were always visits made to nearby ones as well, especially for birthdays, special archanas, and prasadam which inevitably would be the absolutely scrumdiddlyumptious neipayasam. Dusk at these temples is beautiful, and watching the evening deeparadhana is splendid.

Naamajapam with my grandmother. As a child, I would be asked by amaama to go place a lamp at the entrance to the house when dusk set. This is considered auspicious, and I was taught to chant Deepam deepam while going about this act, since it essentially brings light to the household. (Is it a metaphorical reference to prosperity? Or is it just a tradition carried forward since there was no electricity in the olden days?) I don't see anyone doing it these days, even in Kerala. Once this was done, I would follow amaama to the puja room, and listen to her chant from the scriptures.

Road trips in Kerala. I especially remember long bus journeys from Coimbatore to Kochi where my uncle lives. Watching the ubiquitous toddy shops (where there are surprisingly well disciplined queues), banana chips stalls, Che Guevra posters announcing the next hartal, and roadside eateries with names like 'Emirates Hotel' whizz by is indeed an interesting experience. The potholes on the roads make the journey even more interesting. These are God's own roads, after all.

I'm unable to type any more. I want to go back, both in time and place. :(

P.S: I really did come across 'Emirates Hotel' last August. We stopped there for a chai break and I got to try some really good pathiri :D

1 comment:

  1. Pure Vegetarian - means only Veg ingredients used. There are restaurants which serve Veg and Non-Veg and there is always a chance of the same broth being used as substrate for a dish. So in order to differentiate this, Pure Vegetarian hotels display it so.

    ReplyDelete