Onam always brought the best memories from my childhood. It ranges from an excited childhood where all of us friends (me and my monkey gang as we were refered by elders 😉 in Willington island used to wake up early and go flower hunting with little bamboo baskets in tow, compete with each other in making the best pookalam, the temple visits in groups mainly to show off the new onakodi (new dress for onam), and back to a house or a row of houses that smelled too delicious of various curries and savouries in the making.
I always feel that the longest wait on Thiruvonam is from the time after breakfast to the time the ‘ela’ (banana leaf) is laid down for lunch and the nilavilakku (oil lamp) is lit. Having followed Brahmin traditions we always served the sweet payasam first followed by the rest of the curries. Sadya is alwsys an elaborate affair on Onam. It goes on 3 or 4 courses. First the rice is had with parippu(dal),ghee and sambhar. The next course is had with pulissery. After that comes the course with rasam and finaly curd. And ending it with 2 cups of different flavoured payasams and everyone in the house sleeps for the rest of the day. Wish everyday was onam. 🙂
When i was small, my father was a sailor in merchant navy who was usualy never home on Onam. One of my best memories with him is when I was in class 2 or 3. It was not onam. I dont even remember which month it was. But guess it was around november or December as mornings were foggy and cold. We were living in a rented house in Vypin island then which I used to call as ‘Violet house’ because of the dark violet painted walls it adorned. It was a small red tiled roof house with a small sit out and a cute little front yard. There were suppottas, guavas, and bougen villas in the front yard. I even had a small swing on the guava tree. Being an only child was not a great way to live in childhood but I had many friends in the neighbourhood and also had a parrot who talked and 2 yellow chickens that year. So life was pretty lively. 😉
But that morning I woke up and not seeing any of my usual friends roaming around I decided to play alone. I dont remember if it was holidays or just a weekend. I was aimlessly plucking leaves and flowers for the usual game of cooking ‘kanji and curry’ little girls were so fond of playing back then when my father who had just come back from him morning walk asked what I was doing. Without thinking I told him I was planning to play Onam, going to make a pookalam and sadya too. He looked at me for sometime and asked if he could join.I was more than happy because my mother never played with me and it was a rare thing to have grown ups play with me then. I readily agreed.
Soon we both were collecting flowers , me in my little bamboo flower basket and he in a plastic cover. We plucked flowers first from our garden, next from our neighbours garden, then from the roadsides (it was a village and flowers grew everywer) and also from the riverside a little way down the lane. Our front yard was paved with white sand and he drew a design with a small stick and we started filling it with different coloured flowers.
When my amma came out and saw that we were making a Pookalam in December t she asked if we both had gone mad 😉 to which my dad said what was life without a little madness. If he couldnt be with us to celebrate Onam, then we should celebrate Onam when he was there. I think my amma also became a little emotional on that because she sent for our domestic helps to come and soon started preperations for a sadya. 🙂
Meanwhile our pookalam was getting bigger and better. Some of my friends who were passing by had come to watch first with interest and soon they also joined in the fun. We decorated it with wild cherries, young leaves of coconut, and there were all kinds of flowers and colours in it. It was the biggest pookalam I had ever put in our house.(not yet broken so far). I was so happy that I was jumping up and down with joy.
Soon word got around that we were celebrating onam in our house. My fathers brothers and familes who lived nearby also came to our house knowing this and soon it was like a festival !The womanfolks inside in the kitchen and dining room cooking and laghing, men having fun and laughing louder and we kids playing and running around everywhere in between! Someone made a fire in the backyard and soon there was smell of banana chips frying in the air. Soon banana leaves were cut from plantains in the backyard, the pulpaya was laid down and the nilavilaku was lit. As a tradition, men folk and children had sadya first and later the woman had. After the sadya we all just collapsed whereever we found places and slept till evening. After waking up we all went to the beach which was right behind my dads ancestrol home a few kilometers away and had so much fun in the beach and the water. It was the bestest onam ever in my life though it was not really Onam and also one of the most beautiful days of my childhood days with my family and relatives.
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