Vishu is the traditional festival of Keralites. The auspicious day that starts with a traditional Vishu Kani, where lord Sri Krishna’s idol is decorated with garlands and arrangements of prosperity (for present and future) is kept as rice, fruits, beetal leaves, arecenut, valkannadi (a metal mirror), yellow flowers called konna poovu (cassia fistula), Bhagavat Geetha, coins and some gold ornaments are arranged around it. Elders are responsible for making the younger ones see it, making them walk in the darkness, closing their eyes with their palms and once in front of the Kani, you open and take in the glory of the lamps and coconuts lit in sesame oil, the fragrance of the agarbattis and other incense sticks and you pray for a good year ahead. After that there is the family temple visits wearing the new vishu kodi and later the yummilicious vishu sadya. And then the afternoon siesta sometimes watching the new ‘vishu dina chalachitrams in Asianet. Vishu is the day of bliss!
Well nothing of the sort happened with me this Vishu.
We had arranged the Vishu kani the previous night and Mr.husband woke me up at around 4.15 am. I miss the old times when Amma or Periyamma used to wake me up and close my eyes and take me in the utter darkness to see the kani. He switched on the tube light so the first thing I saw was him, very well. I saw the kani and then woke Annu like how my mother used to take me, and after that and still 3/4th asleep, I took some blurry pictures in my phone and came back and stumbled into the bedroom which was still cool at 19 degrees and snuggled into my side of the bed. The other two were already asleep.
I was slumbering back into deep sleep with only the comforting noise the air conditioner made when there was a massive explosion right outside my window! It was so loud like an atom bomb that I jumped out of my skin (almost) and fell down from the bed(literally). In the next 2 seconds another 10-50 crackers were burst. I sprang up and went to the window and opened it and saw my neighbour’s son and some other guys bursting crackers (mala padakam) in front of their house. As both our houses were separated only by a single lane road, it happened to be in front of my house too. I was so irritated that I said ‘Neram velukunathnu munne avante ammoomedede oru padakam pottikkal…ivane okkkeee…bloody fools’ and then realized to my utter horror that those were the first words I spoke on Vishu, the new year! 😛
I shut the windows with an extra bang and pulled the curtains across tightly, got into bed and kept 2 pillows on my head and continued my sleep planning to wake up past 6 and then go to the temple. The Vishukodi was all ready in the cupboard, the jasmine flowers were in the refrigerator. But the next thing that happened was I was lost in dreams and I woke up only when Annu rolled onto me in her process of waking up from her sleep. I checked the phone and the time was 9.40 am! WTF! 9.40 am. Really! The husband’s side of the bed was empty. I crept out of the room and leaned on the staircase railing and saw everyone dressed and I was even more angry that none even bothered to wake us. I rushed back to my room, bathed, dressed, woke up Annu and we went down acting as if I was awake from 5 am and was just loitering around upstairs and got the Vishukaineetam from everyone.So much for the temple visits. 😛
There is a Sarpakavu (Snake Shrine) in my father in laws ancestral house property in Chendamangalam. And since we live in the town and there is no one to light the lamp or do pooja daily like in olden days, we offer a Sarpa Pooja every year on the day of the Vishu to the Snake Gods. I used to go in the past, but now since Annu is too small to be out in the ground for that long in the afternoons, we both usually stay back. So like the husband sarcastically puts it( which is terminally untrue) I am in charge of cooking on Vishu. (He says I only cook on Vishu and on Annus birthday).
After they left and we had our breakfast, I started the process of making the sadya. I had visited the hypermarket in Lulu Mall the previous day and intelligently bought all the vegetable mixes, like they provide mix for avail and sambar with already sliced and required vegetables. I usually get confused selecting the vegetables for each dish and sometimes I mix it up. But this time it was a piece of cake. All I had to do was just open the container, slice the vegetables a little bit thinner and that’s it.
And then I encountered my life long problem again, my lack of coconut breaking talent. As I had forgotten to ask MIL to break some for me, there were no broken ones for the sadya.
Half inclined, I thought of other possibilities, what about going with a coconut to my neighbor but that looked too lousy after I had shouted at her son for firing the rocket into my vegetable terrace garden the previous day, not to mention the sweet words I had told that very morning! But then an idea struck me, there was an open coconut which was kept for lighting a rice wick for the Vishu Kani in the pooja room, I can easily use that!
With the eureka brain wave, I took it and washed it clean of the oil and set about grounding it. So all my curries were ready and as the last resort I added the ground coconut filling to the avail, garnished it with some curry leaves and poured oil on top and covered it. The same was done for the toran also. The meal was cooked, and covered with vazha ela(banana leaf) and we were waiting for the family to return.
They reached back thankfully earlier than usual. But it is a process to ‘unload’ the car after every visit to Chendamangalam or Vaikom. The empty boot gone that side would be filled with sacks of coconuts, jack fruits, mangoes and any other seasonal fruits there are found in our property. There will also be the brass vessels like the kindi, montha, ottu uruli, avanipalaka and all the items which need to be checked and kept for washing before storing it back into the storage till the next pooja. Having done all that, we laid the vazha ela (banana leaves) which is traditional way of having the sadya. Seeing the varieties of dishes I had prepared even mr.husband was impressed. I acted as if it was just a breeze to cook so eloquently.
But all that stopped when we actually sat down to have it. Annu was the first person to announce it,’ewww… this tastes funny’ she said after having some of the avail. I thought it was the green chilli and then saw my father in law having it and cringing his nose. I hastily took a mouthful if it and to my utter horror, it tasted of agarbattis! WTF, how can avail taste of agarbattis or sampranis? It even smelled aromatic! I tasted the other dishes, everything else was ok, but the same was the case with the thoran too.
‘The sambar is great, it tastes just like chendamangalam sambar’ praised my father in law after the sadya. I tried to smile. No one else said anything bad but later Mr. husband asked me what did I do to the avail, ‘did you accidentally put sampranis instead of drumsticks or something’? He started pulling me as usual. I dint do anything, and then I realized what had happened. The coconut I had brilliantly used from the Vishu kani was actually kept with the incense sticks and sampranis for hours and so they were almost like marinated in them. And in my house, we don’t taste the food before it reaches the dining table, so I had no way of knowing it! So much for my brilliant plan and agarbatti tasting sadya!
For the rest of the afternoon we lounged around in the house watching movies on TV. By evening Annu wanted to go out. She declared there was a ‘Kids Town’ happening in LULU mall which she had been wanting to go to. Since we were also bored we decided to take her. But being Vishu I was thinking there would be none in the mall but how wrong was I. The mall was over flowing with people, mostly muslims who comes with large families and lots of kids. We walked around the mall and finally found the ‘Kids town’ which was slated for 3 hours for a child but it closed by 9pm and by the time we reached, it was already 8.30 pm. So I told her that it was their closing time and we can come again tomorrow.
I remember only telling the last word ‘tomorrow’ and the next thing that happens is her eyes becoming big like bambi, the lower lip goes up, the little nose screws up and a water well is formed inside her eyes, just like you see in those Korean cartoons. I knew the signs- ‘No, no don’t do it now, I tell her helplessly, I promise we will come back tomorrow’.
‘But you promised you will take me to little town’ she whimpered, the lower lip going up a little again and more water filling inside the eyes.
‘I promised but they are almost closing now, we both can come back tomorrow and be here for 3 hours’ I plead rationally.
But the dam bursts and she open her mouth and wail repeating her phrase ‘But you promised me’. I sigh and look at Mr. husband who looks totally lost too.
I sit her down in a bench and try the last resort – BRIBING!.
Me: “Lets go buy something for you- chocolates?
A: ‘I do-nt-want-your-chocolates..wwwwaaaaaaahhhha’
Me: Toys? Lets get you a nice toy.
A: I do-nt-want-your-toys, you- promised-you-will-take-me-tolittle-town,…waaaahhhhaaaaaa’
We were the eye candy of people now, sitting right in the middle of the passage. Some were smiling the knowing smiles, like having been there types, some (younger ones) were giving the amused looks (like how can you make her cry like that), some well a few almost accusing looks (like what the hell have you done to the poor kid for her to wail like that, you mean mommie and daadie!!l). The heat was on and I knew from previous experience that trying to force her from there would mean some rolling on the ground and more melo drama.
‘Ok, il take you to sparkys’ I finally declare. And BAM! the wailing stops, she looks at me pointedly and say in a threatening voice, “OK but you have to let me go to my favorite game”. I have very little choice but to agree to her blackmailing. Her favorite game happens to be a place where you register and the child go inside and they climb and roll and play for an hour inside a lot of things. Ok whatever, so we put her there and go down for some shopping. The mall is overcrowded and it is difficult to walk around too without bumping onto someone. At some point I find my eyes itching.
After an hour we take her and while having dinner Annu complains of a stomach ache and I immediately tell her how she shouldn’t have been on the rides and that she is too small and would be easily prey to some bacteria and virus causing her diseases. I tell the husband to get some chavanaprash the next day as she is always getting sick after going to crowded places. We get back home and sleep.
Today morning I try to wake up as usual when Annu rolls onto me and I try to open my eyes but I am not able to! I try again and it feels like they are stuck together! Horrified I somehow rush to the wash room and wash my face and realize looking in the mirror that I have got some sort of eye infection! My eyes are puffed up and red!
I come out and text Mr.Husband the news. His reply is ‘Congratulations, you have won the Vishu Bumper Lottery. And a smiley. “Poda” I reply.
I throw the phone on the bed and look up and see that Annu is awake, rubbing her eyes too. The first thing she asks me is ‘you said we can go to little town today morning, come lets go’. My eyes are itching and I am trying to remember if we have eye drops in the house while I reply “Not today sweety, I have got an eye infection’
The scene changes back, bamby eyes comes out, lips goes up ‘ wahhhhhhh you promised you will take me today morning…wahhhh….I want-to-go-to-little-town-wahhhh…you promised…..’&^%$%&!!
I run out of the room!
Vishu was this. I don’t even want to think how the rest of the year is going to be. God only save me!!