Starting today would be the nine day assault of the digestive system and the beginning of chickpea induced woes.
Sundal, odd numbered padis, maamis, Devi Kritis, pattu podavais, stainless steel dabbas, fancy thamboolam pais, and did I mention Sundal?
M Manni is having a kolu too. Amma is happy.
M Manni is going to have only three padis. Amma is not so happy.
At least five padis should have been kept, the maamiyaar says.
Undoubtedly T Anna will click pictures of each padi and send it to us. I suggested to amma that it might be incorrect to photograph the gods and goddesses. She does not think so, and tells me that we love kolu pictures as much as we love Amman films.
Most worrying this is.
But really, I don’t like the festival very much. For one, it goes on forever. Then there is all that singing that one needs to do. S - the little sister and astute mathematician tells me that every ponnu/maami must be on an average - visiting eighteen houses. These visits are typically spread across three or four days. These houses can be classified into three categories:
- The 7 to 11 padi household - few
- The 3 to 5 padi household – several
- The no padi household – most
The complexity and rarity of the raagam and song that you pick is governed very often by the number of padis in the house. For example, if you are going to a type 3 house, you normally get away with the very common Srichakraraja Simhasaneswari in Raagamalika. Type 2 means, you pick something like Maamavatu Sri Saraswati in Hindolam. In the rare instance that you went to a Type 1 house you sing the Navavarnam of Sri Kamalambike, the complexity accentuated by the fact that you sing in a different raagam depending on the day.
I do like music and even singing, but now that I am older and not in regular touch with music, it is not very easy. The voice is rusty and the words don’t roll out as easily. As a teenager, amma would make sure that I was better turned out than the daughters of other maamis for these occasions. Now she focuses on S, who anyway is made for such an occasion. It is mostly annoying when teenage girls will correct your singing. Even though I am sure that I must have been one of them myself.
But certainly the worst part about this festival is the assault of the digestive system. One year’s protein requirement of an individual is attempted to be consumed over nine days. Amma will proudly show us her culinary skills by sundalifying anything that can be and sometimes not. Cooked too much at times or too poorly at other times, it is most annoying to eat them. And the generous garnish of coconut doesn’t help either. If that is not bad enough, G Periamma will also come with a big bowlful of Sundal in the evenings. And coincidentally, it would be the same sundal that amma has made.
Whose Sundal is better, amma will demand to know?
This year shall be no different. I have prepared myself with adequate number of antacid strips.
Amma wants to know if she should make extra Sundal so that I take it to office! NO, I warn her.
I think she will have her revenge planned over the next few days.
Sometimes I wish that T Anna was in Madras too. Amma could have had more occasions to play maamiyaar and spare me of some of her evilness.
Amma also wants to know what new thing I will start during Vijayadashami day. I tell her that at age twenty-four there are very little things that I can start.
She thinks that I should start studying Maths and enroll for some GRE tutorial classes.
I ask her why she thinks that I must study for GRE exams. So that you score high marks, she tells me matter-of-factly.
I am baffled. S tells me that this was Indira Maami’s suggestion. Apparently, since I have no hope of getting a job outside of Madras city, my only option is to study some obscure course. This I believe will fool some man into thinking that my job attractiveness and resultant financial worthiness shall improve -- making me more marriageable.
I should have married that North Indian Bhaskaran fellow. Sigh.
Indira Maami has invited me to the Kolu in her house. I must kill her. Or better still, I must woo her son – Vasanth. Rather dull fellow, but he shall just be the means to an end. And besides, he must be one of the few people who is under thirty, single, male and not destined to get a job in any other city besides Madras. Wonder why nobody saw this until now?
I will sing songs to woo him. That will work. Which one though? I need to be subtle, like a good Tamizh Ponnu. May be something in Vasantha Raagam. Andhi mazhai pozhigiradhu? Illayaraja + Vairamuthu + Rain + Cashew in Indira’s Garden -- what Tamizh Payyan can resist that?
Well what did you expect anyway? Today is day 1 of Navratri, celebrating Shakti after all. And it is a nine-day long arduous journey, interspersed with several cups of semi boiled pulses to gain supreme wisdom.