Though Pongal is the most celebrated festival in Tamil Nadu, I seldom had a chance to familiarise myself with the richness and vivacity of the celebrations, to listen to village folk songs and experience the festive spirit in the authentic village style. Yesterday, I finally got an opportunity to feel the festival. My friend was going to Pollachi to one of their family friend’s house. I had heard much about them from my friend’s mom. They owned a farm, all of 15 acres, and practiced biological farming there. I so much wanted to go and see the farm and yesterday when my friend asked me if I wanted to join, I had no heart to say no. I just jumped at it. I asked my friend’s mom before leaving if I could just go in my cargo and t-shirt. Would they mind, it, I asked? Oh no, Sharada, you can just go like this, they are very chilled out, she said.
We reached there by sunset and saw a swarm of people in the farm. I did not know anyone. But I did not feel like an alien. Though of late, I remain confined to my spaces, I always loved being with people. My friend looked at me and asked, “Feeling out of place?” Not all, I said. I went and said hello to everyone and introduced myself. I never smiled so much in the last six months. There were a dozen children playing, aunties chatting in large groups, a few old people sitting on the cement made long blocks, talking about their good old days. One uncle soon came and offered us peanuts to munch. Kids were busy masticating sugar canes and it was a sight to watch. Watching vivid emotions of happiness, togetherness, harmony, laughter made life look so wonderful.
When I went there some aunties asked me if I was Hindu. I just smiled and said, and in their ears I whispered, “Aunty, I am a Brahmin veetu ponnu.” Nee Brahmina, she asked in a loud tone and everyone hovered around me. No mark on your forehead? hmm..When I have no answer I just choose to smile. Then I said, I would have loved to come in a saree had I knew the celebrations were grandiose! That made them happy! I winked and walked away.
Slowly, aunties got very friendly and I was happy hearing their tales. They all were like one big family and me- a part of them. We celebrated mattu pongal on the same day. I had never seen how it was celebrated. They had built a small block and fixed banana leaves on four sides of the block. They anointed the cow’s forehead with sandal and put a garland around its neck, made the holy beast cross a line made of some leaves. Before the cow walked across the line, a girl took a lamp made of rice flour on her head and walked around the block thrice and all the boys walked behind. Finally, they made the cow walk into the block.
The cow then went its way. As kids were playing around, there was a sudden power cut in the farm. And my friend dragged me, “Come lets watch the stars, she said”. Thrilled by the idea, I saw millions of stars on the unpolluted sky. We saw Orion, the constellation-the hunter with his bow and it was so clearly visible. Bright stars filled the sky, and we walked to a dark side of the farm to watch more stars without the lights. An orange star was shining bright and my friend told me it was Saturn. I stood in disbelief. I was looking into the vast space and longed to sleep under the stars. Suddenly, I saw a shooting star and that was the moment. I witnessed the sky’s splendour.
The dog was barking (a wonder dog who saved his master from stamping on snakes thrice), soon people spotted a cobra and were taking pictures of it and showing us. I saw a small toad jumping into the grass. Ornamental trees, silver oaks and shining stars... and I suddenly felt cold in the dark night.... After a sumptuous dinner, kids dragged me for a photo session and we happily posed. Some aunties called me, “Hey, come and sit with us.” I was only happy to oblige. Never seen someone like you Sharada, it is nice to sit and talk to you. I just blushed. I felt so touched. It was soon time to depart. Aunties bade me adios, telling me not to forget them. We spent overnight at uncle’s place in Pollachi, talking about farming and his novel mechanisms. He grew guava trees just for the parrots to come and feed, not to sell them. There were poisonous snakes which lived in the farm from the last 5 years, but they never harmed.
It was time for me to get to home. I said bye to an old grandmother, a beautiful aunty and two lovely kids this morning and thanked them for all the love they showered on me. I hope to see them soon, spend more time gazing at the stars, watching birds and walking in the farm.