Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pongalo Pongal

My early morning sleep, you know the shallow drowsy sleep just before you have to wake up, a sleep where you dream and you know that you are dreaming, well, it was momentarily disturbed with the sound of my cell phone beeping a text message. A message from my friend wishing me 'Yen iniya Pongal nalvazhthukkal' (Happy Pongal!). It is always nice to get a cheerful greeting first thing in the morning.

Pongal - our harvest festival. Like New Year, it is the time for a fresh start for anyone and everyone who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. When I was in India, Pongal meant the following for me: it was four days of school holidays. A visit to Thatha & Paati's house at Ashok Nagar. Poojai performed with Appa for Sun God. The festive atmosphere all around with colouful kolams, decorations and everyone dressed up in their best attire. Feast on chakra pongal with extra nei (ofcourse with Vadai and payasam). Watch Pongal special - Dindigul Leoni's nagaichuvai pattimandram (debate) - on Sun TV. People burning random things on the street corner on the pretext of bhogi. Kabali, Karpagam Gardens' milkman, brining his gho on Maattu Pongal. Last but not least, Pongal's real hero, sugarcane!

After Diwali crackers (Lakshmi vedi, Atom bomb, 10000 wala, the lot) and SB, sugar cane would be in the list of things I miss being away from India. Ahhh...sugar cane. The beautiful black/purple colour, sweet taste, its inherent candy smell - I/we could keep chewing it till our jaws and/or incisors gave up.

Choosing the right sugar cane is also the key. The anatomy of a good sugarcane, apart from its colour, is the length between the joints. The longer the length between the joints the better. Also, we have to watch out for spoilt ones. They have reddish streaks inside them and it tastes sour. Some people prefer to peel sugarcane's skin before eating it, but we are so allured by it that we start eating it straightaway!

Out of all this Pongal memories and experiences, enjoying sugar cane with my cousins, sitting in veranda, spitting the karumbu shakkai on the old newspaper haphazardly placed on the floor, chatting, pulling each others legs, is probably the defining image of Pongal for me. I long for those to days to come back and I keep those memories very close to my heart.

Here's to another year of peace and happiness and, of course, good harvest for our farmers.

Happy Pongal!

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