Saturday, January 15, 2011

First Post of 2011

Happy New Year 2011 (and yes, I know it's already 2 weeks into the New Year.)

And, Happy Pongal, to those who celebrate it. I've been wishing all my near and dear ones a Happy Pongal every time that I pick up the phone in the last couple of days.

To what purpose ? I wonder. Does Pongal mean the same to me as it did when I was a kid travelling to the village with my parents, staying up in the early hours of the night helping with blotchy kolams on freshly washed packed mud floors in the central courtyard of the house? Or trying to pet the drooling calf tied up to the stone mortar in the corner with a small block of hay to munch on, while the cows trotted out through the front door on their field foraging for the day? Or the coughing and teary eyes that ensued from feeding dried palm leaves to the mud brick stove on which the large brass pots filled with rice cooking, waiting for them to boil over for 'Pongalo pongal'?

I'm very far removed from the agrarian roots of my father's boyhood days in the village, and can create no semblance of all those sights, sounds and smells in my urban kitchen. Even the pongal is a starkly utilitarian, ultra-hygienic recipe, with prewashed dal and rice, brown sugar from bags, instead of jaggery, melted butter instead of fresh ghee. Small wonder that the taste never matches up to the original that I used to partake of in my grandmother's house.

And yet, the urge to wish all and sundry a Happy Pongal still persists. Who am I kidding, is it for me or for them? It's for the memories that the word conjures up, I guess; and can't pass on in any direct form to my kids, except in these brief reminiscences, should they ever deign to read them some day.


kochuthresiamma p .j said...

you dont get jaggery in the US?

festivals from childhood memories - - what intense nostalgia they cause.

we cannot but be apologetic about these festivals in this dry age of rationalism. very sad.

Sujatha said...

Oh, jaggery is available in the Indian grocery, but it is rock-hard and needs a hammer to crack it, after the low humidity in which it is stored. I usually use a little bit for the flavor and fill in for the color with brown sugar ;) Short cuts abound when one is pressed for time.
The golden days of yore will soon just be memories to be shared, as time passes and the village becomes more urbanized.
I still remember the Milky Way that I could see from the village house, sitting on the front doorstep in a cooling night breeze.
Today, the view is blocked by a new 2-storeyed house and power lines, and there is a blindingly bright street light. Nobody sits out after dark, preferring to stay inside to shut out the never-ending exhaust fumes from the buses passing by.