Vishu musings


kani njanaane ! (its me)

the morning of Vishu would arguably be the most serene time of the year for hindus in kerala.thats the day when the new year is ushered in,in a very unique way – as a celebration of the bounty and harvest themes.

three aspects of celebrating vishu are ‘kani’ – or the first thing you see in the morning (no pun here),‘kaineettam’ – elders and earning members of the family give money – usually silver coins from travancore bank outlets – to well, the rest of us. And the last is ‘padakkam’ – crackers (happens usually in kochi – malabar,in southern travancore we do it during diwali).

Vishu used to be the harvest season for guys like me ,with all the kaineettam adding on to our lean revenues of the year.An average haul of a couple o hundred rupees meant more movies,more WWF trump cards,more hotwheels and cd rentals,more ‘sharjah’ shakes and meat puffs (which were later replaced by UB and ITC products).

Years after, kaineettam seems to have lost its lure and a nostalgia of Kani has set in.The serenity of that early morning time when you are woken up by grandma(eldest women member of the family – take note ,kerala is outright matrilineal – women rule) ,she closes your eyes and walks you down the corridor to the dark pooja room where kani is kept.You open your eyes to see pure abundance of nature and human endeavour . There used to be all kinds of flowers , silver coins,tulsi leaves, mango,jack fruit,plantain,a big yellow cucumber, sugarcane , jaggery ,harvested crop,betel leaves,gold ornaments,the ramayanam text……..manythings i cant translate,few things i cannot remember and most importantly the “konna” flower – the yellow flower in the picture.(its the national flower of kerala – moronically called cassia fistula). All the above will be arranged in a round mouthed bell metal vessel called “uruli”. The only light in the room will be the bright oil lamp with its five flames burning and the sandal wood ,camphor and rose incense sticks saturating the air around you with that ancient smell of the mystic.

You open your eyes to see the krishna statue in full glow of the lamp and you see yourself in the mirror kept adjacent to the gods statue.The mirror is another uniqueness you find in our temples like sabarimala – nothing serious,it just means “its you” .Its early in the morning by all standards(around four in the moring,nowadays half past eight is traumatically early for me after daylight savings,late night outages etc) and you are in some rich ancient dim lit world.Its just the flame of the lamp that speaks to your just opened eyes,its serene,ancient and generations of tradition seems to blanket you in there.

Well, then you put some ash on your forehead and get the hell out of there,sip that early morning coffee with milk powder -hate that – as ‘milma’ booth by the corner wouldnt have opened by then and start comparing how much money your younger bro has collected by then ,gets emulous and goes back to same old mistakes.

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The yellow ‘konna’ flower raids every expatriate malayalis deepest nostalgia.I remember ONVs scrap about a malayali crying in front of the consulate in UAE on beholding a ‘konna’ tree after years in exile.

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about the picture.the mischevious child and a bunch of konna flowers,who will spread more happiness,which one of those will make our year,seeing those fresh flowers or her wicked smile and illegible talk,which one will make us just let go…which one is the actual ‘kani’

kids are outright fun and big timepass to be with provided they dont bite on your chest,call you all the ‘bad words’ you’ve taught them minutes back and delete java files from your comp….

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