Sunday Tales –Reminisces- Navratri Golu-16
It’s another glorious Sunday–the morning started with utter divinity as we had our darshan at Jalahalli Ayyappa temple, a place where you feel you are back in heartland of Kerala! This week I had a bit of a tussle with my health and had gratefully tested negative to the relief of my dear family, so we took our blessings and expressed gratitude to the great lord.
As the week started and the famous nine day Navratri festival commenced, I was reminded of some of the wonderful times linked with these nine days. For our generation, this was a timely break after the quarterly exams. So let me share some interesting tales and life changing memories associated with my childhood.
I was studying in class nine in Coimbatore, my family was in the start of a downward spiral in our business, and we sibling with our below average marks & few redlines in the report card further infuriating the general mood. Almost the same age group friends in the neighborhood made things even worse with their poor academic pedigree. Soon my parents took matters into their own hands and they spoke to my mom’s elder sister in Srirangam, as they were more academically inclined family among all our close relatives, with two of my elder cousins being engineers to boot. The idea was to change the environment to make me more academically inclined. They readily welcomed this suggestion & in the next 24 hours’ time TC was taken and we were off to Srirangam.
At that time I simply did not understand the gravity of the situation as I was thrown out of my comfort zone. Next day morning my elder cousin sister along with my parents took me to the local school and after a simple chat with the head master, enrolled me in the class. Since my sis had studied in the girl’s high school, her recommendation was good enough to get my admission. To be honest this was in late seventies and the school admission was not a tamasha like what it is today.
To me this was a life changing experience. From a convent CBSE board school to a local high school in Srirangam!! Add to that mix was the absolute contrast in style; from being fined for talking in Tamil in that exclusive English speaking strictly disciplined co-ed school in Coimbatore to this almost unruly home like atmosphere of loud & chattering group of boys, was utterly unreal. It took me a few days to get into groove and make new friends. Everything was a change & new learning experience. Right from the morning prayer in the school, from “India is my Country (The Pledge in English)” at Coimbatore to the traditional Tamil prayer of “Nerrarum Kadaladtha Neelamadangai Ezhilozzugum” at Srirangam!!
Soon my parents left me in this new household famed for disciplined habits and a bit of fear for the head of the family –Our beloved Periappa, whom all in the family used to call as “Anna”. Fortunately for me my elder sister simply doted on me and took care of me along with my gentle mannered and kind hearted Periamma. To be honest I never felt I was in a different home as the entire family took to me, as suddenly I was the dear kid brother to everyone after being the elder brother for a long time in my own family. Well the next four year period changed me to a relatively good student from really bad one. In short I was truly blessed with this extended family also supporting me all my life.
Well it was in Srirangam, the festival “Navratri” created a impression on me. Those days our house used to boast one of the big golu in the locality with nine steps and a very nice park made below the steps. In the first year in Srirangam, this Golu excited me so much so that I did not even go back home! This feverish activity used to start 3–4 days before Navratri as the whole household joining on this preparation; erecting the nine steps, unpacking all the dolls from the loft and then setting them in traditional patterns was a real task. The preparation of the park area used to excite me as I vividly remember, in one side we used to make a temple with a pond & other side a small open zoo and a park.
The making of this park area was left to the youngest ones in the house, so my elder sis along with me were entrusted for this activity, it was a fun activity as we would bring sand from river Kaveri and then using mustard seeds and dhania seeds, created the live grass to make the park and zoo. We used to create the fencing using tender bamboo sticks. In totality this was a creative experience of making something happen for real.
So in those 9 days from about 6.30 pm onwards, we had local/street children (ie boys & girls) eagerly visiting to see the spectacle, Periamma, bless her soul, was such a warm lady, used to make a separate preparation of “sundal” (a spicy munchy dish made with variety of dhal’s or peanut) for these children and it was my job to distribute and manage this never ending crowd.
We used to have ritualistic puja followed by sumptuous lunch on all those nine days, and the evening’s will be more dramatic with all the local mamis decked in all their finery visiting each other’s houses, in the company of their equally well dressed daughters putting the present day super singer program to shame with their range of singing! Truth to be told these nine days were simply a celebration of Indian womanhood and this festive period symbolizes their indomitable spirit.
Hence for me this Navratri festival always brings those beautiful fun filled memories from Srirangam. It’s not very often you get an opportunity in life to have fond childhood memories of two different households. Also importantly Navratri or making of this Golu taught me that small improvement is the start of change, as I always remember my periamma making those small improvements on the Golu every day and of course new concepts every year.
Writing this article was pure nostalgic!! As I re-lived all those memories. So to all my extended family members, friends and any other reader of this blog I wish from bottom of my heart a very Happy Navratri & pray for happiness, good health and Joy in all your pursuits!
Let me end this treatise with this words that always ring in my ear.
“Life does not get better by chance; it gets better by Change”