The athappookkalams, which were always well begun. We lost steam half way through and the result was a hastily finished sorry looking pookkalam. But the pookkalams we laid out in college for the inter-department contests stay fresher in memory as did the flowers.
The happy mess that the kitchen became on the night of Uthradam in preparation for the Onasadhya the next day. The snowy mounds of freshly grated coconut on bright green banana leaves waiting their turn to transform into avial, thoran, kichadi and coconut milk for the next day’s payasam. It was one of those rare occasions when I saw the menfolk hang around in the kitchen, I don’t remember what exactly they did, but they were there.
Not that I helped much, being the kid in the family, other than being everyone’s errand girl or babysitting my nephews and nieces, but I loved being around everyone. Hearing the latest social developments and filmi gossip. Singing along with them those beautiful,evergreen Mallu songs. Somehow the deliciously sour green mangoes being finely chopped for the mangacurry always managed to make a disappearing act between the knife and the bowl.
The highlight of the cooking the next day was of course making the payasam in a huge, makeshift wood burning stove outdoors and everyone taking turns to stir the huge uruli of payasam. Getting the adapayasam just right was an art in itself.
After all the work was done, my mother saw to it that the house was spanking clean before she went to bed on the eve of Onam. All the remnants of the vegetables in the kitchen swept away, no inauspicious objects like shoes, brooms or dirty dishes anywhere in sight.
The sleepless night when I could barely sleep from all the excitement of getting to wear all those Onakkodis the next day and moments of fitful sleep when I thought I heard the gentle footfalls of a methiyadi…
Somewhere along the way, Onam lost its charm and turned into just another day… a bothersome day actually when I had to make a sadhya. It became a chore rather than a labor of love and everything seemed to have lost its significance. I seemed to be doing everything out of a sense of guilt or obligation. Till a couple of years back… when I realised that I was depriving my children of their share of the sweet pomegranate. Things changed with that realisation.
In the midst of running around to find the right costume for the kids’ dance at the Mallu Association Onam celebration, I did manage to infuse some Onam spirit into my girls, even if it meant I had to make up my own Onam related words to the tune of ‘On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…’ before I taught them Maveli naadu vaaneedum kaalam…
Our sadhya might be dinner and not lunch anymore since the local public schools do not have ‘Onam’ in their list of holidays; we might eat the sadhya off paper vazhayilas at best or scoop payasam out of Styrofoam cups; the coconut milk for our payasam might come from cans and the uzhunnuvadas for our kootu curry from a frozen box; our pookkalams may not have thumbappoo or kakka poo, but daisies and petunias look just as beautiful in a pookkalam; living in a house made of wood might stop me from leaving my lamp lit and unattended all night long… but I am quite sure that Maveli can still find his way to us and in the dead of the night, if I listen carefully, I would hear once again, the soft footfalls of the methiyadi.
Happy Onam to everyone everywhere who is Mallu by heart!