Revisiting a tempting countryside in Kerala , its temple and the culture !

The WEE HOURS !

I was in the middle of my dreams when i realized that the sun was already out in the horizon and its lovely yellow rays were slowly permeating through the grills of my window. This half awake sleep is the ideal state to weave a dream of your own. Where you manipulate the dream, you call the shots and your sense listen to you ! “Wake up ! You are oversleeping !” Yeah , It was my mother who was on top of her voice stationed in the kitchen breaking and entering into my painstakingly constructed HUNKY DORY world ! Mothers are dangerous beings who gatecrash into your party ! They come always at the wrong place at the wrong time !  Nevertheless, I didnt had any plans to pull up my socks, wear my excercise gear and hit the yoga class . The MORNINGS ALONE ARE COOL  months in Chennai is a rare phenomenon and I was in no mood to helplessly watch it go by me. Determined to weave another dream, i sank into the cozy comfort of my bed, nestling up myself under the bed sheet. I wished  – that this moment could last longer , forever !! Like a freeze frame which will stay arrested in that moment for eternity  ! Alas It was not to be.

HEAVEN arrives late , as usual !

My dream was soon interrupted by the blaring sound of a Carnatic playback. Her not so melliflous rendition jarred into my starry eyes. Frustrated, I got my back out of the bed and headed straight to the gate to check out the ever late newspaper. Reading this english daily zipping a hot cup of tea beside me was akin to heaven. I would not be lying if  I say that i adore the letters in fine print more than the idiot box. A few moons ago, it acted as a bridge between us and the outer world when I  stepped into the furnace i.e. the board exams since our television was sans the cable connection. I was retrospecting as I walked towards the gate yearning for the paper. I was flabbergasted once i realised that the ever truant newspaper was perched right on  the gate awaiting me to pick it up. I gleefully accepted its invitation and ran back home with it in my hand.

TRANSCENDING boundaries !
I had an inclination towards perusing through travelogues since they supplanted us to beautiful locales. It gave us a chance to walk the roads, visit the places, indulge in luxuries  along with the writer as we read it ! On that particular day, It was about the Venice of East rightly known as Alapuzzha and other picturesque locations strewn throughout the length and breadth of Kerala like Idukki, Vayanad, Pallakad’s Silent Valley and many more ! Pangs of nostalgia struck me hard when I saw the captivating pictures of these locales. The undulated hills of Idukki coupled with the ubiquitous mist and serpentine hairpin bends, the pristine backwaters, and the lanky coconut trees of Allapuzha, the idol of Shree Krishna and the sense of calmness inside the sanctum in Guruvayoor ! I belong to that tribe which can easily fall prey to the slightest of  seduction. It seemed as if all these factors were conspring against me and beckoning me towards them. Eventually, I succumbed because I wanted to revisit the ecclectic mix of nature which was quite distant from the ROBOTIC Chennai.

A trip on the cards !

Like Paulo Coelho who declared in his classic fable – The Alchemist – ” When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”. This , I must say was true to the last word in my case too. I was yearning to indulge in my desire. It seemed as if all the odds were stacked against me. But as the day faded away , slowly all the odds showed signs of turning even. The next day came armed with a good news. A lesser know temple gracing my native village was awaiting its festival. The convivial atmosphere would prevail until a week. One auspicious day will witness our family  shouldering all the responsibilities , right from financing the day to chipping in with labor to make sure the day falls short of nothing.

A typical festival day !

The prayer on every ones lips would be to keep the rain gods at bay for their presence will make the proceedings a DRENCHED affair. So , God would be working overtime to make the rain clouds truant. A typical festival day in a temple in Kerala begins as early as four in the morning.

Morning !

The priest enters the sanctum after making sure that the workers have cleaned the temple perimeters. After cleaning the deity’s idol , his hands goes in search of  two small baskets in an efficacious manner. The baskets bear flowers of different color and size, plucked by another worker in the wee hours of morning. This is without an iota of doubt is a painstaking process which demands his early presence in those houses abundant with flowers. He has to wake up before the cows or the goats are unleashed off their lassos. The dexterity with which he severs the flower from the plant is admirable. After making sure that the baskets are filled to the brim , he has to negotiate the makeshift roads which till today has not been graced by tars and place the baskets right where the priest searches it for ! This routine rarely ceases and if in case the worker runs late , the priest would have already made two or three fidgety reactions. The worker who owns an everlasting smile does all this after completing his routine river bath amidst the bone chilling weather and the pitch black darkness !!

Priest’s hand comes in contact with the flowers and he decorates the idol with the petals and the sandal paste which is the contribution of another one. When the clock shows six o clock in the morning , the road leading to the temple comes alive. Most of them come to temple boarding a boat or a small kayak. Now don’t expect throngs of crowd ! The devotees are a handful who reside nearby or who has staunch faith in Lord Aiyappa. At six thirty the Deeparadhana is performed and they pray for the well being of their family and the rest of the world !

MY ROLE !

After wards the temple kitchen will become a beehive of activities. The prasadam takes shape inside the kitchen walls. The breeze carries a whiff of  WHAT IS COOKING INSIDE ! Meanwhile , if  any ingredient is missing or falling short , I come into the picture. I will be roaming alone more often gazing at the beautiful girls……..imagining what if I tied the knot with random girls !!

“Aneeeesheeeeeeeiiiyyyy………” This is what the elders break into if they don’t spot a bulky figure anywhere inside the temple or among the crowd. I would run towards the direction from where the voice broke out from in a jiffy. After receiving orders and money from them I would head straight to the jetty , board a boat and reach the MAVELI store which is located right at the beginning of the town. I love traveling in boats, not because I like the jarring sound made by its engine but since it gives a feeling that not many can indulge in it like me ! I would finish the work in a hurry, wait for the next vessel to arrive. Meanwhile I indulge in PARIPPU VADA , SAMOSA whatever is available in the nearby bakery.

AFTERNOON !

Has the most difficult part. A SADHYA or the feast . I play the role of supplier. The elders are afraid to handle me a bowls of vegetables concocted together for serving. For the reason that  I am large at heart and end up offering more than what is required. So I settle with serving water or rice or say the starters like pickles or chips. This process is a long haul and consumes a large chunk of afternoon. We all are left with bruised foot and broken backs ! But the smile and acknowledgment from the people makes us forget the fatigue.

THE NIGHT SPLENDOR !

After packing my stomach to the belching point , I head for a siesta at home ! A quick bath ( not quite ) is followed by tea and again the family heads to the temple at five o clock. Now its time for the grand gala. Temples in Kerala normally has a wall enclosing it. The outer walls of the sanctum has numerous earthen lamps bulwark-ed on a slender steel support. These infinite lamps has to be imbue with oil, a slender cotton wick and finally lighted with a match stick or another wick. Those who begin with undue enthusiasm, especially the kids see it drain them soon because the hands pain owing to the heat and the mundane action. We divide the work amongst ourselves equally and make sure that not even a single lamp inside the temple is left unlit. The sweat of our brows are in full display once it the love’s labor is complete. We cant take our sights away from the sanctum gleaming incandescently ! We appreciate each other for their valiant efforts. Some kids claim that they lighted the lion’s share of the lamps !! I nod my head  in acceptance and praise them like a sycophant !  The family unites and prays together !! Eventually the procession of the deity ensues with the percussion (CHENDAMELAM) in tow. All eyes are laid on the deity with conjoined palms and prayers on the lips !

The ubiquitous elephant part is missing largely owing to the deadlocks involved in transporting the pachyderm all the way to a land surrounded by water ! So the authorities decided to give it a go , with a heavy heart !

After offering our prayers we go to CHAYA KKADAs to munch something ! We catch up with long lost friends , neighbors and strangers ! The shops selling fancy bracelets , amulets etc become our hunting grounds.My brother and me are beleaguered by cries and pleas for bracelets and rings from the little ones. We accept them with glee !!! We while our time away gallivanting through the temple premises !!

The night falls on the village but the temple is an exception…. It is gleaming with pride and  buzzing with activity..

I am all set to relive all these moments !

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