Greetings to all those lovely Malayalee women who are celebrating Thiruvathira today. Essentially a ladies festival, while most of the customs and rituals followed during olden times remain extinct due to obvious reasons, I find that by and large, the spirit of this festival is maintained even today.
Come Thiruvathira, and my mother starts off on a nostalgic trip. She travels to a time when Thiruvathira was celebrated with a lot more of enthusiasm. The day started off well before dawn with a group of family members consisting of ladies and children setting off towards the village pond to bathe in its wintry waters, singing special rhythmic songs, and starting off the day on a happy note. The early morning Shiva temple visit along with other ladies (siblings,cousins,friends) was something they looked forward to. Rice and rice products were abstained from and the diet was kept simple with wheat items like upma/kanji accompanied by a puzhukku (a dish made of tubers, red cow peas, raw banana, coconut, etc) and fried pappadam. The highlight of the meal was the sweet prepared from fresh arrowroot powder, jaggery, and coconut scrapings called Koova Payasam. The meal was served in fresh green plantain leaves in a very auspicious manner. Afternoons usually saw groups of ladies assembled in the tharavadu, for the thiruvathirakali session. In her aged mind, all the fun and gaiety she used to be a part of, as a child, and later, as a young woman, are still fresh.
I have a confession to make. I do have fond childhood memories of a Thiruvathira spent with cousins and relatives in the same village, but then I don’t share the same enthusiasm of my mother when it comes to observing rituals.
Today, Thiruvathira seems to be more about draping myself in a Kerala saree to the workplace, gorging on hot chapathis and yummy Aalu gobi for lunch instead of the mundane rice and sambar. Thiruvathirakkali that is being telecast in TV doesn’t interest me and I have absolutely no idea about what all plants constitute the ‘Dashapushpam’. As for waking up at an unearthly hour in the morning to bathe… heaven forbid! I seriously do not have the time or inclination in the morning to cut up all those tubers and veggies to prepare puzhukku, which is hardly a personal favorite. I do relish the sweet and sticky Koova Payasam, but no force on earth can make me take up the laborious process of converting the fresh arrowroots into powder form, and finally stand hours in front of the cooking stove, stirring the mixture to its gooey perfection. … I salute my mother and all the ladies who still go about all these tasks cheerfully. But I am sorry, it just isn’t my cup of tea.
Maybe I am getting to a point where I have started disregarding a lot of our traditional customs and rituals for the sake of convenience. Perhaps it has got to do with the fact that unlike the previous era, there is no ‘fun’ element anywhere, since most of the festivals are celebrated alone sans the company of children, siblings, cousins, extended family, or friends; Perhaps I detest moving away from my set schedules and lifestyle, even if it is for a single day; or perhaps I am just too plain lazy!