Onam: The festival of flowers

Yesterday Thiruvonam was celebrated in Kerala, putting and end to Onam celebrations.

Onam is the festival of flowers, celebrated all over Kerala, a small South-Indian state. It spans over a period of ten days beginning with Atham during the month of Chingam, building up in grandeur with every passing day. The celebrations last until Thiruvonam, the final day, marking the pinnacle and the end of Onam celebrations. The nature also readies itself for the celebrations-there are blooms all around, filling our hearts with colours-colours of love and oneness.

Let me tell you a few things about Onam.

Flower carpets-The hallmark of Onam   

Traditional pookalam on a poothara

Flower carpet or Pookalam are the highlights of the celebration. Every morning, during the ten days of Onam, a flower carpet is made on the Poothara. Poothara is an elevation, either a circle or a square, usually 1m dimensions, in the courtyard. Customarily flowers are picked from the neighbourhood in a Poovatti(likened to a container to hold flowers) and children make the flower carpet. It is made as a gesture of welcome to the old king, Mahabali.

 

Once upon a time…..

An illustration of King Mahabali

The lore says that a very long time ago, a great king called Mahabali ruled over the land. The land was very prosperous over the time, when the Devas grew envious of Mahabali and approached Lord Mahavishnu to banish him. Lord Mahavishnu took the avatar of Vamana, came to Mahabali requesting for three feet of land. Mahabali happily agreed. At once Vamana grew to such proportions that with two feet measured the whole of earth and heaven. Vamana asked where to place his foot for the third time, when Mahabali, offered his head, on the condition that he would be allowed to visit his land once every year. Thus Vamana, stamped him into the depths of Paathaala, the underworld. Mahabali is thus believed to visit his lost kingdom during Onam.

 

All geared up!

During the olden times, Onam was one of the few occasions when you would get a new set of dress. Onakodi, or a new dress for onam, is worn on the day of Thiruvonam. Women wear kasavu or gold-embroidered sarees, girls long skirt and blouse and men wear kasavu mundu.

 

Ona Sadya – The sumptuous meal

Ona Sadya-Tickle your tastebuds!!

Ona Sadya, the afternoon meal on the day of Thiruvonam, is one to look forward to! It again symbolizes the affluence of the yester years, as every man, rich or poor, makes it a point to have a great meal no matter what he has to sacrifice for it. A variety of dishes are made-Sambar, Pachadi, Koottukari, Aviyal……. and they are served along with rice on a banana leaf. Paalada pradaman is my personal favourite among them.

 

Arts and Games too!!

There are various traditional games as well. Pulikkali, Thumbithullal, Thiruvathirakali, Vallamkali are a few of the art forms. Each of these is popular in different parts of the state and attracts numerous tourists. People indulge in these games after the Ona Sadya. Each of the art forms has a story to tell.

Onam celebrations have undergone numerous changes in the past years, but the essence behind the celebrations remains the same-celebrating goodness.

Why you should not wear glasses if you are tall

Primary school.  Blackboard. Ah! I always wanted to write on the blackboard. And clean it. You know, if they accepted people to clean the blackboard in any school, I’d be the first to jump in line. No, maybe not now. But if the 7-year-old me got the job, it would have been heaven for me.

Oops. I’m off the topic. Yes, Primary school and blackboard, again. It’s from there you keep copying things into your notebook. The farther forward you sat, the better you saw. In fact, I could see it from all corners of the classroom, but that’s what I thought then. No, what I thought was not wrong, it was right. There were these big, tall, bespectacled ones who always were seated in the front, blocking the view of the poor normal-sized, “unspectacled” ones seated behind them.

The teacher then shifts our places, once in a while; and the very next day, these four-eyed giants would bring letters from their parents, asking to be seated forward. And lo! It’s the same old story again, with a change of scenery. What, they have four eyes already, and that’s not enough? And why, why did they have to be so tall?

Skip to college.

Now, in college, you better not be wearing glasses if you are tall. For your own good. Students are much more likely to snooze in college, than in school according to a study. And the “glassed” ones are more likely to doze off holding on to their (false) belief that two of their eyes “never sleep”. (This is a thesis one of my teachers will be working upon, the findings of which I shall inform you in due course). Hence among the sleeping beauties, if you are taller, naturally you are more likely to get spotted and fired.

Research shows that tall guys with glasses get laid less as it gives the girl the sense of somebody peering down at you as if you are insignificant. And they are more likely to get retinal detachment. The previous two lines are BS. Obviously, I made them up.

So better not wear glasses. Or even better get a surgery to shorten yourself.

You might say there is a third option, but come on, who can put off their sleep? It’s only human nature! There’s nothing wrong in it! And don’t get me started on the benefits of sleep!

Study mode on: The choices?

Come exams, and the whole college goes silent and students into a hustle. Syllabus has to be looked into, question patterns assessed, time tables made for revision and re-revision….and most importantly, pages to be pored over !!! Essentially things are the same for all, but the habits of people vary widely.

Here’s a categorization of people according to the methods opted for study..

1. The typical: Brooding book worms

These are the ones that come to mind when you say studies or exams. Seems they were born to study. They’d be seated for hours in front of the book, and you wouldn’t see them even if you walked past. So still and silent.

Could easily transform into a vampire. They possess the basic characteristics: You would have gone for hours and they wouldn’t have moved an inch from the place. Most of them retreat to their nests, and wouldn’t see the daylight till the end of the exams.

2. Buzzing Bees: Droning devotionally

Commonly associate themselves with the phrase “I’m tensed!!” And you hear it five times every hour if you go anywhere near! Not that you would, for they read aloud in a monotonous drone, like a buzzing bee. You feel like a drill is boring into your head.

Usually no soul is seen in a ten-mile radius around their place. For obvious reasons!

3. The walkers

These are seen in plenty. Particularly on the night before the exams. They go round and round the place-probably walk more in an hour than they have done the whole week.  Serves dual purpose: mind workout and body workout!

They are the ones that need to rest most, as it’s not only their minds, but their bodies are sore as well!!

4. Birds of the same feather learn together

Commonest mode of study found in a residential facility like a hostel.  Involves division of labour and sharing of knowledge within the group. Helps to keep morales high and nerves calm. But has the potential to become a nuisance to persons around owing to noise.

Beware! The situation can easily flip into a chat center if precautions are not taken!

5. The vanishing candidate

Unlike most others who stick to a place to study, these “phantoms” can be found everywhere. They move from place to place depending on the time of the day and the kind of subject. The less interesting, the more they move. They can be found by the window now. The next moment they are under the tree. A rare find. Their life gets hard when most places are permanently occupied and there is no new place to shift.

6. The ghost whisperer

They probably evolved from the buzzing bees. They read, but not aloud. You can hear noises, no words. Chiefly, it’s their ‘s’ and ‘t’ that is heard aloud. Gives off vibes of somebody talking behind your back.

Ugh! It’s an awful feeling!

7. The auditory learners

The rarest kind.

Learning is a visual, auditory and tactile process. These seem to give their visual element a rest and put in all energy into trapping sound waves. Makes you wonder if they were audio receivers in their past life! They cannot learn unless somebody is teaching or reading out aloud. Put them alone and they wither away!

Generally seen messing around the study groups.

So where do you belong?

The empty gift-box

I recently found this heart-warming piece of story in a book. and decided to share it with the world.

A busy life had resulted in a situation in which the father was not able to spend much time with his family. He returned home late and would find his  6-year-old daughter already asleep. He would have one drink too many in the night and sleep till late. By the time he woke up next day, his daughter would be gone to school. Sundays were spent in pursuing hobbies.

One Sunday, he was going out with his friends when his daughter rushed towards him. She was upset that he was leaving her again and was not taking her along. She told him that she was making a special gift for him which would be ready only by the afternoon.She wanted him to return soon so that he could unwrap it in her presence.


But the father was held up with by his buddies and by the time he came back, it was almost two i the night and his daughter was fast asleep. Nevertheless, he saw a small box packed with craft paper in a way only a 6-year-old could do.He  lifted the box and it was light. He shook it from side to side but no sound came. He hastily unwrapped the box and found that it was empty. He was a little puzzled and tossed it aside. The next morning he was woken up early by his daughter who was all ready to go to school. She asked him with a flush of excitement if he had got the gift. He told her it was an empty box. “But Daddy, I had filled it with a hundred kisses for you!”, she said a little sadly. The father had become involved in his pursuit of pleasures that he had not been able to recognise his daughter’s hundred kisses.

-Adapted from “100 Minutes That Will Change The Way You Live!”

One small medal for an Indian, one giant leap for Indiankind…

“India has won its third medal at the London Olympics!” The piece of news is currently doing rounds in all media as I write this article. It would seem inconsequential to the rest of the world watching America and China fighting it out in the medal tally. But it is the headline in India.
A nation that boasts of 1.2 billion population, statistically should win more medals. But look at the statistics:

Venue                 G  S  B
1996 Atlanta:    0  0  1

2000 Sydney:    0  0  1

2004 Athens:     0  1  0

2008 Beijing:     1  0  2

2012 London:    0  1  2(as of now)

But most in India, are more concerned of having a living here than get medals. I consider myself fortunate that I can worry about things like my next blog post. For, multitudes are figuring out a way to get their next meal.

Perhaps people do not enter sports much as their parents don’t approve of it. Parents tell you stories of their “candle-light” study hours amidst work (in primary school!) that got them a job and earn their living. If you don’t study well, your future perishes. Sports normally doesn’t feed you unless you are that lucky one who got selected to the Indian Cricket Team. Nothing succeeds like cricket in this part of the world.
This question is a hot favourite at quizzing events: “Who was the only Indian to win a medal at the Olympics in athletics?” You hear that? Only.

But the times surely are changing.

When Abhinav Bindra, became the first Individual Gold medal winner at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and Indian National anthem was played while the tricolour was hoisted , my eyes welled up with tears. I hope,no, I’m sure I’ll hear the anthem played several more times in the coming years.
Having said it all, I am proud to be an Indian.

(Photo courtesy:www.news.oneindia.com)

Fountain pens:God bless thee!

As I flip through my notes, preparing myself for the upcoming exams, I can’t help be amazed at the change that has come over in my handwriting. I once won a prize for calligraphy. But now look at the scribble!!

I guess it is only natural for the transformation. As one pursuing my medical degree, I need to follow in the footsteps of my predecessors, i.e. develop an illegible scrawl.

Being a bad workman, I blame my tools. I scribble using some cheapo ball-point pen, whose brand name I don’t bother to remember. One day I buy a pen, the next day, it gets magically switched for my friends, or disappear altogether. There is some serious black magic going on in here. May be I need to get Dean and Sam (from “Supernatural”) look into it.

If only, I had my fountain pen!

  • I would possess the same pen everyday.
  • I would not be accused for switching pens (or worse stealing them!)
  • My notebooks wouldn’t have been hard to stare at.
  • I would have developed a sense of responsibility in refilling the cartridge every morning.
  • I needn’t go begging around for a pen during the lectures.

Oh fountain pens, you would have made me a changed woman!

Miss you. God Bless.