There are only two ways to live your life. The fi rst as though nothing is a miracle; and the second, as though everything is a miracle.—Albert Einstein
Pongal (January 14 or 15) makes me nostalgic. I still recall the traditional Pongal celebrations at home when I was a young girl. My grandmother reverentially blended rice, lentils, jaggery, and rich creamy milk in a brass urn that was a family heirloom (today I still use it for this special occasion and the rest of the days it is an antique on display!). My brother and I gathered in the kitchen, and when the frothy concoction rose like a spew of lava and formed a foamy rim around the mouth of the urn, we enthusiastically chanted 'Pongalo Pongal!' (Let the Pongal boil over!) We then scampered away like sure footed squirrels only to return ravenously hungry to tuck in the pongal—it tasted like ambrosia!
My favourite in the serial festivities was and still continues to be the third day. A quaint little ceremony called kanu marked this occasion. The women prepared fi ve varieties of colored rice (made from left over rice including the sweet pongal) as an offering to birds. We unfurled elongated turmeric leaves, knotted in the end with bunches of turmeric, and shaped the rice into balls. The platter looked so inviting and colourful! I furtively checked whether the birds responded to our initiation, and sure enough, always spotted a fl ock! The symbolism of the occasion—interdependence and living in harmony with Nature— still fascinates me. It also is symbolic of strengthening bonds between sisters and brothers. Almost 24 years back, the occasion just preceded my wedding. The house was overfl owing with guests and we had an intergenerational kanu fi lled with song and dance that was even better than a Bollywood musical! Yet like its North Indian counterpart, the Rakhi festival, I wonder why only women engage in such welfare rituals for and on behalf of men?
Pongal is symbolic of new beginnings. Its origins as a harvest festival centred on thanksgiving, is still evident in rural South India. Our story on Jallikattu or taming of the bulls captures the spirit of fellowship and revelry that is traditionally associated with this festive season. This year, I directly experienced a solar eclipse (for the fi rst time) just a day after Pongal. The reality was more entrancing than imagination and hearing about it from others and seeing images fl ashed on TV and newspaper. Give me a world of sensations, any time, over the intellect!
Incidentally, our cover story on exploring a world of possibilities for children with autism, seeks to infuse this elusive element of hope and a different way of being and seeing that embraces the diversity that is humanity. The timing could not have been better.
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