Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Nadavaramba Palli Perunaal

I want to start this blog post with two caveats this time.

1. This is going to be one hell of a long post
2. A lot of domestic affairs are to be discussed in this post and nothing of the intellectual kinds.

So, if you are still interested please read on…

While I fully well understand that the blog post heading itself does not make sense to anyone else other than me, I can promise that I will unravel the mystery of the title as we progress into the blog.

This post is about the terrific weekend I had during the last weekend ( 30th April and 1st May 2011) at my cousin’s place, where I was smothered in love by my aunt and cousins, pampered by my brothers & their wives and felt like the little kid, I once was, when I frequented this small town in Kerala’s Trichur district called Nadavaramba.

Nadavaramba is a humble little town near Irinjalakuda ( to be pronounced with a typical nasal twang of the Malayalee). Irinjalakuda is my dad’s hometown and has a railway station to its credit, which was opened recently. There is a little bit of confusion about the name of the station, which is commonly called Kalletumkkara. Nadavaramba is just 10 – 15 mins away from Irinjalakuda.

Nadavaramba is the place where my grandfather has married off his youngest daughter named Kochannam. My Dad is the youngest in the family and Kochannam is the youngest among the daughters. My aunt has 6 children which gives me 4 lovely brothers and 2 lovely sisters. We used visit Nadavaramba during every summer vacation. I remember playing with everyone. My older brothers Johnson and Paulson used to be very nice to us. Jaison was my age and he was the rogue and I distinctly remember him fighting with me once. In fact, he fought with me and threw ‘Charal’ on me. Charal is the coarser and bigger version of fine sand that you see near the seashore. Nadavaramba is rocky region and there is no fine sand there. I also remember throwing a tantrum to my parents saying that I do not want to stay there and would want to go to Potta. Potta is where my maternal grandparents stayed and I still love the place with all my life.

Potta needs a completely fresh blog post and I definitely have to do one on it.

The younger one’s there are a little milder which includes the girls ( Maries and Annies) and Vinu and they are mostly well behaved. The girls were all married off quite early and the last and the youngest of all my Dad’s side cousins put together, Winson ( aka Vinu) was married in 2009 and that was my last trip to Nadavaramba. Vinu and his wife Ria have a very cute son now who just completed a year last week.

The older two cousins ( Johnson and Paulson) were in Bahrain for ages and while I was in high school and college used come home at least for a week during their holidays every 2 years loaded with so much of gifts that I still think no one in my life has given me so many gifts. It is not the money value of the gifts, but the very act of choosing the right ones for every one in the family when they themselves has so many relatives in Kerala. Even during those days ( 2 decades back) our family was special to them and they were special to us.

In fact, to me, Johnson and Paulson, were the older brothers that I had longed for in my life. I always wanted to have an older brother, while I only had a younger one. They taught me and Viju ( my younger brother) to write Malayalam by insisting that when we write to them to Bahrain ( those were the days of snail mail) we have to write only in Malayalam. They used to correct our letters, add jokes and liberal dosage of sarcasm and send back the parts with mistakes, by cutting and sticking them in a new sheet. I used love receiving letters to them and we used to correspond regularly to them until I got married. Marriage brings in a lot of changes and I guess I was trying to cope with everything and lost the constant touch with them, only for a short period and I think it was Paulson chetan’s sickness which brought us back together.

I remember Johnson Chetan’s wedding, all of us went from Chennai and I was studying in Stella Maris College then. Johnson Chetan’s wife is Vincy and I have to call her Vincy chechi, which sounded funny first and now after 19 years, it does not. All my cousins are married now and in the Tharavad, my aunt and Jaison’s family live together ( Sheeja, Jaison’s wife is such a sweetheart), The older ones have built their homes at a stone’s throw away from Tharavaad. The younger one Vinu lives in Ernakulam where he works.

Paulson chetan had to return back to India after his kidney problem worsened a couple of years back and Jaison went to Bahrain. Paulson Chetan had his Kidney transplanted and was on rest for more than a year and he is now getting back to normal.

The last week was very special to my aunt’s family. There were a lot of reasons to cheer. 25th April was the blessing and veneration of their new church in which all of my cousins play an active part, 26th April was the 19th wedding Anniversary of Johnson chetan and Vincy chechi, 27th April was the first holy communion of Joel and Justin ( Johnson chetans third and Jaison’s only child), 28th April was Rivin’s ( Babloo is his pet name and he is Vinu’s and Ria’s son) 1st birthday, 30th April was their patron Saint St. Sebastian’s feast, which in Malayalam is called Perunaal. A perunaal is a feast of the patron saint of the church.
The St.Sebastian's Church at Nadavaramba

Now I guess the title “Nadavaramba Palli Perunaal” makes sense. Palli in Malayalam, in this context means Church. Palli could also represent a mosque.

The "Pradhakshanam" ( Procession)
Now more than that, Jaison and Johnson chetan had come down to India from Bahrain for their two month vacation after a gap of 2 years, and It was during this time last year that Paulson chetan had his surgery for transplanting his kidney, and for all us, this time denotes his rebirth. And these guys, especially Paulson chetan had called me and Joe and had asked us to block our calendar after Easter, to come to Nadavaramba to be part of their week long celebrations, not just once, but so many times. While we both enthusiastically agreed initially with a strong will to go there if not for 6 days, at least for a couple of days, later reality caught up, Joe was busy with work and he could not take off and I had taken a month’s leave and didn’t find it right to ask for leave again within a couple of weeks. So we dropped the idea of going there with definitely a heavy heart – To me meeting these people is meeting your own blood and they shower so much true love. They are extremely caring.

On a day prior to Easter, on 23rd April, Paulson Chetan and our dear Minnari, ( that’s the pet name of Veena Chechi, his wife) called and gave me a earful and a stomachful. I felt really really bad, They gave us some 6 months notice and repeated reminders whenever they called and here we are, not ready to go… I thought the long and short of it and decided to go at least during the weekend.

I waited for the Easter celebrations to die down and told Joe about my decision and he was only happy to send me ( as long as I didn’t ask him to accompany me, he didn’t have an issue). To any other house in Kerala, I wouldn’t want to go alone, but to these people’s house, I didn’t have to worry. And I managed to get tickets to reach Irinjalakuda ( onward by bus and the return by train, thanks to Joe’s efforts) and till Thursday, my tickets weren’t confirmed and the ongoing pilots strike didn’t leave me much options with the flight.

And on 29th after my sessions I boarded the Volvo bus to Nadavaramba alone. And I hadn’t told my cousins about my trip as I wanted it to be a surprise. The journey was quite good, except for the feeling that the bus will jam into something anytime, looking at the speed of the bus. In fact I reached quite early and managed to surprise everyone, every single person in the household. Every one had a similar set of questions, you came alone?, how did you come? Where are the others? Why didn’t you tell us? Where is Joe and Denny?. Some hit me lovingly, some hugged me, some rapped me on my head, some simply smiled and to me they all were such assurances of  being loved deeply, even after so many years..

After the initial questions and confirming multiple times that I have done the right thing, they set terms as to how I will spend the next two days.. Breakfast in Tharavad, Lunch in Johnson Chetan’s house and dinner in Paulson chetan’s house and the same next day. And thus it went.. I became a little girl once again, back into my childhood and gave into the pampering, love and affection being showered on me, especially by the 2 older ones. They kept watching over me like two mother hens.. The others were no better.. especially my aunt and the two older chechi’s. They wouldn’t allow me to do any work. I was checked on multiple times about whether I had food, sweets etc., etc., at least 3 times ( once in every house)

The Palli Perunaal meant “Ambu” or the “Arrow” being brought to every house, accompanied by a decorated Kuda (Umbrella), special prayers at home with the ambu kept at home and taking it back to the church in the evening as a procession laced with Crackers, fireworks and the entire neighborhood lit up in decorative lights. I had the privilege of carrying the ambu of Paulson Chetan’s house with Veena Chechi to the church and leaving it at the altar. Every house is also decorated with “ Kodi” or a flag mast made of “VazhaPindi”, ( trunk of a plantain tree) and the competition there is about whose Kodi looks the best. I had the opportunity to help decorate two Kodi’s and the one at the Tharavad was done by the kids and Jaison, which definitely was the best.  Here is a picture of all three Kodi's

We burst crackers, had traditional Syrian platter for Lunch and Dinner with the specialty dishes of Thrissur – Meen Curry ( Fish curry in coconut milk), Pothu fry ( Syrian beef fry), Pork and Kaaya ( Pork Fry with raw Nendhiran Plantain) and chicken fry. Puttu ( aka as battery by my cousins) is the speciality breakfast of my cousins and we had that as breakfast both the days. The other specialties include Vatteyappam, Kuzhiappam, Avulose podi and lot of sweets. The married girls with their husbands came and every house had at least 15 members and it was so nice to be part of such a big group – and especially being introduced to everyone as “Madrasile Achante Magal” ( The Madras Uncle’s daughter) an identity that I had forgotten for some time. I am only used to Dennu’s Mom, Joe’s wife, Leadership Performance Consultant, Satyamite and such stuff these days. It was nice to be called “Madrasile Achante Magal” and I would have been introduced at least 50 times like that. And the best part was internally like in the cartoon “Rose is Rose” that comes in The Hindu every day, Rose turns into high tech super woman some times and a small kid when she talks to her mother, I felt I was turning into that little girl when someone introduced me as “Madrasile Achante Magal”. Cheap Thrills of life.

What a difference it was – no laptops, I did not even carry my mobile ( actually left it in one house and completely forgot about it), flocked by my little nephews and nieces ( 10 of them to be exact, among them only 2 cute girls Joselyn and Merlin) and my sis-in-laws, talking, smiling, laughing, playing, pulling each others’ legs, remembering good old times, bursting crackers. Life was bliss for the last two days.

My aunt put her foot down and said I have to be in the Tharavaad on the last day, which I willingly obliged and had breakfast and lunch with her and went with the entire pattaalam to Church in the evening and took part in the ambu procession. I could not participate in the evening prayers after procession, final cracker show and could not see the “ Natakam” a drama staged after Perunaal in almost all churches in Kerala. I should not be complaining about the cracker show as Paulson chetan called me on my mobile and made sure I heard the bursting sound of crackers to complete my Perunaal experience. Where else can you find such fine brothers?

Both the guys called me multiple times to ensure I am safe in the train and have stopped calling only after they have ensured I have reached home.

Two days of complete bliss, fun and happiness and I feel so thrilled to have such a wonderful extended family which is such a rarity in today’s world. It was good to forget the metropolitan life, the masked smiles, non controversial conversations, corporate fundas, high tech IT world, maintaining etiquette, scientific gadgets and be with simple people with simple Joys, experience innocence and love and be what we are without having to put on an act in front of others.

I left this little town with a heart full of pleasant memories, gratitude for a wonderful family, real big grin and wanting to stay on there for just, just another day more. That reminds me I will be back in Irinjalakuda for Joel’s (a second cousin) wedding in May 2011, which could be topic for yet another long blog post.

The Nadavaramba Palli Perunaal rocked !!!

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