I would like to warn at the very outset that this is not intended to be an elaborate commentary on Upanayanam and Choulam, as I could not keep questioning the priest at each ritual. Even otherwise, whenever I asked him to explain the meaning of some ritual, he would say, “here she comes with a paper and pen.” However, the meanings of some of the rituals could be seen here and there.
As I have already said, we had just done the grihapravesham (i, ii) of our flat and were planning to shift to the new place before we left for Kerala. Only later did we realise that the builder had some more work to finish, like the final coat of painting and the final polishing of the floor. Hence we decided to postpone shifting to a later date. However we had started the packing and were loading one room with the packed cartons.
Going to Kerala has always been exciting for me. I get lost in nostalgia. Though I have spent only ¼ of my life in Kerala, to this day that remains the most memorable time to me. We didn’t have any coffee joints or any cinema houses where we friends could get together. Nor did we have any shopping sprees where daddy’s hard earned money could be spent. We were confined to our agraharam and we did not even go to the other agraharams, unless there was a purpose. Then we had our thodu, (the stream) where we friends would meet every day and exchange stories (what happened between 6.30pm the previous day and 8.00am on that day) and had a lovely time splashing about in the water. Some of us also took along our younger siblings and taught them swimming. Our washing would also get over along with the bath. When we did not return in some reasonable time, our elders would stand outside our houses and would send word with others coming to the thodu, to ask us to come home soon “or else.” After school, we would again get together on the street, gramam or agraharam as it is known and play games of dice or I-spy, or simply run around and make a lot of noise. Nobody would check us. Then we would all go to the temple and meet others from the other gramams and by 6.30pm, we had to be inside our respective houses. No staying out after 6.30pm. There were so many events and happenings and stories to relate to our echiyamma (grandmother) and others when we came home. This was the only communication line they had. No phones; no getting together for the older women. Even we young girls had the privilege only till we attained puberty. After that it was only going to the thodu and temple. No loitering around in the gramam. Luckily for me, I left my gramam at that age, so I did not have any restrictions until I left. All these memories rush to my mind each time I plan a visit to Puthucode.
How come there isn’t as much to remember from the later years as there is from the first 14 years of my life? As usual, I always put this question to my best friend and philosopher, my dear husband. Depending on the mood of the day, he will give me a different but acceptable answer each time.
I had been going back almost every year in the beginning; actually every vacation when I was in college and also as long as our children were in primary school. It was only after I took up a full time job and my in-laws became old and I could not leave them alone that my visits became rare, just popping in for some important functions and returning the same evening.
As always, having started writing about my Upanayanam trip, I have drifted to my childhood days and Puthucode. This is, perhaps, what makes it so memorable. I don’t know if today’s children have so much to remember about the place they grow up in. Even today, when I start talking to my mother over phone, we will drift from one topic to another and finally wouldn’t discuss the topic on hand at all. Alas, that trend is fast disappearing. Today people have nothing to talk about after the cursory, “Hello, how do you do”. I sometimes feel, they are afraid they would disclose something about themselves or their family, if they talked more. It was not so then. Two people had to just meet and they would exchange everything they knew about everybody. They were not hesitant to discuss their children or family with others. Everyone accepted that every family had problems and by discussing with others they would invariably get a solution from the experience of someone or by drawing parallels. At the very least one got the tension out. I do not remember hearing of anyone having to go to a cousellor or a psychiatrist in those days. There were always friends, philosophers and guides in the gramam. It was one large family after all.