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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

nine nites

Navarathri days in Chennai ( Madhras in those days ) takes me a trip down the nostalgia lane .
The smell of jasmine wafts in the evening air as the cool breeze from the Marina beach caresses the rustling silk sarees of the women scurrying down the narrow streets of Mylapore in Chennai .
The nine nights are dedicated to the Godess of creativity in our country .
In Gujurat nubile teens dance to garba tunes the dandiya carrying the traditon of rasa leela and the antics of the blue God and his Gopis ,
In Bengal doe eyed idols of Durga gaze in resplendent splendour comfortable in their celebrity perches
while in conservative Chennai kollu or dolls hold the forte .
Every household dusts its collection of dolls for the annual event and buy the newest one in the market for the year ,it could be one from the epics or even one on Bush and his war on terrorism !
none was spared neither a bearded Osama nor a hansome Sanjay dutt ,they all stood in the same step as Rama or Ravana or Dasavathar set .
One never knew what would catch the fancy of the cognisentti that year !
The needed dab of paint or a langrous swipe with an old cloth would bring life to those toys woken from their year long hibernation on dusty shelves .
Rotund chettiars with bulbous shiny bellies ,delicate dolls with pixie faces animals of different hues ,an array of gods and goddesses on their respective perches ,wax fruits and vegetables ,buxom matrons carrying heavy pots in their heads in fine balance ,the varieties were plentiful ,
life was present on those shelves neatly arrayed in steps and one could feast on them for long hours .the dolls were mere reflecion of their surroundings .
To boys of my age those days it wasn’t those toys or the fine music espoused in the gatherings that were the star attraction luring us to the houses it was the delicacies on offer as prasads which were the
Chundal or steamed legumes with just the bit of spice ,a wisp of raw mangoe and bit of coconut was the ambrosia navaratri nights were known for ,wrapped in inelegant old newspaper their humid collectiveness often sat on the tongue spouting myriad tastes of multiple flavours and as one nipped into their soft flesh they broke into their nectar of pleasure .
Hot chundal could be consumed in tons .We proved it day after day or was it night after night ?
While kanchipuram silk clad matrons welcomed their fair guests with thamboola thattus younger women broke into mellifilous classical carnatic and devotional songs offering a feast fit for a king for the listeners .
The air was full of goodness the smells were divine and the sounds were soothing
Even to think of the kollu festival is pleasant today .

Dr Harimohan

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