Onams of ‘salt carpet’

One more Onam passed by. As usual the television was filled with stories of nostalgia – celebrities talking about Onam of their childhood and how much it has changed over the years. Stories of plucking flowers and playing on the swing etc. In my childhood, we seldom had a traditional floral carpet for Onam. We did not have any flowering plants in the yard and we could not afford to buy flowers from the Onam market. So what we did instead was buying crystal salt and packets of color powder that came cheap.

The first and probably the best artist of the family was my second brother Varghese who is not in this world anymore. It was him who started putting floral carpets for Onam and cribs for Christmas. We all would wake up early in the morning of Onam day to help mixing the color powder with crystal salt while my brother would be drawing the structure on the yard with a string of thread and chalk. We would occasionally put up a real pookkaLam (floral carpet) with Mosantha flowers which were found aplenty in one of the neighborhoods. Ladies of the family would get busy in the kitchen by the time we finished the pookkaLam. Next thing to do would be eating the boiled banana. After that we would head to the neighboring houses to watch TV. There were not many new movies on TV in those days and there was only one Malayalam channel by Doordarshan, but one of the neighbors would play VHS tapes of Malayalam movies that they brought from the gulf. The ‘celebrations’ would mostly end with sadya at noon, though we did not have more than 4 items for sadya.

The ‘salt carpet’ was also a regular in my school, S N Boys High School in Kanimangalam because most of the students there came from ordinary or poor lower middle class families. The kaLam there was much bigger than what we put in our houses. It filled an entire class room bordered with the wooden benches. One kaLam design I remember is of Hanuman bringing the sanjeevani and it was the largest kaLam from my memories. The salt carpet has a disadvantage though. A salt carpet is easier to put the design together than a floral carpet but it would begin to melt after sometime and the colors would merge with each other, But it was a work of art.

Times have changed and I don’t see the salt carpets anymore. The flower market now thrives in the Onam days and there are ‘flower kits’ which is a mixture of all flowers and it costs much less than what you buy in kilos, so nobody prefers the salt carpet anymore I guess. Crystal salt also seems to be a rare thing these days as people have moved on to powder salt. I wish I had a camera or found someone who had one to take a photo of the salt carpet,  which I would call the poor man’s pookkaLam.

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you, your family, friends and all the human beings in the world all the blessings and peace that this Christmas season brings. Merry Christmas everyone!

(My nephew Anthony and niece Minna Rose looking at our crib yesterday).

Thrissur Pooram 2010

Another Thrissur Pooram has passed and we had a wonderful time this year too. The heat did affect the crowd a bit but the people did not seem to mind it much. I went to the town with a couple of my friends and also clicked some photos. To those of you who don’t know what Thrissur Pooram is, go to the Wiki page and read.

Thrissur Pooram

Municipal Corporation of Thrissur distributes butter milk for free in their stalls, such as these, which is a big relief for those who get thirsty in this hot climate.

Pooram is a festive season for pickpockets too. The police force has put up big flex banners in and around the city, such as these, with photos of the known thieves with the warning "Beware of these people" and police phone numbers to report crimes.

Pooram sale

Inside the Vadakkumnathan temple. The famous Elanjithara Melam had just begun.

A view from Vadakkumnathan Temple

Elephants are a big attraction to the visiting tourists during the Pooram days, becaue you can see so many of them roaming around the city in these days.

During the Elanjithara Melam

I couldn't get close to the Elanjithara Melam, but the music being played was so addictive that all the hands were raised to catch up to the rhythm

Another shot from Vadakkumnathan Temple

Vadakkumnathan Temple

Almost all Malayalam television channel crew were present there

Thrissur city at night

Brightly lit buildings of Thrissur in the night

One of the "Panthals" of Thrissur Pooram

The second "panthal"

And the third one

There were small Poorams coming to the city from the surrounding areas at night

I was amazed to see so many local astrologers and card readers around the city. Men and women. Mostly older people. They were sitting in one line and they circled almost a quarter space of the city! And yes, they had many customers even in the night time!

Paramekkavu Temple in the night of Thrissur Pooram

Pooram exhibition is also a major attraction of Thrissur Pooram. You can spend your time visiting and shopping in this exhibition center while you wait for the early morning fire works.

Happy Vishu!


എല്ലാ മലയാളി സുഹൃത്തുക്കള്‍ക്കും ഈ വിഷു ദിനത്തിന്റെയും പുതു വല്‍സരത്തിന്റെയും നന്‍മയും മംഗളങ്ങളും നേരുന്നു.

Pictures of Thrissur Pooram

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I just went to see the Pooram tonight with my friends. The city was still alive and filled with people. Families come to see the Pooram at night. There were small Poorams coming to the town from different Desams. We walked around, occassionally clicking the photos in our mobile phones. Here are the pictures that I took.

Panthal at Manikandanal (Kuruppam Road Junction)


Panthal at Naduvilal (M G Road Junction)


Panthal at Naikanal (Near Dhanalaxmi Bank)


Elephants passing by




Vadakkumnathan Temple at night


Thrissur Pooram


When the Goddesses of Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady meet in front of Vadakkumnathan, Thrissurians wake up to Thrissur Pooram, a festival filled with colors and music.

You have so much to see and hear in the two days of the festival. Start with the Panchavaadyam of Madathil Varavu. The heat would be so unbearable, but you would ignore it when you hear the legendary artists performing right in front of you (by the way, if you want to hear the best Melam artists performing, come to Thrissur Pooram). You will see many foreigners on the road but don’t be surprised if one of them told you that they came from BBC or a French or American television channel to cover the program. If you did not want to miss the Paandi Melam of Paramekkavu, walk past the cheering crowd to the Sreemoolasthaanam of Vadakkumnathan Temple. Pause a bit on the way to listen to a team performing Naadaswaram. Enjoy the music a little and if you are thirsty, have a glass of sambhaaram from the near by houses or stalls that supply it for free. Rush along to hear the Paandi Melam and on the way collect all the goodies you get for free – the newspaper, butter milk, a paper cap or a handheld paper fan to beat the heat. Watch around while you walk, you would see some of the famous elephants in Kerala (or perhaps in the whole of India). You might just want to stop and see their elegant look with all the ornaments.

Rush inside the Vadakkumnathan temple after you are done listening to the Paandi Melam at Sreemoolasthaanam. The Elanji tree awaits you to treat with the famous Elanjithara Melam. Sway along with the crowd and their waving hands in the air, cheer at the peak of pleasure that only music can bring. Then head on towards the Thekke Nada to watch Kudamaattam. Keep your heads up in the air, while you watch the beautiful umbrella exchange, or else you may not be able to breathe properly among the lakhs of people around you. Give a smile at the TV cameras in the area, your friends of family watching numerous TV channels which broadcast Pooram live may get to see you on TV.

It is not time to leave yet. There is a grand firework ceremony in the early morning next day which is a very famous part of Thrissur Pooram. So you can either hop over to a cinema theater nearby to watch a Pooram special midnight show or check out the Pooram Exhibition. I would suggest that you take a walk in the Swaraj Round though. To smell the pooram. The smell of Pooram consists of the Panthams (cloth lanterns) lit in the night and of the aana piNdam. 🙂 You would also get to see many small Poorams entering in the temple throughout the night. So don’t even think of sleeping at night. In the early morning, open your eyes and ears for the grand fireworks ceremony and then those of you who comes from outside Thrissur district may want to leave. Because the second day of Pooram is for Thrissurians to see.

People have different reasons to love Thrissur Pooram. Some people come to see the elephants (some would even call them by names. You will hear comments like  “isn’t it Paramekkavu Rajasekharan?“, “Thiruvambadi Kannan looks elegant!“), some like the melams (orchestra), some people like the Kudamaattam, some prefer the fireworks etc. I love Pooram for the Melam part. And to see the strangers smiling at you and sharing what they saw in the festival city. That mixture of people from different parts of the world, celebrating pooram together is one thing that’s so special about Pooram.

PS: Take the necessary precautions like you would before going to any place in India were people gather in masses. Watchout for pick pocketers or eve-teasers and beware of sexual harassment (don’t even think about bringing your woman folk in to the crowd, unless you find a safe place to sit) .

(The photo at the top was taken in 2005)

Christmas notes

(That’s Minna Rose and Anthony, my sister’s kids with the Christmas tree)

So the Christmas is over. And like any other after-festival days, I feel gloomy and sad for some reason. It was so enthusiastic and pleasant yesterday. One of my sisters came over with her children. I arranged the Christmas tree with the kids and put all decorations. Made the crib, hung a star and lit up everything. By the time I finished, it was already the evening. I called up my second sister, wished her Christmas greetings and in between came my third sister with her husband. Just as we spoke, I had the best Christmas gift which was a phone call from an old teacher of mine.

I had mentioned the name of Renuka teacher here in my blog before. She used to teach Physics in my highschool. She took special care of my singing and had even spent money for my music coaching while I was preparing for the sub-district youth festival competitions. Without a proper training in music, without a Godfather or a person to support my music, I stood no chance of winning in the light music competition, because even the “light” music had to sound “karnatik” in order to secure a prize (I don’t know how much that situation has changed these days in the school youth festivals). So Renuka teacher sent me to a music teacher to teach me a light song and I won the second prize with an A grade and 5 marks (meaning I and the person who got the first prize had the same marks).

After a long time, I met her again in the school and she had become the school’s principal by that time. We talked and she told me that she remembered a few lines of a poem that I wrote for a school competition, which was years back. She even recited a couple of lines and asked me, “so did you find out that girl yet?”. I laughed and was surprised, because I was beginning to forget that I used to write poetry. And that particular poem, I never remembered that at all. And it taught me one thing – the moment you get past your seemingly stupid romantic notions of life and try to measure it with logic, intellect and all that, you turn out to be a robotic material and life in that way sucks, really. So never ever kill that child in you who dreams about talking to a fairy who stands at the tip of a flower bud.

So this teacher called yesterday and it made me so happy to talk to her after so many years. She said she wanted to call ever since an article about me appeared in Mathrubhumi newspaper back in 2005, but couldn’t get the phone number. Then she got my mobile number from another friend of mine, but I had changed it before she called in that number. Finally yesterday, she got the number from the same friend and she made my Christmas eve full of joy…

I went to the midnight mass, perhaps after a long interval of 6 – 7 years. There was nothing to gain spiritually from a crowded church. The church was all packed and people were partly sleeping or staring at others or at their own finger tips, scratching their backs etc to keep themselves awake, except for the other part of people holding their hands together and chanting the prayers. But the church was good, socially. I could meet some of my old acquaintances here and there and pass on a couple of words with them.

On the way back home, I had to piss off my friend, whom I accompanied to the church, over some silly arguments. And that got me thinking, what is the use of building up all that politically-correct, logically-perfect arguments when you cannot really manage the connection between a friend and yourself? Sometimes, it would be good just to give up your thoughts and listen to what your friends have to say, even if that is plain baseless accusation on your character, if that would make them happy.

This thing called emotion is really very strange. What hurts me more is not when somebody hurt me by hurting me, but when I hurt mysef by hurting someone else.

Those Christmas days…

Merry Christmas

December is the month that I love the most. The climate is nice. It is cold in the mornings and nights. It is breezy throughout the day. The sky is always blue and the days are shiny and sunny. There is no other time of the year that would refresh your mind like December.

Then there is another reason to be cheerful during this time of the year – the Christmas. The houses are lit with the stars, the crib and it’s decorations. There is music in the air. However, I miss those old Christmas days. The days when my brothers used to make Christmas crib and tree. It was my late second brother who begun with making crib in our house. He was an artist and his skills showed up. We would put the crib in our veranda. At nights, we used the candle lights to lit up the crib as we did not have electricity in our house. We used to wait for the Christmas carol teams to come home to see Santa. The interesting part was to find out who played Santa as it would be mostly someone from the neighborhood.

The best were those days when you used to decorate your crib with your brothers and sisters when you were all together. The best were those days when you went to those midnight masses in the cold nights and used to sing the hymns in the Church without thinking too much about the concept of religion and God. The best were those days when you wished “Happy Christmas” after the Choir to the girl on whom you had a huge crush…

I miss those days badly. And I need that happiness and innocence of Christmas back. I need that good ol’ Christmas back…

Wishing you all the joy and peace of Christmas…

(Image courtesy: timesofmalta.com)

4th ViBGYOR Film Festival – Call for entries

ViBGYOR Film Festival ThrissurViBGYOR is an initiative of the ViBGYOR Film Collective, which is an open coalition of various networks and groups, representing indigenous people, dalits, youth, and sexual minorities and addressing issues of war, conflict and peace, human rights, environment and development, culture and media and globalization.

4th ViBGYOR International Film Festival
Date: February 4-8, 2009
Venue: Regional Theatre Campus, Thrissur, Kerala, India.

We are happy to announce the 4th Edition of ViBGYOR Short & Documentary Film Festival to be held from February 4th to 8th, 2009 in Thrissur, Kerala, India.

We invite for PREVIEW your Documentaries, Short Fiction, Music Videos, Animation, Spots & Experimental films (Micro films, Mobilephone films etc) for the upcoming edition. You may send the works made in the past 3years but not been entered at ViBGYOR before.

Documentaries are invited to the following categories:
1. ViBGYOR Theme Packages
 Gender and Sexuality  Dalit Reality  Indigenous People  Globalisation
 Nation State  Fundamentalism v/s Diversity  Region Focus –Pakistan
2. Focus of the Year: FOOD SOVERIGNTY
3. Global Concerns:  Human Rights  Health & HIV/AIDS  Migration

Last Date for film submission–NOVEMBER 30, 2008 Continue reading 4th ViBGYOR Film Festival – Call for entries