It’s inevitable. Festivals must always begin at unearthly hours, before which you are expected to wake up and take ‘head’ baths. You wake up to some devotional music playing in the background, and to your mum bustling around, who probably woke up two hours before everyone else in the house.
Over the years, most kids perfect the process of executing all ablutions in their somnambulist stupor, just to catch that extra five minutes of sleep. It's either that, or facing your mother's wrath, which is particularly heightened during these days. And you certainly do not want to mess with Festival Mom.
The Brand-New-For-Festival-Only Clothes
Festivals are also all about the fashunnn. The threadbare tee and shorts make way for some super starched kurtas and mundus/veshtis/panches, while the ladies bring out the bling with mom's saris and jewellery to match. Throw in a side parting, a bindi, and some flowers in the hair, and we've got our kurta khiladis and sari selvies.
The clothes still have that brand-new smell of the store, that mix of starch and excessive air conditioning, along with a little new fabric stiffness to them. But end results are always most pleasing to the eye.
Decorations take up a special place during any festival. It's flowers, flowers, more flowers, fruits and sweets arranged in patterns. There’s also the rangoli, or kolam as it is better know down-south, which is an age-old artistic marvel in itself. The speeds at which these intricate patterns are executed with rice powder, in part meant to be carrying on a keen scientific and mathematical tradition, and also feeding the ants while you’re at it by using a very organic material, is both humbling and fascinating.
You realise just how hard this skill is when you get enthused and attempt it yourself, and end up making a powdery mess.
The Food. Oh, the food!
Saapad, Sadhya, Oota—call it what you must.
It is the undeniable highlight of festivals in the southern half of the sub continent.
Roll out the banana leaf, cross those legs, (or pull that plastic Nilkamal chair closer to the table) and make sure those hands are clean. (slightly at least.)It’s time to tuck in!
But wait! There’s a process—sweet first, salt a little later, some pickle for touchings, and a veritable river of rice. With a stream of ghee. Obviously.
Anna, more papaad please!
The Post-Feast Nap
It’s a rite of passage. One must always, after a nice long oota session, take a nap. The duration may vary from person to person, but the nap is always taken. Always.
Breakers of this tradition are frowned upon most heavily.
Some aunties and uncles are known to be so dedicated to the task that they push the banana leaves in front, wiggle back a bit, and pass out on the spot. It’s an art that requires many decades of dedicated practice.
And the rule is that one must only ever be woken up by the smell of fresh filter coffee. Sigh!
The Money Laundering Scheme (bonus)
Kids might seem overly well-mannered and extra helpful on festival days. That normally bratty devil-incarnate kid of a neighbour seems shockingly innocent and well-behaved. This mystery is easily solved based on the number of relatives around.
A staple of every festival is older family members carrying around loose notes of money to be most generously doled out to younger members for anything from touching feet to slyly slipping some kudix in. Amounts may vary based on the task at hand, and the level of generosity being felt at that point. After a few years of trial and error, kids usually know which relatives to target.
Of course, festivals are about this and so much more. It's about family, story-telling, song and dance, food and revelry.
And even if you're the one that grudgingly wakes up in the morning, complaining about how you can't even see the Sun yet, you can't deny that there's always a certain magic in the air that makes everything worth it.