After much convincing (and some mild threatening/fit-throwing) I had dragged my family to the Chennai Sangamam in Venkatanarayana Road on the 13th. To cut a long story short, it was brilliant, something that one doesn’t see too often in the city. It was probably the closest that one back home can get to an authentic Village Thiruvizha. The crowd however, was extremely large and my mother immediately began fretting – Kozhandhellaam kaanampona enna aardhu? Yaaravadhu kidnap pannita? (what if one of the kids get lost? or get kidnapped?) to which my father, like always, had a reply – “Yevan kidnap pannaporan unoda pasangala? Apdiye panninaalum avan rendu naalula bondi aayiduvan. In case tholanju pona…” (who’s going to kidnap your brats? Even if someone did, he’d become broke in a couple of days. In case they get lost…”)
“Tholanju pona?”I interrupted. “Oru kudumba paatu vechukalaama? Na tholanju pona edathulerndhu paadren, vandhu kandupudipeengalaa? Ilena oru dollar-a renda odachu…” (Get lost? Shall we have a family song? If I get lost, I’ll sing it from one end, will you find me? Or shall we split a pendant into two….)
“I was going to say I’d call you on your cellphones, but andha kudumbapaatu idea pudichirku. Edhavadhu TR paatu set pannikalaam!”
However, before we could actually decide upon a family tune, the sound of drums beating blasted our ears, the evening had begun. The performances were something none of us had seen anywhere, except maybe in Ramaraj’s Karagattakaaran movies. What was amazing was the continuity of the performances, how they followed one another in an extremely smooth flow, we just didn’t have any time to look away from all the colour.
There was this one particular performance of Dappankoothu which was noteworthy. Upon further investigation, turned out these gentlemen were from the very prestigious TASMAC school of dance. However, the performance had to be cut short since one of their key dancers (and singer) had the sudden urge to run towards the nearest dustbin and stick his head in. Which was a pity, because they were extremely entertaining.
At around 9.30 pm, we had to leave since my sister was really really hungry and when she is really really hungry, she tends to snap at people and talk like a rhino with a stomach disease. Hence we had to cut our little field trip short and head towards a restaurant nearby since the queue at the food stalls looked like it’d take next Pongal for us to get anything to eat.
On our way back, there was a line of Jakkamas (Fortune Tellers, usually old women). I had always always wanted to get my hand read by a Jakkama. Even my sick-rhino-sounding sister was intrigued. The Jakkama took my hand and let a deep sigh, in an attempt to sound mysterious and all-knowing and took my right hand.
“Unoda raasikku…“she began. “Aayisu getti….padippu, velai elaam nalla varum, pannathukku korachalle illa…” She looked at my face for a minute and continued “Amma appa sella ponnu ma nee….Mangalam on vazhila vardhu…..Ameriga-la settle aava ma..amma appa sandooosama irupaanga” she finished with a special flourish on the sandoooooosam.
(For your sign, long life…education, work will be good, you have always been spoiled by your parents, auspices are coming your way, you’ll get settled in the US, your mom and dad will be verrrrrry happy)
My father, who was standing next to me hearing the whole thing with a rather amused look on his face, quietly handed a 20 Rs note to me to give her, which I dutifully did.
As we walked back to the restaurant, I was still on my good-prediction high. What disturbed me was that my father still had this cheshire cat grin spread on his face, which was quite undutiful-fatherly since he was supposed to be happy in a non cheshire cat way if his daughter had a good prediction.
“Nalla vishayam dhaan sonna la? Apdi enna sirippu unakku?”
(She said nice things right? What’s the grin for?)
(Didn’t you notice?)
“Ava frauddu di. Ponnungalakku left hand dhaan paakanum, ava baatukku thapaana kai-ya paathundu edho olarina, nee vera adha nambitta. Mothathilla 20 Rs donation.”
(She’s a fraud. For women, you have to see the left hand. She just said something and you believed it. On the whole 20 bucks donation)
Like I said, an almost magical evening.