Tuesday, 8 October 2013

An Ode to an Agraharam Life.

        
         "Tradition is the Illusion of Permanence."-Woody Allen 

 There was this news which I came across recently, which is also the source of inspiration for this writing- “Some unknown Land Mafia Encroaching the Agraharams around the Fort Area”. The news said, these streets are part of Travancore heritage. Yes, they definitely are, with stories revolving around even TipuSultan, when he came to conquer Travancore. But for me, they are even more. They are more like a link to my past, and my own childhood which is not very far behind.

Looking back to those days, the first thing which comes to my mind is a vague memory of my grandparents waking up, at the wee hours of around 3:00 AM, with the tingling of the temple bells and M.S Subbalakshmi’s Venkateswara Suprabhatham in the background. My Grandfather was a disciplinarian who did his daily activities with time precision. 4:00 AM was his time to go to the temple and the whole family had to be awake by the time he leaves. Anyways I was an exception with all privileges of an only granddaughter in the family until then, and I was only 4 or 5.I could sleep until my uncle would start pinching and irritating me trying to wake me up by 8:00 AM :):). I don’t remember getting ready to school at all, as I used to do that half sleeping, all credits to my dear grandmother :)

This is a very sweet memory that I hold on to strongly. The house itself was a double storeyed narrow, tiled house. You could go one room after another in a perfect straight line which ended up in the backyard where the bathrooms were. There was no front yard or gate. Once you stepped out of your house, you would land on the main road. But there was no fear of any vehicles back then. And we children used to play in the streets. The biggest vehicle you could find was a scooter. Of course there was a doctor in the street who had a car. But that was it. The street itself was lined up on both the sides with similar houses all along flaunting a decorative beautiful kolam drawn with rice flour on the door fronts.

There was nothing like big privacy in them. Often we could hear raised voices from the adjacent houses. But did they matter? I guess people didn’t bother much as they had a kind of extended family feeling amongst them. Everybody knew everyone else’s relatives and friends. Even I had a lot of my relatives around in the adjacent streets. 

Come any festival or any auspicious day, all of them would gather at our house and there would be lot of group cooking and eating activities. Bear in mind there was not much space as we have now in our big houses and yet there was so much joy, contend and happiness. 

Pongal was always spirited with unannounced competition among the ladies to make the most beautiful, colourful, and complicated kolams in front of their doorsteps (on the road: P). Aromas of sharkara pongal and other delicacies accentuating the mood…Navarathri also was celebrated with a similar spirit right from the setting up of golu, and mutual exchange of goodies and homemade delicacies on all the nine days. In short there was this sense of joy, togetherness, love and compassion bonded by strictly religious and pious traditions. It was a certain mode of life of a community.

Today, when I go back to the area, I see lot of known faces all withered up. Most of the fresh ones have long gone and settled in far and foreign places. The withered ones still hold on to these rich and pious traditions. But the colour which should have been bought by the young and the youth are long gone. Most of the people including me, are busy, having no time for personal life let alone community or social life. This I feel has made people a lot self – centred. A totally new flat culture is on the boom, bringing with it a new kind of culture and life style.

It pains me more still, as I recently lost couple of my relatives from there which put me thinking, some 20 years or so down the line... with most of my kith and kin scattered across the world…I am afraid, I will be alone.. longing for all those dear ones who had raised me, cared for me, loved me and looked after me. And as I read the news article, if the agraharams are also wiped out…, it strikes me off guard, that there would be nothing left for me… to boast of my childhood and all the loving memories that I have painted with these streets as a background.

The canvas itself will be empty…!!! Moreover whether it’s mine or not, is it not a tradition or culture being wiped out slowly……….????