Saturday, August 02, 2008

A Welcome August

- By Janaki Krishnan

As the month of August arrives, I remember my childhood years and the pleasant memories of my student life at SIES High School, Matunga. As students, we always welcomed this month, which is full of festivals and holidays.

It usually began with Independence Day on 15th August. A week earlier, students of our class would collect money (4 annas per head!) to buy coloured paper and balloons to decorate our classroom. We celebrated the historic day by hoisiting the national flag, and singing patriotic songs. My favourite was Bharatiyaar's Viduthalai, Viduthalai (Freedom, Freedom!), a song proclaiming equality in Indian society. The other popular song was Muhammad Iqbal's Sare Jahan se Accha (Better than the whole world). But for us children, the highlight of the morning was the sweets distributed by the teachers at the end of the function.
Independence day of 1948 was special for us. That year, in the evening, my father took us by tram from King's Circle to VT to watch the city celebrating the first anniversary of India's freedom from British rule.
The tram fare was 1 rupee or so, but it was well worth it to see the grand illumination all over the city. All the big buildings were lit up - the black sooty mills at Parel, the railway yard, the Times of India building, Municipal Corporation and the grand Victoria Terminus. I remember seeing lights all along Hornby Road, and I think we rode right upto the last stop of the tram, the Prince of Wales Museum.
There were several other festival in Augusts that we celebrated. For Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala, we gathered at the school early in the morning, and decorated the portico with coloured flower petals. On Narali Poornima or Avani-Avattam, school was closed. On this day, menfolk went to the temple to purify themselves of sins committed through desire or anger. The old sacred thread was discarded, and a new one was worn, chanting kamokarsheet (It was desire that made me do it!). This ceremony was performed before the commencement of the study of the Vedas, after the monsoon break. We children enjoyed a grand feast.
By the end of the month, Gokulashtami would arrive, when we joyously celebrated the birth of Lord Krishna at midnight. The day was spent preparing prasad for offering to Krishna for his midnight visit. Four of us - my elder sister, myself, and two of our brothers - sat around a clean white dhoti to make cheedais. My mother gave us a big mound of rice dough, and we rolled it into little circular balls. My mother watched and admonished us if the balls were not uniform. Later the balls were deep fried into a delicious golden brown. We also enjoyed going from lane to lane, to watch the Govindas break the dahi-handi. In the evening, the house would be decorated with rangoli. Tiny feet of the Lord were drawn leading into the house, guiding Him to come in and partake of the offerings.
Even today at 73, I enjoy the arrival of August. I go to my school as an ex-student, to participate in the flag hoisting. My grandchildren join me at home in celebrating Onam, Avani Avattam and Gokulashtami.


Anonymous said...

Nice post.Your enthusiasm at 73 is lovely.We love Krishnaashtami because of the various bakshanams that are prepared at home - like thattai, karachidai,vella chidai kadalai urundai, appam etc. My amma is very particular that none of this is to be tasted unless it is amusified to kichommachi or krishna as he is fondly addressed. Tall Thuukus (containers)would contain all these savouries and be stored in a place that was out of reach, when we were kids; even then we used to find out and empty the contents within a few days.Talking of Bharathiyar's pattu, you can listen to Unnikrishnan's renderings of the same if you are interested. I am in my thirties but eagerly await Independence day as my appa would bring back lots of toffees( earlier we used to call them anju paisa mittais)after the flag hoisting at his office. Though avani avattam is a festival for the menfolk, I love it as i get to see my father in the panchakachham and namam and all that. I thoroughly enjoy being born in a Tamil Brahmin family.

Rada said...

Bombay during the '50s and '60s surely would have been a wonderful city to live in!

They closed down the tramlines in 1964, didn't they? As a child I had a Managarams sweet box on the cover of which was V.T Station with trams leisurely moving past...


Ravi Ramakantan said...

>>I go to my school as an >>ex-student, to participate in the >>flag hoisting.

Wow!! See you on the 15th. Mm.:-)
We missed you on Feb. 24th.

Anonymous said...

How nice to read your memories...Thank you!

Anonymous said...

you have two elderly persons sitting.One with Iyengar tilak is pandit or your grand father? I am an ex-student of SIES

Anuja Iyer said...

Your sister whom I met on a train joirney from Hyderabad to Bangalore suggested the site as well as the blog.

Makes a really interesting read

Remembered all the festivals we celebrated as kids...

Being a Palakkad Iyer married to a Kashmiri Pandit , I wonder how many of the festivals I would celebrate now , which I enjoyed as a kid

Maybe a mix of both worlds !!

Anuja Iyer

Shreedhar said...

Its just awesome to find you here, Janaki teacher! If I remember correctly you were our Economics teacher back in 11th/12th grade in SIES Junior college that was part of SIES school. I also fondly remember Mr. K R Krishnan (known to us as KRK Sir) as our Math teacher - he was one of the most effective teachers to teach Math.

One of my personal highlights back in school days during '80-'82-'84 during Kamala teacher's tenure as school principal, was to sing Mohd. Rafi songs such as Baiju Bawra's Man Tadpat, and participate in carnatic music competitions, etc.

I also recognize Deepa from the photo. Hope you all remember me :-) So good to get back in touch.
Best wishes.

SRIDEVI C V said...

Hi Deepa, This is Sridevi, Roopa's classmate. I am sooooooo.. delighted to see Janaki Teacher and you all of course but missing Roopa. Where is she? what is she doing? Hope you recognised me. What about Krishnan Sir? Please convey my regards to all..and if possible mail me back @
I am settled in kuwait.