December Memories

December to me is the most happiest month of the year. After growing up in a lushly green yet sleepy village where time almost stood still in the rice-rich Palakkad, the month simply evokes in my mind myriad images.
The sight of very many pilgrims clad in black, blue and of late orange, all readying to go to Sabarimala for pilgrimage… The mornings & evenings were greeted by Ayyappa devotional songs….
I love the December weather. Mornings are chill and the evenings are cool. Throughout the day there is the strong eastern winds blowing along the Palakkad Pass. This has come to be known as the “Palakkadan Kaattu” (meaning Palakkad’s wind). You feel the wind against you the moment you enter the district from either via Walayar or Kuthiran hills – sometimes caressing, at times a little too strong…
The strong breeze bringing in dry leaves especially of teak and its dry flowers and fruit laden branches, which will fill the courtyards…
The emerald green rice fields swaying to the rhythm of winds making gentle waves. What a spectacle is this from the nearby hillock called Karivottu Mala!
The full Malampuzha Canal, the waters of which are released to help the farmers water the paddy fields for the second crop…
Trees laden with drumsticks and gooseberries…
Beds of Koorka Kizhangu or Chinese potatoes. The taste of Mummy’s fry made of these tubers still lingers in my palate…
The hyacinth bean or Avarakka with its purple flowers and green bean pods climbing on to the trellis. Sambhar made of this kind of broad beans and the bean fry are just delicious…
Arrow root, the powder of which is used to make a sweet porridge for one of the most important of festivals – Thiruvathira, which falls on the full moon day…
Walking along with my siblings and my grandmother on Thiruvathira day to the Thripallavurappan temple with a tray full of goodies for the Lord – tender coconut, bananas, betel leaves, agarbathis, camphor and the like…
The dry reeds in the hillocks around that reflect & glow golden yellow at dawn and dusk… There is pure magic in the December air!

December is also the month when the world celebrates Christmas. Houses and shops are all decked. One very clear memory is that of lot of big balloons with ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’ imprinted on them along with the pictures of Santa! Christmas star is even to this day an integral part of our household, though we are Hindus. The last five years have seen us setting up the Christmas tree replete with decorations and coloured lights. It gladdens me to see how secular we have grown to be. We used to send out so many cards  for Christmas & New Year by snail mail. When my daughter Aathira moved into the middle school, she developed a keen interest in making her own greeting cards using water colours on chart paper cards. Now all that has become part of the bygone era. Today it is just e-cards, tweets, status updates – all sent through the click of a button or the swipe of a touch screen.

And one of the best Decembers in my memory is of 2000 – when we, my daughter and I, spent almost all of December in Munnar as my daughter was preparing for her class 10 examinations. Though we had a month of winter holidays, we decided to stay on at Munnar and go home briefly around Christmas time to celebrate my daughter’s 15th birthday with her grandparents. The crystal clear night skies  decked with thousands of twinkling stars… The joy of finding an occasional shooting star… We used to switch off all the lights and sit on the step gazing wondrously at the enchanting spectacle of the sky… The very cold mornings which did not deter us from taking our morning walks…  The morning teas which had to be literally gulped down to savour it hot… Simple joys and pleasures galore!

One of the finest books on Christmas that I have read is the Christmas Carol. I enjoyed it even more when I taught it for my class 10 students. It was a great opportunity to acquaint impressionable minds with timeless values. The story of Scrooge, a miser who becomes a different man when he is presented with visions of past, present and future by the ghost of Marley makes it such an endearing read. Christmas celebrations at school … and listening to some of the most beautifully rendered Christmas songs by Jim Reeves… Plum cakes… Cakes with icing…

Finally the best thing about December is that I became the mother of a lovely girl in this charming month. She was born on 27th December; on the full moon day on which we, Hindus, celebrate the festival of Thiruvathira. Rightly she is named Aathira.

So, those are my very own December memories. What are yours?
Am signing off with wishes to each one of you for a Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

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Desiderata

Holiday season is around. It is the season for festivities, celebrations and reunions. It is also the time to look behind and beyond for we are at the threshold of a brand new year. There is a lot of turmoil all around the globe. Am sure there are a lot of good things that happen around the world. But we get to know more of the bad and the ugly possibly because the media absorbs them like a sponge and showcases them in all limelight.

Let us introspect for a while. How good was 2012 for you? Can you list the 5 best things that happened to you? Or the worst that has happened to you / what went horribly wrong? What could you have done better this year? Why did things go the way it went? Before an event we plan everything so that the event happens smoothly, without hitches and glitches. So it is with the new year.
Plan ahead.
Pay attention.
Do your best. Leave the rest.
Have Hope and Faith.
Believe in yourself and in everything you do.
Smile a lot. It is good for your body and spirit.
Silence the inner critic in you. Be kind most of all to yourself.
Let go of the past. The hurts. The troubles and travails.
Forgive and forget. It will release the demon, the prisoner in you.
Be compassionate. Judge not. You or others.

Finally let me leave you with this very positive credo for life. I came across this thanks to a dear friend Giribala Menon, way back in 1988, while working as an English Teacher in Chinmaya Vidyalaya, Pallavur. Those were troubled times for me personally and the lines were like a soothing balm on my frayed nerves. I must have read them hundreds of times! Called “Desiderata“, it was written by Max Ehrmann, a poet and lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana, who lived from 1872 to 1945. It has been reported that Desiderata was inspired by an urge that Ehrmann wrote about in his diary: “I should like, if I could, to leave a humble gift – a bit of chaste prose that had caught up some noble moods.”

The word Desiderata, a noun, is the plural of desideratum (1650s), from Latin, lit. “something for which desire is felt,” from pp. stem of desiderare “to long for”. It means things wanted or desired. May these lines be a beacon of light whenever you walk along dark alleys and ride on troubled waters.

(I am using red and green for those are the colours of the festive season!) 🙂

                                                                 DESIDERATA

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

© Max Ehrmann 1927

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Xmas