India is a land of festivals. Some are common to all states, some restricted to certain states. In Kerala, where we were born and brought up, we celebrated almost all festivals but as far as children were concerned, they looked forward to Vishu, Onam and Deepavali, mainly because they were free from the clutches of homeworks and other school-related botherations in view of the holidays. In our native town, Vishu has an edge over other festivals because of the week-long temple festivals enriched by the presence of four or five elephants which were the center of attraction.
Onam was a ten-day long affairâ€¦ a bit expensive for the parents as it involved the purchase of new clothes, not only for the family members but also for maid servants and their kids. But, for us (the children) it was a game of flowers of all shapes and colours.
I have only a dim recollection of those good old days and those festivals at regular intervals. But oneâ€¦ just one is still fresh in my memory. On the eve of the 10th day of the Onam festivals we were busy collecting flowers from nearby bushes and temple compounds. The responsibility of collecting flowers was entrusted to me and my younger brother because the elder one had to lend a helping hand to mother who was busy preparing certain delicious sweets and snacks.
Our baskets were full but we were still hunting for those dark red flowers which were a must for the proposed design which would decorate the courtyard. Knowing our predicament, our maid servant instructed her son who was my age to help us. He was too happy to help us that he ran to a palatial house, not far off from our area. We saw him squeezing himself through a narrow gap between the huge gate and what looked like a fence. Thereafter we could not see him. After 10 minutes or so, we saw him running, basket in hand, but chased by an elderly person. â€œIt seems he has stolen those flowersâ€, my younger brother said. I too had the same doubt. We went home without waiting for the boy, but he followed us and placed the basket full of red flowers on the courtyard and said, â€œI didnâ€™t have to pluck all these flowers. I was scared when I saw the Thampuran (Master of the house)â€. But he chased me to handover a bunch of red flowers and said â€œIt is meant for those boys â€“ I knew they were in need of these red flowersâ€.