“Are you coming to get your vishukani?”
My mum shakes me out of my slumber on a Sunday morning. It is Vishu, and I am Tam-Bram, so get the picture? “Uh…okay, I guess…” I managed to mumble.
Being summoned into decision making in a somnambulistic mode isn’t exactly good for me, but mothers will be mothers. So I make the trudge to the land of wilderness, and am suitably rewarded with some cash, some silver and a fruit hamper.
Only that, to earn it, I have to first view it through the mirror, and prostrate in front of the deity. “Don’t look at it directly,” says the mother, in all innocence. I don’t have the heart to tell her that I have taken in the spoils the minute I entered the house, and I know all that is on offer.
So I do as I am told, eye the spread in the mirror, and make my baksheesh for the day. Hmm, that was easy.
But then the rituals are not always so rewarding.
On one particular day every year in early January, I think, post pongal, there is always a rude awakening by the mother (or a ceremonial call, these days). I remember it so vividly. It is five am. “Whhhhat happened?” I stutter, shaken out of my bone. She shoves a plate in front of me, lined with balls of various rice preparations. “Come, we have to go to the terrace and feed them to the crows,” she says. There is more—in the form of an enticing couplet sung to attract the crows to your morsels. May be I am a really good daughter, but I do remember croaking into the sky at wee hours of the morning to seduce.. a crow?
Some questions pop in my head: 1) Why do crows wake up so early? 2) Why bother art-directing food for a scavenger? 3) Why is my mother such an enthu cutlet? 4) Am I so low-life that I have to sing to a crow?
I ask none of them. Because I know there is a larger plan. Apparently, the crows are our ancestors, and this is one way of giving back to them. I think, if I had my way, I would invite my grandparents for dinner, instead of this crack of dawn apportioning of food. But I don’t, so I do as I am told.
There are also miscellanous smaller rituals –like wearing a turmeric stained thread for a good husband (there goes my t-shirt, I think). Or “keep this vibhuti under your pillow,” or “say this mantra eleven times..” and more such.
Once, she outdid herself when she handed me a “blessed coconut,” asking me to swirl it around my head three times before taking a shower. And to do it for eleven days or some such.
Only that I noticed aliens breeding on it after the third day, and never touched it after.