Last year I celebrated a few of the festivals.
The year started with Vishu, the new year for the Hindu Malayalees that normally falls on April 14-th but might be on April 15-th at times. I went and got yellow flowers, some traditional fruits and arranged them the night before with the lamp that would be lit the next morning. There was nothing unusual in this. I celebrate Vishu every year. The morning “Vishukani” is seen, I go to work, come back and keep everything back in their place. The fruits are consumed, the flowers dry up in due course and finds its way into the Biomüll – the garbage for bio degradable substances. The same happened this year.
The other festivals however took up much more effort and went on for a few days.
I started Onam celebrations 10 days before with the first day of “Atham” on the Hindu calendar. The one line of athapoo or the flower carpet grew day by day to 10 circles on day 10. Each day I removed the flowers of the previous day, cleaned the floor, laid new carpet. Every alternate day I bought flowers for the next two days. From day 7, I had to buy more varieties and daily. My husband watched in trepidation as the wallet grew empty. Not expecting me to continue all days, he did not raise a murmur initially. He got caught up in it too as the days went. Separating the petals from the stem, he said “I had forgotten what flowers felt and smelt like”. While Euros disappeared, the time to create the carpet increased as well. The delay resulted in delay to work but with flexible time at work, it did not matter. The spirit stayed. My cleaning lady balanced herself around my carpet to enter the apartment and swayed on her toes to open the door with her key. On the 11-th day, a break from tradition due to office, we invited friends home and had the Onam feast on ceramic places.
On the 12-th day, I was bereft. There were no flowers, no carpet… Life was back to normal.
When my sister and nephew decided to visit, my mother warned me. “My grandson has a Christmas tree every year – make sure he does not miss it”. Thus started the scrambling to understand the culture behind Christmas trees, the conditions a tree should meet, what is the size (arguments ensued), what type of decorations and the list goes on. The shopping started. The tree was bought the weekend before he reached – a small little conical tree that neatly fit below our sloping roof. As we went out to more Christmas markts, the more trinkets I bought for the tree. I invited my friend Sindhu’s daughter to help to decorate the tree with my nephew. The two of them made it a pretty picture. So went the successful tree story – “The tree must be the most valuable thing in the house today” – declared my husband after we had decorated it.
The Christmas came, we put up the stocking that were filled by Santa with many gifts – the gleeful look on the face of the little one made it all worthwhile. The visitors left back for the normal life. In Germany, Christmas trees stay until the “Dreikönigstag” when the Magi is celebrated – we awaited the Magi too. The Christmas tree stood it in corner. Life continued for us in the rest of the house.
Yesterday, I slowly plucked the trinkets and the light out of the Christmas tree. We battled the tree to cover it up with the plastic sheets to prevent the leaves from falling on the landing or in the car.
Braving the wind and rain, we drove to IKEA where we got stuck in the mile long traffic – “Everyone is returning the Christmas tree”. My husband dragged the Christmas tree from the trunk and came back with a gift voucher.
“There was a match going on – who can fling the tree the furthest. They did not ask me to participate – because of the plastic. With that completely packed one I could have flung it far” – he said, climbing into the car. We drove back and entered the house – the corner stood empty, quiet and white instead of green and red. Life is back to normal again.