undesirable elements

The sun was already shining bright by the time we left the temple. I was very worried, because I prayed to a diety and I am not supposed to do that. I consoled myself by thinking that I didn’t say ‘bhagavan, please bring my father back’. I just said please bring my father back. May be I will go to hell for breaking the commandments. I was thinking of all the possible punishments I am entitled to, then I saw an open jeep coming along on the road, with one person holding a mike and the other throwing colourful pamphlets out.
Akkachi and I stopped in our tracks and watched.
vallamkali, vallamkali, ennu uchakku. Nadubhagam chundan, payippadu chundan, varunvin varuvin, nattukare vallamkali kanan varuvin”
(snake boat race.come and watch the snake boat race)
When the jeep reached us, they stopped and the man with the pamphlets in his hand got out of the jeep and personally gave Akkachi a blue colour pamphlet.
pengele nee varumallo?”. (sister will you come?). The guy with the megaphone asked. Everyone around looked at Akkachi and I saw Akkachi blushing. She dropped the pamphlet down and held my hand and dragged me. I wanted to pick a pink colour pamphlet. Akkachi didn’t let me. She only let go my hand when we reached the post office junction.
“Akkachi, Have you ever watched a boat race?
“Yes Nina, I watched the Aranmula boat race”
“What do they do?”
“You have never watched a boat race before?”
“No Akkachi, I have never seen a boat race”
” You should see the chundan vallam(snake boat) race. The boats, the songs, the rhythm, I can’t explain the feelings to you Nina. You have to watch it, you have to be a part of it, then you will know.”
“Can we go and watch today?”
“if your mother allows”
“hmm”
“Do you know the vanchipattu(boat man’s song)?
“No”. I shook my head
“Your Ammachi didn’t teach you?”
“No, she only taught me the rabban pattu(rabban song)”
“Then you should learn the song”
“Will you teach me?”
Akkachi sang the song

“Kuttanadan punchayile
kochupenne kuyilali
kottu venam, Kuzhal vanam
Kurava venam

Oh thithi thara thithi thara
thithey thaka they they tho

Para kettan alu venam
kodi thoranangal venam
vijayashree lalitharay
varunnu njangal

Oh.thithi thara….

Karutha chirakulloru
arayannathe pole
kuthichu kuthichu payum
Kuthira pole.

oh thithithara..

By the time we reached the collectorate junction, I was exhilarated. I may not have an ona sadya today. I may not have athapoo. But I felt happy. When I belted out the vanchipattu song with Akkachi, my heart was racing. There was no way I am going to miss the boat race.

When we reached home, Amma had already made breakfast. She made french toast. I was very hungry. I ate the no sugar one egg/loaf of bread, french toast without any complaints. Amma was getting ready to go out. She was pinning her favourite kancheepuram saree to her blouse. I felt the timing was perfect. I knew Amma won’t say no. She can’t say no.
“Amma, Can we go and watch the boat race?”
Amma stared at me, and I looked at her. We were ready for the war. Both of us knew, there is no single winner today. I could see anger in my mother’s eyes. But I felt happy, because I knew I am going to win today.
“Ok, go and watch”
I quickly turned around, so Amma won’t see the winning smile on my face.
“Akkachi, Amma gave permission to go and watch the boat race”.
Amma took her hand bag and walked out saying,
“I am just going over there, I will be a bit late”
“Amma”, I called after her, knowing very well that it would annoy her. My mother firmly believes that, when you call someone as they leave the house, it is a bad omen.
“What is it Nina? How many times have I told you not to call me when I am about to leave” She was livid.
“Sorry Amma, I forgot. But I need money for bus fare”
Amma took a 5 Rs note from her hand bag and threw it infront of me and walked off. I didn’t feel offended at all.

Amma didn’t bother to close the main gate. So I went after her to close the gate. I looked around my neighbourhood. Almost all the houses had an Athapoo( flower carpet) near the entrance. Our house didn’t have one. Amma has a good garden. But I knew, I would be pushing too far, if I pluck flowers from her garden.
I saw Akkachi going to the banana thicket and I knew what I could do.
“Akkachi will you let me have a banana blossom?”
“For what? It will stain your hand”
“I want to make an athapoo,. I don’t want to take flowers from Amma’s garden. So I will use a banana blossom and make athapoo”
Akkachi started to laugh.
“You never give up do you?”
“No, after all I am Methran Thambi’s grand daughter.”
“Nina, people will laugh seeing your banana blossom Athapoo!.”
“let them, but Mahabeli will not laugh at me. He will understand that I did the best of what I can”.
Akkachi cut a banana blossom for me and together we opened few of the purple bract. It now resembled something like a lotus flower. Victoriously I walked to the main entrance and planted my Athapoo.
paingili, what are you making ?”
I looked up and saw Akashavani’s son leaning on their gate and watching me with all the curiosity a teenager could have.
“What I do in my house is none of your business!”
“Is that a Malaysian style Athapoo?”
poda marathalaya”(get lost dead wood)
“Why, my paingili is getting angry? I saw your mother leaving earlier all dressed up! engottanavo ??(going where eh??)
“What my mother does is none of your business”
“yeah, you should understand, this is a good neighbourhood, we don’t want undesirable elements spoiling our name”
I couldn’t take his insults anymore. I ran all the way back inside my house. I hated my mother that moment, more than anything else.

Chandu.. Will you help me translate the Vanchipattu??..Vijayasree lailitharai..is kadichapottatha malayalam for me

26 thoughts on “undesirable elements

  1. My mother would always say that we should not call anyone back once they leave the house.She would also get mad if we did. Did you get to see the boat race.Sarah maybe u would like to confess to the 5 things you have in your freezer, closet, car and purse.You just missed being tagged because u were the fourth one.

  2. you write so very well sarah..amazing!

    I quickly turned around, so Amma won’t see the winning smile on my face.
    wow..so real..i could almost see a little girl!

    as for undesirable elements, our land is full of them pigs!

  3. yippeee I learned the ‘thoni pattu’ thanks to u…am singing it right now,seeee…

    “Kuttanadan punchayile
    kochupenne kuyilali
    kottu venam, Kuzhal vanam
    Kurava venam

    Oh thithi thara thithi thara
    thithey thaka they they tho

    Para kettan alu venam
    kodi thoranangal venam
    vijayashree lalitharay
    varunnu njangal

    Oh.thithi thara….

    Karutha chirakulloru
    arayannathe pole
    kuthichu kuthichu payum
    Kuthira pole.

    oh thithithara..:))

    hey can u mail me your mail address…i seem to have lost it

  4. the kuttanadan song brought back so many memories…i have sung it with my uncles, my friends at several onams and any other occasion when we were all drunk and having a good time.

    as always…u have another touching story to tell us.

  5. I really felt like hitting that marathalayan with my bare hands !!!! ~fuming~

    I have never seen a ‘Vallamkali’. Having only spend abt 8 yrs of my life in Kerala (that too a cocooned existence) never got to experience the essence of being a Malayali..

    Wondering if u made it to the vallamkali.. Wana knw how it felt..

    πŸ™‚

    ..Me

  6. Nothing as enchanting as the boat race and vanchipattu. I think the tourism dept is yet to exploit the full potential of this. Well-written piece!

  7. the vanchi songs are the best–such a beat! My father was from Kuttanad area and knew quite a few songs. In fact those must have been one of the last songs that I sang for him.

  8. ‘poda marathalaya’. lol. Yup, lots of them around too. Idiots!
    Reading your blog makes me feel terribly upset sometimes..to think I have missed knowing and experiencing such a rich culture despite originating from it. And angry too, at my grandparents for failing us in a sense.
    I’m taking note of all these places that you mention here. Some day when I go to Kerala (soon, I hope), I want to see them for myself.
    Thanks Sarah..thanks so much..for bringing Kerala alive to me.

  9. You literally took me back to Kottayam. How I wish to be back there, with my friends and take the daily Thirunakkara-Collectorate-Kotoor river walk! And the Vanchippattu!
    You are making me homesick!

  10. Thanu: Malayalees especially had knack in tht dept.. kanjilu thanne pattene kondu idum

    jac: !

    Starrynights: I managed to see the boat race.. and will do ur tag!!

    Mind curry: Thank you and I agree completely

    Shankari: thank you

    maya: tht song increases my heart beat, each time I sing it

    Neihal: you should see it..the excitement is beyond imagination

    Dawn: thank you

    Jiby: I still sing tht song, (one of the reasons..why my neighbours think I am mad)

    Rose: Kerala is an extra ordinary place. I have never seen anything like this..I am proud to be a Malayalee, proud to be part of that culture..

    Sujit: Visit Kerala, during onam.. you will be in a magical land for 10 days..

    Pradeep: I know I sound selfish.. but I don’t want the tourism dept to promote this.. once it gets commercialised, then it will lose that charm.. that innocence..then it will become yet another dollar making venture.. Thsnk you for visiting my blog.

    I love Munich: Next time when you visit India.. come to Kerala.. you will feel the rhythm..

    Techno: honestly..no idea

    Hillgrandmom: I only know this song.. there are other songs too?? Please teach me..

    Cynthia: When i read what u wrote.. I felt bad.. I am doing exactly what ur grandparents did, to my children. I haven’t even taught them Malayalam..

    Chandu: My usual round was balabhavan library, thirunakkara ampalam, post office, vidyarthimithram, 70 feet road to collectorate junction..Now come to think of it.. I walked a lot!!

    Q8tech: My god.. yes.. i remember tht..

    Mathew: when I write, I am reliving those moments…and Thank you

  11. Kuttanadan punchayile
    kochupenne kuyilali
    kottu venam, Kuzhal vanam
    Kurava venam

    Oh thithi thara thithi thara
    thithey thaka they they tho

    Para kettan alu venam
    kodi thoranangal venam
    vijayashree lalitharay
    varunnu njangal

    Oh.thithi thara….

    Karutha chirakulloru
    arayannathe pole
    kuthichu kuthichu payum
    Kuthira pole.

    And the translation is……………..
    β€œDear maiden from the Kuttanadan fields, get the drums, get the trumpet, get people to decorate the house, here we come victorious.
    Our boat is speeding in the waters like a black swan, like a gallopping horse…………..”

    And my dear, I have been walking around the town for at least 5 hours each day to finish our weekly reporting assignments. The timings range from & in the morning t 2 in the night.
    Shall I quote you?
    “Now come to think of it.. I walked a lot!!”

  12. Chandu: thank you so much for the translation!!! Atleast now i can teach my kids the song..they asked me to translate.. and I myself didn’t know most of the meaning!!! and yes u can quote me!!( boss chadikkumbol, njan onnun arinjille rama narayana nnu parayum)

    Visithra: yes,Kerala is beautiful.. But somehow i like the monsoon and the harvest period the best

  13. Sarah – I have been on leave from blogosphere for a month. I came back and am updating myself about your world. It feels even more wonderful when I can read the stories in stretch. I guess when you get done, you should think about publishing it. great work!

    And a small addon to the song:
    I guess I used to hear it as “Karutha chirakulloru
    arayannappida pole”
    (translates to “like a swan maiden with black wings”) – Maybe its recited in different manners across kuttanad – This was the way it was sung in Mancompu-Nedumudi premises.

  14. Thanks for the vanchipattu, it brought back some good old memories! I seem to remember it slightly differently though…

    Karutha chirakulloru
    arayanna pida pole…

  15. Hi Sarah,

    It was really nice to read your blog. I found a longer version of boat race song.

    Kuttanadan punchayile
    kochupenne kuyilali
    kottu venam, Kuzhal vanam
    Kurava venam

    Oh thithi thara thithi thara
    thithey thaka they they tho

    Para kettan alu venam
    kodi thoranangal venam
    vijayashree lalitharay
    varunnu njangal

    Oh.thithi thara….

    Karutha chirakulloru
    arayanna pida pole
    kuthichu kuthichu payum
    Kuthira pole.

    Oh.thithi thara….

    Tholvi ennenthariyatha
    thala thazthan ariyatha
    kavalam chundan etha
    jayichu vannu

    Oh.thithi thara….

    Pampayile ponnonangal
    odi vannu punarunnu
    thanka veil nettilinnu
    pottu kuthunnu

    Oh.thithi thara….

    Thengolakal ponnolakal
    odi vannu punarunnu
    thanka veil nettilinnu
    pottu kuthunnu

    Oh.thithi thara….

    Champakulam pallikkoru
    vallamkali nerunnalu
    ambalapuzayiloru
    kuthu vilakku

    Oh.thithi thara….

    Karumadi kuttaninnu
    pazani kavadiattam
    kavilammakkinnu rathri
    (?)verura kuttam

    Oh.thithi thara….

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