Communal

Growing up in Kerala, I could not wait for my school holidays. It was time for  “communal” holidays. My relatives from from various parts of India showed up and we gathered at my father’s  thravadu (family home) in a small town called Palghat. From dawn to dusk, kids played, sang songs and climbed fruit trees. In the summer, eating raw mangoes with a dash of salt and chilly powder was a daily occurance, until one got sick. Throughout the day we were fed delicious treats and seasonal fruits (mangoes, jackfruit, gooseberries, sapota and tender coconut) by our elders and urged to drink lots of coconut water. In the summer, running off to the pond to take a cold dip among lotus flowers was exciting. It got even more exciting if one ended up getting bitten by small fish or saw a small snake swimming in the pond. Things got a bit tense if cousins decided to push a non-swimmer into the pond hoping while in distress, one would end up swimming. At times, it was succesful, but not always. These holidays not only brought us together as a large family, it gave us an opportunity to catch up with births, deaths, weddings, good and bad news. It was time to show off one’s new spouse too. It was also time for match-making. Well meaning aunts and uncles would go out of their way to convince parents of young men and women, that the time had come for their children to tie the knot. The more well off families gave the elders money to ensure everyone was taken care of. Families who were going through financial difficulties found themselves in a good situation where they got gifts they desperately needed – clothes footwear, and groceries to take back home. Each holiday was a happy memory of connecting with family…I miss the “communal” holidays…

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