On the eve of every Vishu, the most auspicious day for every Malayali, I remember my father. But this is not to say that I don’t remember him on all other days as well.
I think of him every time I hear a certain old Malayalam song. I also fondly recall his toneless humming and smile. Whenever I step out to make a few mundane purchases, I remember how smartly attired he always was, in his crisp ironed shirt and trousers. His shoes would be polished until they shone.
And all this preparation was simply go over to the corner store to buy a few vegetables, a few eggs and his favourite pappadams, maybe! I can’t help but smile each time this image comes to mind.
I think of my father each morning when I open the newspaper. No, not because of his interest in current affairs or his expertise in crossword puzzles. I yearn for his presence, all the more, because of those countless mornings when dad, my brother and I would almost tear the paper to get to the comic strips first!
He never grew out of his love for comics and neither have we still. From Phantom to Mandrake, and from Flash Gordon to Asterix and Tintin, he even loved the ‘faster than computer brain’ of Chacha Chaudhary.
The fun preparations for Vishu
While every memory of him is precious, memories of Vishu with him hold a very special place in my heart. On each Vishu eve, from my childhood, arranging the Vishu kani was something we did together. It is believed that viewing auspicious images at dawn signifies good fortune all through the year ahead.
As darkness would fall, and the moon rose up high in the skies, so would our excitement. Mom, of course, would bring in all those wondrous items required for the kani and leave us to do our thing. And then, we would set about laying a most wonderful kani to wake up to the following morning.
I can still feel the thrill and excitement of those nights as creative ideas would flow between us. We would animatedly discuss on which side to place Lord Krishna’s idol. It was then onto deciding where to place the traditional urali laden with fresh fruits. We would then place a few precious jewels, a wad of crisp currency notes, a mirror, some fresh fragrant flowers and strands of bright yellow golden shower blossoms, or what we call konna poovu.
Waking up at the crack of dawn
I would always be excited to wake up early the next day. Dad would lead me with his hands covering my eyes. This ensured that the first thing we laid our eyes on were the auspicious items that we’d so lovingly arranged the previous night. His smiling face, in the glow of the divine lamp he would light prior to waking us up, signified a most auspicious beginning to the year.
And that thrill remains unchanged to this day.
Year after year, I look forward to this little exercise with the same excitement as those days of yore. I can feel him smiling beside me even now, as I follow his guidance. Just as I would back then, I lay a beautiful kani for my family to wake up to the next day.
One thing that has changed from those precious mornings were the sparkling brilliance of fireworks that we would burst! That was another thrill all three of us shared. We spent many a joyful hour bursting crackers to light up the skies like countless stars showering their blessings.
Mom, however, always settled for the humble sparklers. It’s been years now since we indulged in bursting crackers. Awareness of environmental hazards associated with them have made us all wary.
Life goes on, but memories never fade
While every Vishu has been a special day to remember him, today was especially more poignant in a lot of ways. A very close friend, who lost her father exactly a year ago, was talking about him and the conversation we had. It left me pondering over how we never cease to miss our fathers. It’s going to be six years since dad passed. But not a single day goes by, without one event or another, that reminds me of him. The nostalgia has hit even harder this year as I gaze at a rather sombre husband, who is spending his first Vishu, without his father.
It is true life goes on, and we do move on to the next chapter. And I know that as I open every new chapter in my book of life, my father is right there reading each word and perhaps, editing them too! And that keeps me going strong, moving on fearlessly, ready to cross every hurdle that comes my way.