Originally published in Finnish 15th January 2017
It is time for Makar Sankrati celebrations in India. This beginning of new harvest season is also called for example Suggi or Pongal. There are as many names as local languages. Now the weather is getting warmer and there is more daylight and sunshine than during winter months. To be honest, as a Finn I feel slightly amused when talking about “winter” in Southern India. The location of Bangalore is relatively close to equator. Local winter weather means that during the chilliest early morning hours thermometer may show fifteen Celsius degrees or slightly less.
In my thoughts I always call this festival Pongal. The name remains me of a special topic delicacy for this occasion, pongal-porridge. In fact, there are two porridge varieties: a salty one (khara pongal) and a dessert (sweet pongal). Both porridges are always rice and lentil based – salty one spiced up with pepper and sweet one with jaggery, raisins and cashew nuts. There is a tradition in our housing complex for Pongal evening: ladies in our community gather together to cook pongal on gas cookers outside. This year the cooking pots were huge – so many new residents had moved in recently and the food should be served for everyone. Although “the head chef” was completely capable to prepare the food by herself, we companion ladies felt us also very important when entertaining the cook and chatting together. Meanwhile, when waiting for the food to get ready, the children of our community were busily decorating kites in the club house. Flying kites is a part of celebration especially for Gujarati families.
Earlier during the same evening our doorbell had rang quite many times: we got small presents, like tiny decorative boxes, sugar cane pieces and seed-mix. Some of our neighbours even gave banana bunches. For newly married women it is a very happy omen to give away bananas according to number of the years of their marriage. There is a special saying for this season in Kannada language: ellu bella thindu olle maathadi meaning “eat sesame seeds and jaggery, tell only good things”.
This festival time is an occasion for welfare, prosperity and peace. For me January and February months have always been the most pleasant ones in Bangalore. When ceremonies and noise quiets down, I enjoy the peaceful moment. I relax on our terrace, and let the chill, mild breeze blow on my face. I feel the taste of sesame seed mix in my mouth and remember the obligation: to spread the good news and speak nicely about my nearest. I have so much blessing in my life, sitting here surrounded by so kind people. Right now the sesame-obligation feels easy to follow.