Town Hall explodes with colours, sounds and smells as Akila Kannadasan jostles her way towards Koniamman’s chariot

“I hope I make some good money this time,” says Kadhar, patting his shirt pocket. He has come all the way from Kumbakonam to sell rubber bands and hairclips at the Koniammam Ther Thiruvizha. He comes to Coimbatore every year, in time for the festival, and spreads out his ware on a tarpaulin on Raja Street.

Palani, Trichy, Madurai, Chhapra…merchants from across the country have come to the city, their hopes pinned on the devotees of Koniammam. People come by the hundreds to catch a glimpse of the magnificently decorated chariot and pay their obeisance to the goddess.

It is as if a village fair has sprung up bang in the middle of the city, especially on Raja Street. Cotton candy, cut mangoes smothered with chilly powder, boiled groundnuts, murukku, rose milk, butter milk…there is so much to eat. Men, women, thaathas, paatis and little ones dressed in their best clothes…every one is munching something as they walk towards the ther.

People throng the annadhanam stalls that serve sweet-smelling tomato biriyani and lemon rice. The textile merchants of Uppukinaru Street alone are serving about 400 kg of biriyani for the day! Not just food, the owner of a fancy-store is giving away a pair of bangles free for women.

Tailor Karpagavalli from Ondipudhur is offering rides for toddlers on her family’s colourful carousel. Teenagers queue up before the ‘computer joshiyam’ machine for a glimpse into their future. Rahul from Chhapra in Bihar is selling pee-pees he made out of cardboard cones. They are a big cacophonic hit amongst the kids. “Onnu orruva…onnu orruva” “Edha eduthalum pathu ruva” “Vaanga vaanga paasi parunga”… shopkeepers sing out to customers.

As the afternoon wears on, it gets overcast— without warning, the skies open up. There is utter chaos as people run for cover; the roadside sellers rush to cover up their goods. Kadhar looks distraught. His neighbour Thangaraj curses as he spreads a plastic bag over his rubber bands. The road is suddenly empty. The rain dampens our spirit. We look on helplessly. Is this it?

“It’s stopping,” calls out a lady, looking at the sky. Kadhar shakes his head in disbelief. He is going to have a good sale after all!