For most State government employees this year, the festival of Pongal has been a bonanza of holidays.

The city began to wear a deserted look from Saturday as people travelled home to be with their families, thanks to the extended weekend.

The aroma of fresh turmeric and ginger and the rustle of indigo-blue sugarcanes filled neighbourhoods as groceries and vegetable shops stocked up for the festive season nearly a week ahead.

On Pongal Monday, residents were up early in the morning, to decorate their homes with colourful kolam and rangoli patterns that depicted brimming earthen pots. There were also the sugarcane stalks to signify a good harvest. Some residents in Kodambakkam opted for community cooking of pongal that began as early as 4 a.m.

But not everybody got to sit at home and soak in the festive spirit. As usual, essential services such as public transport and the police were up and running.

MTC bus drivers and conductors were engaged on full shifts. “On festival days, we work from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. instead of the usual eight-hour shifts. About 90 per cent of the running fleet were operated,” said K. Natarajan, general secretary of the workers’ union.

The transport and police departments are set for a busy Wednesday, when huge crowds are expected on beaches and at other public places in celebration of Kaanum Pongal and uzhavar thirunal (a day to celebrate farmers) — and thereby marking the end of Pongal festivities.

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