Children

Pongal-o-Pongal!

Illustrations: Sreejith R. Kumar  

“Careful, don’t drop it!” paati yelled when the two children carried the vengala paanai to the courtyard. “I don’t want dents in it!”

“Paati, you better add some extra ghee. This is hard work!” Muthu said.

“Yes, this weighs a tonne. Add some fried cashews, will you?” Kumar said, his mouth watering.

“What next, you’ll teach me how to cook?” paati laughed, tying a turmeric plant around the mouth of the pot and placing it gently over the wood stove. “Now go with your sister and fetch the sugarcane. Let me light this fire!”

Muthu and Kumar ran to the threshold. “Nandhini akka, let’s bring the sugarcane. Paati is making sakkara pongal.”

“Why don’t you two finish this?” she told them, connecting the last of the dots. Magically, flowers appeared in every corner of the kolam.

“First, paati made us carry that bronze pot. Now you’re asking us to draw patterns on the floor!” Muthu cribbed.

“It’s no ordinary pot,” Nandhini wagged her finger at her brother. “It belonged to her grandmother. It’s one hundred years old!”

Muthu looked impressed. “Wow! That’s even older than thatha’s easy chair and pocket watch… do you know Kumar and I will inherit them?” he beamed at his sister.

“Keep your chair, paati is giving me the vengala paanai!” Nandhini beamed back.

“Stop it, you two,” Kumar said. “Paati didn’t send us here to fight! I’ll colour the kolam. Can you get me pink, green and yellow powders, akka?”

Almost ready

Pongal-o-Pongal!

“Keep them over there,” paati instructed, when the three children came back with the tall sugarcane. “Go find the sickle, I’ll cut some cane for you to chew later.”

“Ok, but when will the sakkara pongal be ready?” Muthu and Kumar asked anxiously. “Our tummies are rumbling!”

“We need to pray first. Go to the backyard and cut four plantain leaves. Bring that bunch of bananas from the kitchen. Nandhini, can you go to the provision shop and buy some camphor and incense?”

In ten minutes, Nandhini came running back, with incense, camphor and hard-boiled sweets. “Eat that mittai later. Go call thatha now,” paati yelled, stirring the pongal. Smoke rose and curled up lazily. She adjusted the firewood; the flame grew smaller and glowed red.

“That smells delicious, you’re as good a cook as my mother,” thatha said sniffing the air.

Paati scowled. “Careful, thatha,” the kids giggled, “you know how touchy paati is!”

“Pongal-O-Pongal!” paati cried. As everybody repeated the cry, the pongal hissed and rose like a white hat, flowing gently down one side. When paati stirred it vigorously, it settled back in. Paati lit the camphor and the three kids stood in a line, closed their eyes and pressed their palms together.

Full tummy

“I feel like a football, I’ve eaten so much!” Kumar rubbed his belly.

“You know, paati, you should start a YouTube channel. You’ll be a sensation!”

Paati and Nandhini laughed. “You boys are so naïve! Didn’t you know paati has one already? Thousands of people subscribe to it!” Nandhini said proudly.

“Oh! But who makes and posts the videos?” Muthu asked, puzzled.

“Thatha shoots the videos and I post it. It’s not very hard, Nandhini taught us in the summer!” paati hugged her granddaughter. “She’s my inspiration!”

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 4:58:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/pongal-o-pongal/article33562170.ece

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