Coins of blessings

In the olden days it was a single coin which elders in the family gave the youngsters as a token of good fortune. Today, the single coin, however, has given way to bigger amounts. Photo: K.R. Deepak  

Vishu is one of those festivals that brings together all the elements of celebration. Nature itself prepares for it by breaking into golden yellow inflorescence. The vishu kani, which is painstakingly arranged at homes, is a visual treat, with an idol, kani vellarikka, coconut, fruits, vegetables, gold and everything that indicates prosperity. The fire crackers come next—all the sparkle and smoke welcoming a new year. The sadya with the bouquet of flavours sets the benchmark for another year of plenty.

One of the best parts of the festival, however, is the kaineetam. In the olden days it was a single coin which elders in the family gave the youngsters as a token of good fortune. Many treasure the kaineetam they received as children. Today, the single coin, however, has given way to bigger amounts. For some, Vishu is looked forward to as it is the time when pocket money keeps flowing in. Says S. Pranav, a student of advertising, “being the youngest in the family, I get kaineetam from all the elders, my extended family included. And the money comes in useful as I live away from home in a hostel. Phone recharges and eating out, my kaineetam is spent well,” he says. Last Vishu Pranav says he received about Rs. 3,000. Desperate, relatively young working professionals such as Surya M. say they look forward to Vishu as a little extra money wouldn’t be bad as the month progresses. Since he is working he is expected to give to his younger cousins, but this time he has effectively escaped giving as he is going to his hometown where there are no younger people to give, only elders to receive from.

For some others, it is the gesture that counts. “In a materialistic world traditions such as this make us think. The importance of elders in the family, the importance of money and the need to use it wisely and more over, the idea of being there for your family,” says Rathi Sukumaran, a retired school teacher, who sends her children who are living outside the State kaineetam online. “If they are not able to make it home for Vishu, I make it a point to transfer cash online. It is about the emotion behind the money,” she says. Rathi believes following the tradition also keeps the younger generation rooted to our culture.

On the flip side, there are people like Suchitra K. who insist that kaineetam is not pocket money to be given as and when it is convenient. “It is to be given on Vishu after children seek blessings from the elders. What marks the difference then?” It is an ongoing argument she has with her daughter who demands the window for kaineetam to extend till the end of the month, at least. As they grow older people feel the need to give back to parents than to take from them.

T. Kaladharan says, “Some people give 500 or 1000 rupees to the kids as kaineetam, as a kind of money to take care of their ‘needs’ for the rest of the year. I give my children Rs. 100, as coins. The amount is not what matters; it is coins as kaineetam that matters.”

There is a kind of continuum, a chain of giving, especially when there are a couple of generations involved. Arvind Menon gives the kaineetam he gets from his mother to his daughter. “The act of giving the kaineetam is an emotion, it is reassuring to have somebody to give me and I have somebody to give to.”

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 6:17:40 PM |

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