(This was written two days ago on Ayudha Poojai.)
Today is Ayudha Poojai. In our enterprising small town of forty thousand—full of SMEs giving employment to diverse set of professionals like turners, welders, plumbers, electricians, automobile mechanics, auto/taxi drivers, doctors, nurses, load men, civil engineers, masons, charted accountants etc., not to mention a whole lot of unskilled workers— it is on par with Deepavali as the biggest festival. Every business owner worth their tool set and office equipment makes sure the festival is celebrated well, and the effect is there for all to see.
The whole town looks freshly washed (off year-long grime and dust and whatnot), given a new coat of paint, and is decorated with chrysanthemum flowers, festoons of mango leaves, and young plantain trees. Vehicles sport viboothi, sandhanam, kungumam on their number plates and rear-view mirrors. Some people perform poojai themselves; others prefer to avail the services of professionals for that also. Brahmin priests, in their 200cc bikes, remind you of worker bees today. They are breaking all speed limits and are skipping the sole traffic signal in their attempt to divert divine grace to their respective clients that no doubt include traffic police themselves.
We run a small business that deal with construction materials. It is 10 in the morning and we are still waiting for our Iyer to arrive. Evidently he is a busy man today. He is not picking our calls. The workers have finished decorating the office and the godown and are increasingly becoming restless. No one wants to spend the festival day at work waiting for the arrival of the priest. They all look at me like I could do something. But, what? Finally the Iyer comes and we heave a sigh of relief. He comes in, puts down his bags heavy with poojai materials, and immediately asks me the ‘important’ question, “When are you going to get married?”
After the poojai at our place, I rush off to my uncle’s. Their Iyer is on time and, by the time I reach there, poojai is almost over. I walk in and smile apologetically to all and none in particular. No one says anything. They run several businesses of various sizes and the poojai is apt to be:very elaborate. Everyone prays earnestly when the priest does mangala aarthi in the end. When he hands over the pumpkin to be broken outside to ward off evil eyes, one of the workers I didn’t recognize reverently gets it. However, before smashing it in the middle of the road like pretty much everyone does with no regard to the lives of motorists, he spreads a jute sack on the road; and smashes the pumpkin on it. When he carefully drags the sack out of the road, I’m sufficiently impressed.
I look at my uncle. “New driver,” he says.
PS: While distributing food—pongal, vadai, sundal, lemon rice, tomato rice—I asked the driver what his name was. Krishnan, he said. Epic! My uncle’s name is Arjunan.