For the uninitiated, today (14th January, 2017) is celebrated as Pongal, the harvest festival in Tamil Nadu. It is celebrated with much pomp and grandeur and is generally considered a festival of bounty and happiness. Families come together for the extended holiday (this is usually celebrated for four days, the first, and one of the longest holidays of every calendar year). Many people who had migrated to cities in search of a livelihood use this time to visit their native villages. This festival is mostly about food and therefore families get together and cook, eat and be merry. There is a lot of significance to this festival but this post is not about that.
Pongal is also the time when brothers give what is called as ‘Seer’ to their sisters. This ‘seer’ usually consists of sugarcane (the main crop that is harvested during this time of the year, in addition to rice), new dresses and cash, (or jewels, in some special cases if people can afford). These habits vary with the families and are carried down the patriarchal line. The sisters also celebrate this generosity by a special kanu pongal (in some communities) where they prepare a variety of rice based dishes to honor the occasion.
This festival is made incredibly special for the first time after marriage. Called ‘thala pongal’, the first occurrence of pongal after marriage is special for a couple in a way that cannot be really described in a mere English translation. (Or maybe I am unable to form the right words). This year, two of my close friends are celebrating Thala Pongal, because they got married just last year. While one friend has been with me for more than a decade, and I had a lot of fun at her wedding, there was another wedding I was a huge part of last November that was so special.
This friend is almost – no, actually – family and both the groom and the bride were our family friends. I have known them both for about five years now, and I have felt their strong presence beside me as I went through the most trying times of my life. They have been the rock I built my foundation on, the solid pillar I leaned on whenever life threw black surprises at me. Their personal love story is an inspirational one, and they have been through their own ups and downs in life, always standing firm in what they believed and what they wanted out of life. The sheer determination has brought them together into the union of marriage, and seeing the odds they surmounted, their life has only one direction to go hereafter – the positive direction.
It was a pleasure unlike any other to see them both as a couple, in their traditional attires, and to join them in one of the most important events in their life. And some moments are forever framed in gold – the groom, a man who (incidentally) I befriended first – chose to give me the traditional ‘seer’ given to sisters. Needless to say, it took me some time to recover from this emotional moment and I am blogging about this for one reason only – to record this great event forever in digital form, as a memory I can revisit, as a reason to cast my patronus.
Some relationships are beyond the boundary of friendships, and some people show you that care and affection need not be limited to relationships formed by blood.
As an aside, this is the time to dispel the myth around a popular proverb.
Blood is thicker than water.
Blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.
This full version of the proverb actually means that “the blood shed in battle bonds soldiers more strongly than simple genetics. Although we commonly use it to suggest the strength of family ties, it doesn’t refer to family at all.”
(Thanks Thought Catalog for this definition)
Some bonds are born out of difficulties and common hardships, and they are probably the strongest of all bonds. Today I finally, officially, recognised a man as a brother even if he was not related by blood. While many people might frown at such a relative term to a man who was a complete stranger just five years ago, I do think it is an apt word for someone who has done what brothers would do for their sisters, even though he had no obligation to. I am celebrating my luck in having such a man in my life, and having a close friendship with his wife, the woman who calls a spade a spade and has tamed my curly hair.
And my day is complete. This is one Pongal I will cherish forever in my mind!