“Do you know what they do on Tamil New Years day?” asked my mother, as she held a mirror in her hand and looked at me questioningly.
After several minutes of desperately trying to recall the connection between the mirror and what she did with it the previous year, I meekly said, “Offer our prayers to God…?” just to regret it immediately.
With a disenchanted look on her face, she placed the mirror on the kitchen slab, walked over to me, yanked the book out of my hand and said, “This time, you will take over the festivities, including the cooking and preparation.”
What ensued was a long-drawn discourse about how a to-be-married girl should be well-aware of what ritual needs to be followed for what festival, what suthu kaaryam (miscellaneous work in the kitchen) needs to be done and how otherwise, the future mother-in-law would venomise not the girl, but her mother, for not raising a well-cultured daughter.
Having learnt over the years that reasoning would yield no result, I silently took the mirror in my hand, and upon her instructions, placed it on a palahai (a wooden slab), adorned it with a gold and pearl chain, and placed a Taambulam tray (which usually consists of bananas, beetle leaves, areca nuts, coins, and turmeric) in front of it.
“Even Kanchi Maha Periyava used to wake up to a mirror on Tamil New Years,” she added, reassuringly.
As the next day dawned, instead of slipping into a comfortable pair of tracks and an over-sized t-shirt, I dressed up in a red and green pattu (silk) salwar suit (a must have in every Tambrahm wardrobe, I must say), adorned a string of malli poo, and, contented with my attire, stepped into the kitchen, just to be asked, “Why is there no kungumam on your forehead?”
As time passed, under the watchful eye of my mother, I stood near the gas stove, lost in the sweet aroma of raw mangoes mixed with paagu vellam ( a jaggery that’s used for preparing sweets). It was the last dish to be prepared, before I could indulge in the festive meal I took utmost pride in preparing.
As the last of the dishes found a place in front of God (for the first offering), my phone rang.
“Did your mother remember what she has to do for the festival?” asked my grandmother, after we exchanged festive greetings.
Laughing, I glanced in her direction and thought, maybe I’m a reflection of what she was, a long, long time ago. For now, I would save that story for another day.