I had a great trip. Climate in Kerala was very hot until Saturday, when it rained. Sunday was cooler, and there was no rain.
Sheeveli and Elephants
Wednesday 1 May, when I reached Irinjalakuda, was the 7th day of this year's Koodalmanikyam festival. I went and watched the morning Sheeveli. I cant say how much I like the Panchari Melam part of the Sheeveli. It is amazing to see the way the Melam slowly evolves through its spiral kind of structure and finally reaches its exciting climax. What a style! What a synchronization between the number of artists of Chenda, Thimila, Kuzhal and Kombu! When I was a child, I used to stand as near as possible to the Melam artists, and I would not be able to hear anything at least for one hour after the Sheeveli is over, because the volume of the Melam would make me temporarily deaf. People would be dancing all around under the hot Sun of May, but I never used to care standing in between all the sweat and smell. But today, I suddenly realize that I can no longer enjoy being near the Melam as I did years back; Now I have things to worry about - I hate to think of standing in between a group of people under the hot Sun. I cant concentrate in the Melam in that kind of an atmosphere. So, nowadays I prefer to stand few meters away and enjoy the music from there.
In my childhood, I remember standing very near to the caparisoned elephants one day during the Sheeveli, just to demonstrate my "courage" to friends. I have to confess that every second of that Sheeveli, my mind was busy exploring possible passages in between the sea of people standing all around, through which I could escape in case the elephant goes berserk. Probably I inherited this habit from my mother. My mother got some information one day that an elephant would run backwards if it goes mad, and after that she would always keep an eye on the elephant's back legs and warn others whenever there is some movement observed there. How much we used to laugh telling this again and again among our relatives! It was almost 20 years back.
Some of my friends, who are members of the Indian Communist parties, always prejudiced against anything that is even remotely connected to Hinduism, have criticized Sheeveli saying that it is cruel to use the elephants in this way during the festival. But I think when the elephants, freely wandering in the forests, were captured - the sin was done then itself. I feel the elephants would be feeling relieved during the festival season, as it would be better compared to their normal course of life. They wont have to struggle in the fields, lifting heavy loads of trunks. They will get some good food, and also will be bathed every day (hope they like it!). At least in Koodalmanikyam festival, elephants need not stand under the Sun for long time during the Sheeveli; there is the comfort of the long shed called Natappura. Exception is only during the transition between the eastern and western Natappuras which wont take more than half an hour a day.
On Thursday there were many visitors to our home. Rajitha and her husband came in the evening and stayed that night. Visakh had come in the morning and was constantly asking for a big hydrogen balloon. In the evening we all went together for the night Sheeveli. I decided to stay back and watch the Kathakali. "SreeRama Pattabhishekam" was the story.
Even though I cant understand the meaning of the </i>Mudra</i>'s (hand expressions), I like the feeling of watching a Kathakali. Kathakali, probably the greatest art form representing Kerala, is an Art of Arts. The songs (called Padham's), music, orchestra, acting, bizarre but beautiful costume design, colorful makeup - each component of Kathakali is an art form in itself. It is a unique experience to just sit in the ground and listen to the Kathakali songs and music. One day I was amazed to see how the sound of Shoorpanakha combing her hair was simulated using slight rhythmic music from Chenda and Maddalam. How can I forget the roar of Bali when he does the Thiranottam!
Friday was the ninth day of the festival, called Pallivetta. The Sheeveli Melam of that day is supposed to be the grandest. It gives a sad feeling to watch the elephants marching out after it, as we know that it is all over now, and it will be another year before the next Sheeveli. The temple will become empty soon, and within few weeks wild Dharbha grass will grow and flood the vast temple ground, where thousands of people stand, sit and sleep during the festival.
We came in the night to watch the Pallivetta procession, and Visakh was presented with a balloon, finally. Within few seconds, it went off from his hand, and while my father was about to catch it, it broke! Visakh immediately started crying. "I will never come to watch Pallivetta again!", he declared.
I watched two movies during the vacation. Satyan Anthikkad's Kochu Kochu Santhoshangal and Rajasenan's Meghasandesham. Nothing worth writing much about. Looks like Jayaram is loosing his skills of natural acting. His acting is highly melodramatic now, as seen typically in Tamil movies.
Our cats have become one year old, and my sister has given a new name to one of them: "Moonnarappottan"! - as it reports at the kitchen exactly at 3:30 every day asking for milk.