Sunday, September 10, 2023



William Blake (1757 – 1827) is one of the renowned poets who lived during the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th. His poems mainly deal with themes like religion, the plight of the downtrodden and poverty. They use deceptively simple language, but if one delves deeper into their layers, their imagery is often complex and structured.

‘A Poison Tree’ is a poem written by William Blake in his ‘Songs of Experience’ in 1794. He writes about two varied experiences to illustrate how dangerous it is to suppress anger. 

I was angry with my friend; 

I told my wrath, my wrath did end. 

The poet uses simple language to describe how he was once angry with his friend, but he spoke to him about his wrath. Once he had spoken, he felt lighter and his wrath ended. That is so true of life, isn’t it? Often, we harbour negative emotions within our hearts, which eat away at our innards. However, when we open our hearts and let the poison out, we feel much better. 

I was angry with my foe: 

I told it not, my wrath did grow. 

And I waterd it in fears, 

Night & morning with my tears: 

And I sunned it with smiles, 

And with soft deceitful wiles. 

And it grew both night and day.



On the other hand, the poet was not as open with his enemy, and he did not let his anger out to him. Instead, he allowed it to grow within his heart, watering it with tears, and sunning it with false smiles.

 The rancour grew, causing a chain reaction which could have been avoided if they had just spoken about their issues. Instead of the wrath dying down, the poison tree grew every day and night till it produced a bright apple, beautiful to behold. 

And my foe beheld it shine, 

And he knew that it was mine. 

And into my garden stole, 

When the night had veild the pole;

 In the morning glad I see; 

My foe outstretched beneath the tree. 

The poet's enemy witnessed the sheen of the apple, and he knew it belonged to his enemy. He sneaked into the latter's garden at a time when darkness had hidden the Pole Star. The poet did not need to say what exactly happened. 

In the morning the poet was happy to see his enemy, stretched out beneath the tree, cold and lifeless. This proves that he had allowed his anger to consume him completely to the extent that he rejoiced when his enemy lay dead.


Poetly- Substack 

The growth of the poison tree is an extended metaphor for the anger that grows in the poet's heart. The speaker and his foe can be seen as allegorical representations that reveal how emotions like anger can lead to hatred and violence, which lifts this poem to levels beyond the two protagonists. 

There is an allusion to the tree in the garden of Eden where Eve offers Adam the forbidden apple, which finds an echo in Blake's poison tree. The first two lines of the poem refer to the stage of innocence when God created Man and Woman and gifted them the beautiful idyllic garden. However, the remaining lines talk about the poison tree which may allude to the state of Man after his Biblical fall when Adam and Eve are cast out for their sin. 

The shiny red apple has been used to much effect in the fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, where her evil stepmother used it to poison her stepdaughter. Luckily, things worked out when she received love's first kiss. But then, that's a fairy tale where everyone lives happily ever after.



There are myriad classics in Literature where anger has propelled the action in the narratives - Lord of the Flies by William Golding, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, Look Back in Anger by John Osborne, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and some of Shakespeare's most popular plays like Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, to name just a few.



This post is a part of the Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023.









                                                              Happy Quotes

As a child, one of my pet peeves was Mathematics – a subject that turned into a mystifying jumble of numbers, shapes, fractions and problems (pun very much intended!) While I had always loved subjects like English, History and Biology, I did not warm up to numbers for a long time. When I was in the ninth, my Army parents were posted in an obscure little station with not too many good schools. At that time, I was transported to a Convent school in Shoranur, Kerala, in a town where my grandfather was known as a revered and renowned educationist, having founded a Boys’ High School through which many illustrious students had passed out.

                                                                    Busy things

Leaving my parents and my sisters was a wrench, but what had to be done, had to be done. However, I found the silver lining in my new life – my grandparents and the entire family doted on me, and I was treated like a little princess. I soon got into the swing of things.

However, the Mathematics bug needed to be sorted out. To make matters worse, since I had joined school in the ninth standard, I needed to study certain key portions from the eighth as well. That was when I met the strictest tuition master I had ever met, who petrified me from the word go. Under his eagle eye, I began to learn the world of numbers, looking at it with a new eye. I practised my sums diligently, and began enjoying the subject as the mystical/ mysterious elements were ironed out by my master.

I also did have an extremely sweet Physics master who would come after nine in the night as he was the headmaster of the boys’ school, along with his son who was in the same class as me. Together we would yawn, all three of us, only to be given a knock on the head which would wake two of us up at least. Those classes, though nocturnal, did help me through the syllabus.

At the end of two years, when I passed out of the tenth, I was overjoyed to see that of all my subjects, I had scored highest in Mathematics and Physics, even more than my beloved English.

I broke two hearts when I announced that I was going to study Humanities, or the Third Group, as it was then called. Both my masters protested to my grandfather, who, much to his credit, thanked them for all their diligence, but refused to help change my mind.

I still recall that day when my Mathematics master came over and said, “Why would you want to take up Arts? You can do Medicine or Engineering… you have the marks.” He went away immensely disappointed, though somewhat convinced as I used all my powers of eloquence to show him how much I loved the Arts subjects, and also that I wanted to become a writer.

That was the last year I did anything with Mathematics.

Till I discovered the magic of Sudoku!

Sudoku meandered into my life like a gentle breeze that tickled my hair as I was going through my daily newspaper. For the first time, I stared at the big square with all the little squares and the numbers running through from 1 to 9. It was an ‘Easy’ puzzle and when I started filling in the squares, I found that I was slowly getting the hang of it.


From then on, I tried all the puzzles in the newspapers, getting more adept as days went by. I moved on to the ‘Medium’ and the ‘Hard’ puzzles, thrilled every time I got them right. The ‘Evil’ ones quite defeated me at the beginning, but I persevered till I finally got it right. The day I finished my first Evil Sudoku, I was ecstatic.

 I downloaded Sudoku on my mobile phone as well. From then on, I never looked back. Every time I had some time to kill, I would do a puzzle. It got to the stage when I would do this rather than read, which was a huge thing because I cannot recall a time when I did not read.

Numerous articles talk about the significance of games that stimulate the mind, and ensure that the brain cells remain healthy. Solving word puzzles, crosswords, mental Maths, board games like Chess and Scrabble and of course, Sudoku… most of these keep the mind ticking. As they say, a healthy mind in a healthy body!

When I delved further into the benefits of Sudoku, I did find reasons enough to continue playing. First, it improves concentration and memory, and cuts short the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It stimulates the mind and helps in decision working, as it follows a sequence that enhances logical and spatial thinking.

 It keeps stress and anxiety away, which is one major reason to carry on, given that most diseases are caused by stress alone.

Of course, it also helps in teaching patience because there are times when the blasted numbers do not fall into the right slots, which turns the entire sequence topsy-turvy. However, the excitement of finishing a game keeps one happy and relaxed.

I have seen that playing Sudoku while on a train journey or on long flights can keep boredom away. It can also ward away unwanted questions from inquisitive fellow travellers whom you want to keep away as well.

Life is like a Sudoku; you just have to place some things at the right place at the right time, and then everything else will fall at its right place.


That says it all, doesn’t it?

 This post is a part of the Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023.

Saturday, September 9, 2023


Hallmark Ideas

A few months ago, a venerable gentleman passed away, having lived a full and wonderful life imbued with joy. He had his entire family around him, including his children, who were themselves grandparents. He went peacefully, which is considered a blessing in itself.

There was a gathering of family members, friends and admirers who thronged to the house to pay their last respects to the benign soul. They came, offering their condolences to the bereaved family members, who were dignified in their sorrow. The deceased gentleman seemed to be merely sleeping, so peaceful was his face.

Since the grandchildren and the great grandchildren were abroad, they had asked for a video call so that they too could have one last glimpse of their beloved one before his mortal remains were consigned to the holy fire that would take his soul to the heavens.

Visitors kept walking in in a continuous procession. It was evident that the gentleman had been much loved and revered. They waited for the rituals that would be performed just before the last journey.

There was an air of sorrow all around, but beyond that there was also a sense of relief that he had not suffered in his final hours. Isn’t that a thought that stays like a phantom in people’s minds as they prepare to bid farewell to a loved one? A prayer that he or she should move on in peace and tranquillity to a better place?

In a while, it was time to shift outside. The family men who had to do the final rites stood in their wet dhotis after a wash, which symbolised a dip in a holy river. After everyone present had touched the feet of the departed soul, the mourners picked him up and took him outside where he was placed for the rites to be performed. The ambulance had arrived and there was silence all around. The final moment had arrived.

As the priest intoned his prayers and instructed the mourners to secure the mortal remains, there was a sudden mewing from a tiny cat that stood behind. It had suddenly appeared as though to say Goodbye to its master, a little black and white creature that seemed to want to add its own sorrow to the grave occasion. From the time the priest began his ministrations till the moment the worthy gentleman’s mortal remains were placed in the ambulance, this wee mite continued to cry, loud and clear.

It was a most piteous sight. At that moment, I realised what I had always known. God’s creatures have an empathy within their hearts that recognizes qualities like humaneness and loyalty. The cat had sensed the sombreness of the situation and had reacted in the only way it could.

There have been tales galore of dogs that have grieved the passing of their masters and have lingered at their graves for days on end. The most famous of them was Hachiko, who is a national icon in Japan. When his master died and failed to show up at the train station where his beloved pet waited for him every day, Hachiko was obviously distressed. For the next nine years, he kept returning to the same spot every single day, till he died in 1935.

The Times of India came out with an article titled 'Celebrating 100 years of Hachiko: The loyal dog who waited for his dead master for decades.'


Dogs often do not understand that death is final and hence, they wait for their loved owners to come back to them. This is why they stay on, refusing to let go.

It is believed that there are other species of animals that grieve as well. Elephants feel loss and weep when they lose loved ones. They bury their dead and pay tribute to them in their own ways. Monkeys who are believed to be closest to the human species huddle together in groups and mourn when one of them dies. They become depressed and sometimes starve to death.

In Kenya, a mother giraffe, devastated at the death of her one-month-old calf, refused to move from the side of the body for four days. Other giraffes seemed to share in her sorrow by wrapping their long necks around one another in commiseration.

Dolphins also seem to understand the meaning of mortality, and support their dead on the surface of the water.

One of the sweetest sights I ever witnessed was why my daughter, Priyanka’s beautiful grey cat, Tyrion, passed away. Tyrion was an independent little soul who had formed many friendships during his nocturnal (and diurnal) wanderings. He did have an enemy or two as well, proven by the scratches and wounds he came back with, occasionally.

                                                             Our beautiful Tyrion
                                                        Photo Courtesy: Priyanka Menon Rao

When he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, the whole family rallied around to make his last days comfortable. I still remember those days when his friends, the other cats in the building, would come visiting and be around him. The way they stayed with him, now that his hunting days were over, was unbelievable.

After Tyrion passed away, his friends kept coming back to the spot where he died. It was as if they were paying their respects to their old pal.

We can learn so much from these beautiful creatures whom God has created to be the companions of humans. It is said that the only creature in the world that is cruel is man. Animals hunt and prey when they are hungry, never for pleasure, unlike man. Sad, because we humans are the only thinking animals as well, and it is within our power to make the world around us a heaven or a hell.

May we opt for the former!

Let me end with one of my favourite songs of all times.


For those who would like to listen to the song, here is the link.

                                                       Barak Obama quote: QuoteFancy

 This post is a part of the Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023.



“Oh, I used to read so much when I was younger. I have no idea how I got out of the habit!”

“I try and read every night, but my eyes refuse to stay open!”

How often have you heard people say this? How often have you said it yourself? Pretty often, I am sure.

The fact is that as we grow older, and life catches up with us, we become busier and busier, till we are dashing around like headless chickens. (Where did that gory expression come from?)

As William Wordsworth once said so aptly (the Romantic poets did know a thing or two!)

“The world is too much with us, late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.”


Life does have a habit of coming in the way of our passions, forced as we are to earn more than we learn. Childhood is that blissful age when we have time to do all the things we love, from playing to eating to reading. There are no responsibilities apart from getting good grades in school and once that is achieved, one’s parents do not trouble one overmuch.

It is when the going gets tough that the habit of reading sneaks away, replaced by a whole pile of tasks that need your immediate attention. By the time you have realised that books no longer form part of your daily recreation, it is too late. The reading elves have deserted you. Sad, but true!

What do you do now? Is there any way to get back to the path where you were, when you were devouring books like a book ogre?

I did go though a rough patch when I was buzzing around like the busiest bee ever, trying to find a method in my madness, juggling about a full-time job, a hectic social schedule and managing home and hearth, along with a little daughter. Of course, luckily, I had a husband who helped with the chores. Days went by when I would not be able to read a page because I was exhausted. Slowly, as a routine formed, I began to mull over how I could get back to reading. Then a bulb went off inside my head and I found myself getting back on track, slowly but steadily.


First, I began to pick up smaller books with few pages, short chapters and light themes. Or out and out thrillers that were so gripping that I could not put them down. They stuck by me like the Old Man of the Sea who hitched himself on Sinbad’s back. I read not more than a couple of pages initially, and then began to stretch them out a weeny bit.

I read only books that held my interest. When I was growing up, I tenaciously held on to every book I began, refusing to let go, like a pup with a toy, till I had reached the last page. I no longer tested my patience. The moment a story grew dull or a character tiresome, I would shut the book and confine it to some dim corner where it would languish till it fell to pieces.

I also picked timings when I could just relax, lounge around on my favourite armchair and take some time out to read. This was mostly in the afternoon hours when the whole world took its siesta or at night after dinner when the barn owl would hoot (or was that only in horror stories?), leaving “the world to darkness and to me.”

This was also the time I read several anthologies. Short stories tended to hold my attention since they were, obviously, short, crisp and intriguing. They were also varied, like a buffet of dishes which whet the appetite because they all taste different. Every short story had one central idea and just a few characters, which made it easier for me to wrap my head around them.

                                                                     Epic Reads

The strange thing was that even though I had paused my Read button, I kept writing right through. After a couple of years in which I continued in this strain, I suddenly found myself able to go back to reading the way I used to earlier. Looking back, I feel it may have been because I did not give up completely on books but kept delving into them, little by little, so that I could sip rather than gulp down the contents.

To all parents out there who despair of getting their little ones to open a book, here are some ground rules that worked for us. Today my daughter and my granddaughter are voracious readers, the latter already reading ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ at the age of seven, and loving it.

When our daughter was little, we would buy her colourful story books, with just a line or two of narrative. She would read the lines painstakingly and savour the illustrations.

                                                        Buzzing Bubs

At bedtime, I would read her a story, sometimes stopping at the most interesting part, so that her curiosity would nudge her to wonder and imagine the rest.

At bookstores, she was allowed to buy books for birthdays, special occasions and for good behaviour. She soon began to pick up her favourite books and soon had quite a little library of her own. When she became a mother, she promptly looked for creative ways to make her daughter, and then her little son, love books as well.

Today there are so many reading devices available like the Kindle, the Tablet and of course the laptop. Books have become more expensive and take up more space especially in tiny flats. Hence, new Gen kids prefer to do everything on their devices, and are extremely tech savvy. There is no denying that one can download a whole library of eBooks on a device which makes it easier to cartload around. They also cost a great deal less than print books.

Jeanette Winterson once said, “Books and doors are the same thing. You open them, and you go through into another world.” Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?


 This post is a part of the Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023



 At the moment, we in India are over the moon with the success of Chandrayaan 3 and Aditya L1. Our scientists have proved that they are amongst the elite in the world, repeatedly. 

English is a quaint language. There are so many phrases and idioms connected with the moon that add flavour to the language we use. Here are a few of the commonest ones.

When we are ecstatic about something, we describe it as being ‘over the moon’ which reminds us of the old nursery rhyme, ‘Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon…’. Of course, this has nothing to do with the present meaning of the phrase, which means being ‘extremely happy’. “When I heard that I had come first in class, I was over the moon.”

Earlier, most fairy tales started with the phrase ‘Once upon the time...’. A synonym for this phrase is ‘many moons ago…’, the word ‘moons’ referring to ‘months’. For example, if I were to say, “I last drove a car many moons ago” (which is the truth!), it would mean that my driving skills are rusty.

‘Promise the moon’ is making an extravagant promise. For example, if someone says, “I promise you the moon if you enter into a partnership in my business” it could be profitable, especially if he has a good head for business.

If your parents ask you to go and ‘shoot for the moon’ just before you begin your examination, it only means that they want you to aim high and do the almost impossible. The premise is that the moon is a target that is difficult to reach, and another phrase close enough is to ‘reach for the moon’. As the proverb goes, “Reach for the moon. You will at least get to the top of the staircase.”

A year normally consists of twelve moons, one a month. Sometimes a month sees two full moons, once in three years, which is a blue moon. Since this is a rare occurrence, the phrase ‘once in a blue moon’ also refers to an event which happens rarely. For example, “Since I live in a crowded city, I breathe fresh air only once in a blue moon when I go back to my village.”


How often have we heard of people going underground because they owe money to others and cannot pay their debts? Thus, ‘a moonlight flit’ is an abrupt and unexpected departure, probably in the wee hours of the night. One example of this would be, “The ruined millionaire did a moonlight flit because he did not want to face the music the next morning.”

Two intriguing phrases that mean the same are ‘howl at the moon’ or ‘bark at the moon’. The meaning of both is to make a plea that is unlikely to change a situation, a fruitless effort. One could say “Telling Eva to keep a clean house is like barking at the moon because she has her finger in too many pies.”


How many of us have seen the ‘man in the moon’? Not many, I suppose, since the phrase means something that has no substance or is of no value. When we come across a person who knows little, we often think, “Well, he knows no more about the subject than the man on the moon.”

The word ‘honeymoon’ refers to the short period after marriage when a couple takes off to some place far from the madding crowd so that they can get to know each other. However, when the word was first in use, it had a darker connotation. ‘Honey’ referred to the sweetness of wedlock, and ‘moon’ to a short period of time. Taken together, the word meant that ‘honeymoon referred to the short period of time in a couple’s life when all was sweetness and love. The word ‘short’ implied that this idyllic period would not last long due to arguments or incompatibility. For example, “John and Lydia had a short-lived honeymoon after their parents refused to sponsor their trip to Egypt.”

Romantic novels have a special way to define love. “I love you to the moon and back.” This could be said by people in love through letters, epistles, poems or even autograph books (I wonder if those exist anymore.) The line means to love someone deeply. We could imagine Mr. Darcy saying it to Elizabeth, or Heathcliff to Catherine.

“The moon is made of green cheese” - so said John Heywood in 1546.This usage is used when something seems unreal or unlikely. “Do you really believe that So and So is a great actor? Right, and the moon is made of green cheese.” Another interesting alternative to this usage is ‘when pigs fly’.

Isn’t English a simply marvellous language?

 This post is a part of the Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023.


Monday, September 4, 2023


                                                                    Getty images 

I was browsing through Facebook when my eyes fell on a journaling account. I have always loved anything to do with writing and doodling, and am seriously thinking of starting a journal as well.

I watched this lady who started with a blank page and started filling it in with paper cuts, stickers, quotes and Washi tape. She started with a basic colour and created a theme around the hues of the colour, step by step, letting her imagination run riot. She had such beautiful little pictures, and I could imagine the passion with which she stuck each bit down, embellishing it at every stage. The end product looked lovely. Anyone with even a smattering of artistic talent would have appreciated it.

However, as I scrolled down at the comments below, I was shocked to see several downright nasty ones, along with the appreciative ones. One lady asked almost rudely, “What is the point of this? I find it a waste of time.”

Another lady continued in the same strain. “I agree. All those craft thingies look expensive. Who has the time to sit and do this? Absolutely useless!”


This got me thinking. How have we allowed ourselves to turn into such critics? I mean, constructive criticism is always welcome. However, calling something so beautiful a waste of time only proved the narrow outlook of the person saying so. Freedom of speech is all very well, but saying hurtful things, especially on a public platform, is extremely disheartening.

I have grown up with the policy that it is better to praise openly, but critique privately. If you have something nice to say, by all means, say it. Often, people find it difficult to praise others. However, the moment something goes wrong, the barbed tongues and the cutting remarks blossom like the common weed. They multiply like the common weed as well.


Often, establishments have two books… a complaint book and a book of appreciation. No points for guessing which one gets used more and which one remains pristine! That, unfortunately, seems the way of the world. As the old proverb goes, “The crying child gets the milk.” The more you complain, the more attention you will receive.

There is a whole world of writers, artists, actors and artistes out there, all of whom have put their hearts and souls into their art. How easy is it for an outsider to bring them down with one harsh word, one bad review or one sarcastic remark? These naysayers revel in their opinion, sometimes they are influencers, and every word of theirs carries weight.

At that level, isn’t it better to show a generosity of spirit and temper one’s words, keeping them strictly professional. Be critical, but generously so. There is no need to lavish fulsome praise if you do not mean it. However, there is no need to tear someone’s hard work to pieces just because you have the power to do so. As WB Yeats said so poignantly

“I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”


Going back to the journaling account on Facebook, my heart ached when I saw the cruel comments there. Some folks were vicious. They pooh-poohed the effort, the time taken and the taste of the artist. They replied to one another’s comments, turning more vitriolic by the minute. It was as if they had decided to deride the artist and break her heart into smithereens.

What impressed me was the way the artist handled it. She replied graciously to all the comments that were positive and appreciative, thanking the senders and replying to their questions with patience. She did not respond to the rude, tactless ones at all. An extremely wise move because if she had also replied in the same coin, it would have led to an imbroglio in public, which would have put her actual fans off! A wonderful quote sets things in the right perspective.

“Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you.”

After I read all the comments, I sat back and pondered. If the naysayers really felt it was a waste of time, why did they even watch the whole video? They could have moved on to something more interesting as far as they were concerned. No power on earth can tie you down to your chair or chain you to your laptop if there is something you do not want to watch.

Even as I say all this, there is something called constructive criticism which is a type of feedback that offers clear, direct, honest and easy-to-implement advice that helps a person to blossom. This is the kind of advice that is given by someone who wants to help the artist grow. It focuses on the positive and the negative. It is specific and shifts its focus to the situation, not the person. It also offers solutions and recommendations on how to improve, which is a far cry from criticising just for the sake of doing so.   


Finally, let us all rest content in the fact that a person is criticised only when he has something worthwhile to show for his efforts. As the proverb goes, it is only the fruit-laden tree that has stones thrown at it.


Then again, how can you not concur when Rumi, the poet, adds his own magic to the art of criticism?

This post is a part of the Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023.

Saturday, September 2, 2023




Onam comes around with great fanfare every year, with ten days of celebration from Atham to Thirivonam. As with every festival, the celebrations take precedence over everything else. Educational institutions give ten days of holidays, which start after the school Onam programme which often has a variety entertainment programme revolving around Onam songs (paatu), Thrivathirakalli or Kaikkotokalli where elegantly dressed ladies wearing the traditional off-white Kerala mundu-veshti dance around a vilakku (lit lamp).


I live in Thrissur which is the cultural capital of Kerala and is also a temple town. The cost of flowers in various hues skyrockets over these ten days as most households create exquisite designs with flowers in their courtyards. A giant pookallam (flower carpet) in Thekinkaadu Maidanam next to the Vadakkunathan temple set the festival of Onam off this year. 


Legend goes that King Mahabali, the grandson of Prahalad, ruled over Kerala many years ago. He was a good and virtuous ruler, concerned about the welfare of his subjects. It is said that his kingdom was so prosperous, and the king so loved that the devas (gods) became jealous of his immense power. They went to Lord Vishnu and conveyed their fears to him. Vishnu took the guise of Vamana (a Brahmin dwarf) and visited Mahabali.

Mahabali was a gracious host. He asked Vamana what gift he could give him. Vamana requested him for three feet of land, which the generous king happily granted.

However, the moment the request was agreed to, Vamana began growing and in two steps, he covered the whole world. He asked Mahabali where he could place his third step. Mahabali, by now, had realised that the Brahmin was no ordinary visitor. He bowed low before him and asked him to place his third step on his head. Vamana did so and Mahabali was pushed down to Pathala or the netherworld. However, Vishnu was so impressed with Mahabali’s devotion that he granted him permission to come every year to Kerala on Thiruvonam day and visit his subjects.


One of the highlights during Onam programmes is the advent of Mahabali. The beloved king makes his appearance and is feted by one and all, especially by children.

Apart from this, Onam is also a festival celebrating a good harvest resulting in plenty and prosperity. The vallam kalli or the snake boats races are also a highlight of the festival of Onam.


What Keralites across the world look forward to is the fame Onam sadya, the feast, that is served on plantain leaves. There are normally 26 dishes, but the number may vary, sometimes even going up to double that number. The dishes are placed in designated places on the leaf, with banana chips and pickles on the left corner, and the curries and the dry preparations spread across in a delectable array. Rice is served once the person sits down and doused generously with sambar (the rice, not the person!). All the dishes are made from local and seasonal products, prepared in ghee and coconut oil, and garnished with grated coconut. One is expected to finish every dish on the leaf, which is a sign that the meal has been savoured to the fullest.


Of course, the proof of the eating is in the pudding, or the payasams that come at the end of the meal. Often, it is the palada, made from rice flakes, milk and sugar, that is considered the king of payasams. The other options are plantain, wheat or jaggery payasams. When people get up after a meal, licking their fingers and raving over the payasams, that is truly an indication that the sadya has been outstanding.

This time, I was fortunate enough to partake of three sadyas. The first one was an Onam sadya for our teachers in school. The next one was on Uthradam day when two sets of flats decided to celebrate the festival with dancing, music and of course, a sumptuous sadya.

The cosiest one was on Thiruvonam day when we had it as a family, sitting together, laughing and joking, and finally diving into our plantain leaves for the third time in a row.

What is amazing about an Onam sadya is the fact that it is only a smidgeon of every dish that is placed on the leaf. Seconds are always provided as the servers walk around with steel buckets and vessels, urging people to eat more. Thus, there is no wastage of food. At the end of the meal, the leaves are folded and disposed off, bio-degradable and hence, good for the planet. Since there are no dishes that boast of extra masala or oil, one feels comfortable at the end, though a siesta is recommended to overcome the effects of the creamy payasams.

The Thrissur Onam is unique in many ways, but most importantly, in the case of pulikkali or the Tiger dance. It is believed that this custom originated two centuries ago as a street dance form, but grew in popularity and is today part and parcel of the grand Onam festivity.

Four days after Thiruvonam, the pulis (tigers) descend in groups on the Swaraj Round. These are men painted in the stripes of the tiger who dance to the accompaniment of traditional instruments. They are very impressive in their moves and spirit. It is said that the larger the belly, the more impressive the tiger painted on it. Of late, women have also begun dressing up and taking part in the pulikkali.

This year, Thrissur turned into a sea of stripes and spots as more than 250 tigers and leopards pranced around in full gusto, adding a carnivalesque touch to the Onam celebrations. They moved around with growls and roars, dancing to the accompaniment of drums, brightly dressed in black, green, yellow and fluorescent colours. A point to be noted is that body paint is not the healthiest of practices for it plugs the pores. However, these intrepid dancers, divided into five contingents, ruled the Swaraj Round and found places in the hearts of the ecstatic spectators.

                                                                       Pulikkali 2023

As Onam comes to a close this year, the skies are overcast and it is to be hoped that Kerala gets its share of the monsoons finally. 

This post is a part of the Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023.



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