A quiet birthday party

The 22nd of March, 2008.

The phone rings, and even as I wake up from sleep, I know it is N.

N taunts me because I want to get myself a toy duck for my birthday. That bright yellow toy duck that floats in water. The one that babies play with, in the bathtub.

What do I want to do with it? I want to put it in a glass dish filled with water, put in some frangipani flowers too, and savour the perception!

When N has had his fill of pulling legs, he wishes me happy birthday and hangs up. I decide to go back to sleep. I hear the sound of the rain outside. I open the window. The sky is thick with dark clouds and the rain is a steady drizzle. The trees are a lush green- the tropical green that I write about so often. I decide not to waste such a heavenly morning on sleep. For it is summer, and who ever expected rains at this time of the year? These are much more than summer showers. They have done a lot of damage to crops in various parts of the state, but that can’t kill my moment now. So I run outdoors, colliding with mom on the way. Mom and Dad wish me happy birthday.

I run outdoors and embrace the rain. The raindrops soak me, and I feel cold. It is a chill that I love and cherish.


To me, water is nature’s love. Ponds, rivers and lakes are nature’s love harnessed to soothe the woes of the earth. But the rain is a shower of fresh love from the heavens. So I wrap myself up in this love. I celebrate this love with the trees that are as soaked as I am. I can perceive their happiness just as they can perceive mine.


The rain turns lighter, and I go back indoors.

Today, mom puts in some fragrant herbs into the water that is set for my bath. The herbs bathe me in their fragrant freshness. I also love the aroma of incense sticks and camphor that floods the house.
I love jasmine flowers. They do not go with the shampooed, silky strands of my hair, but from a raw perspective, there is something beautiful about this oddity.

I think of my cousin’s grandmother- a lady who must be in her eighties. She can’t bear to see girls of my age, bare of flowers and gold, on birthdays and other occasions! I ask her how birthdays were in her times. And she enthusiastically recollects the details.

A bath in the pond that would be in the premises of the house. New clothes and jewellery. Sandal paste on the forehead. Flowers adorning the damp hair. Prayers and offerings in the temple. Coins gifted by the elders. The age-old tradition of the pulluvan pattu.

Her eyes are misty with the recollection.


Pulluvan is a male member (female- Pulluvatti ) of a low caste group called Pulluvar.

Most of the art forms of the Pulluvar are ritualistic. Most of their songs are related to worship, ritual, custom and exorcism. The pulluva art is expressed in the background of snake-worship, ghost worship and magic. One group among these people consider the snake gods as their presiding deity and perform certain rituals such as sacrifices and song singing. This is called ’Pulluvan Pattu’. This is performed in the houses of the lower castes as well as those of the higher castes, as well as in serpent temples.

The musical instruments used by the Pulluvar are pulluvan veena (a one stringed violin), pulluvan kutam (earthernware pot with on string attached to it) and thaalam (bell-metal cymbals). These instruments are made by the Pulluvar themselves.


The ritualistic pulluvan pattu




Today, mom made payasam for me and dad promised to bake a cake for me in the evening! I suppose these simple gestures of parental love that we almost overlook are the ones that will be most missed in their absence.

Deficiency brings to light the true value of things.

Today, I decide to pamper myself. I do not have a social network here in Kerala. So, I do what I love the most here. I take a boat-ride in the rain! It is a long row-boat, with wooden planks to sit on, and as the boatman rows, the slow splish-splash of the oars sets a rhythm to the ride. The rain is a light drizzle now, and raindrops fall on the river, creating little ripples. The bank is fringed by coconut palms that gracefully bow to the river.


Am I in the middle of paradise? I feel indebted for this valuable gift that is life. This opportunity to experience the splendour and glory of this world.


The boatman smiles at me. The rain is singing happy birthday. All around me, I can hear music. The world is singing happy birthday.

This world is indeed paradise. It is like a beautiful film. And life is a ticket, dispensed by nature, to the chosen few. Happy birthday to me! 


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