Monday, August 01, 2016

Celebrate and remember ... at least with a glass of water

I don't believe in anybody up there controlling the strings to our puppet lives.  Yet--and perhaps even more than those who believe in their favorite puppet-masters--I frequently express thanks for the phenomenal life of abundance and health, and for the luck that I have to be alive now as opposed to, say, even a hundred years ago.

In the part of the old country where I was born and raised, there are a number of designated days to celebrate life, and to express gratitude.  Tuesday happens to be one of those--ஆடி பெருக்கு (Aadi Perukku).  On top of that, it is also the new moon, which is a day every month when the ancestors are remembered.  This one is a special new moon.

Of course, I have no almanac here with me to keep track of these dates.  My almanac is in the old country--my father.

"For the new moon, the food is usually simple. Austere. But, for the Aadi Perukku it is a feast.  So, if the two are on the same day, then what will be the food plan?" I asked my father.

There is food for remembrance, and there is food for celebration.  A cousin of mine, when he was young, asked his mother why she didn't cook one of those celebratory dishes--his favorite--more often.  "That will take away what is special about it" my aunt replied.

My father didn't even pause to think about my question.  "Oh, the Aadi Perukku dishes don't have onions and garlic anyway.  Plus, we will be using the green plantains in the aviyal. So, that is not an issue."

In the old days, before the modern age of dams and reservoirs, this is the time of the year--after the monsoon--that the rivers and the canals would once again flow in plenty, much to the delight of the rural folk whose life depended on the precious water.  Even I remember from the childhood days how the canal behind grandmother's home flowed with water gently lapping against the steps.  Aadi Perukku was a time to celebrate the prosperity that a fully flowing river represented.  Of course, with every river also being a god, this was also the time to offer thanks to the river.

Maybe tomorrow when I walk by the Willamette here, I will also offer a special thanks.  Maybe you, too, can take a moment to offer thanks to the cosmos for the water that sustains life.  The precious water, which makes our planet a special pale blue dot in the cosmos.

By Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me I know of nothing else but miracles, 
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, 
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, 
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of
   the water, 
Or stand under trees in the woods, 
Or talk by day with any one I love, or sleep in the bed at night
   with any one I love, 
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest, 
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, 
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive of a summer
Or animals feeding in the fields, 
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, 
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so
   quiet and bright, 
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring; 
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, 
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with
   the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle,
The fishes that swim—the rocks—the motion of the waves—
   the ships with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?


Ramesh said...

Interesting world indeed. The good Professor celebrating Aadi perukku on thee banks of the Willamette ! I am amazed you even know what aadi perukku is. Very likely your father gave you a lecture when you called him :)

This time the monsoon has been good in India. Ares which reeled under a severe drought last 3 years have received rain. We have been blessed. It shall be a good year.

Sriram Khé said...

You seem to forget that I grew up in a traditional setup ... ;)
One of the silly jokes we young chaps had was this: if "aadi perukku" is on one day of the year, is it "aadaama perukku" the rest of the year ... hahaha ... those old days!
(Note to non-Tamil readers: It is a godawful pun in Tamil and you will be better off without such groaners!)

Well ... a good monsoon is one thing, but managing water is another, right?

Mike Hoth said...

I just got back from record high temperatures in the deserts of central Washington. I have been thanking water far in advance of Aadi Perukku!

I do think that we have an awful tendency as humans to forget to be thankful for what we have, and the wealthy (I'm talking about us, not Wall Street) fall into that trap all the time. I've preached about it all too often, largely because most of my congregation does not make the trip to Wapato, Washington to understand how thankful a child is to receive their first meal of the day from a stranger mid-afternoon, and then go hungry until I arrive the next day. The poor are thankful for what they get, the rich are too busy to think about it.

Sriram Khé said...

I Googled "Wapato" in order to get an idea of where it is ... so ... is it rural poverty? migrant labor poverty?
Yes, we ought to be immensely thankful for the food and water that we have in plenty. Instead, it is an endless list of complaints that we have. But then, maybe to complain about the affluence that we don't have is also very much a part of being human?

Mike Hoth said...

You are correct with both guesses on Wapato. Once a small farming community with many Japanese inhabitants, FDR forced their removal during WWII. They were replaced with Mexican workers, who brought their gangs with them. Drug abuse joined the already huge alcoholism problem and gang warfare became constant. Add to this a tribal government that makes the Feds look good, and it's an awful, awful place.

A month before we arrived this year, the tribal government evicted everybody in the neighborhood we have gone to the past 8 years. They had 24 hours to get out. Our group helped the 300 now homeless people as best we could by feeding them and taking care of their children (the ones not old enough to work the fields) for the afternoon. Tribal "sent a notice 6 months ago" that nobody received and is tearing almost the entire neighborhood down to rebuild it.

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