Happy Onam To One And All!

Happy Onam To One And All!

6 mins 22.3K 6 mins 22.3K

‘When Maveli, our King ruled the Land, All people were equal. And people were joyful and merry...’

Thus rang the lyrics of the popular Onam song chanted by the tiny tots of Chandanappally village in Kerala for the Local Community Gathering celebrations, proclaiming the Arrival of the much awaited harvest festival, Onam.

A group of young ladies huddled around giving the final touches to the Pookalam in the verandah of their house, supervised by the vibrant Lucy Chechi. ‘I guess, the black stem of the coconut trees would require a bit of red as a shading effect, don’t you think,’ queried Lucy Chechi with the air of a renowned artist teaching her selected pupils. ‘Don’t go messing there’, she jerked little Deepak aside who had come to watch what the entire commotion was all about.

Minutes later, Lucy Chechi declared, ‘I guess it’s all done. Come, Sara, Deepak, Sylvia, Merin, let’s have payasam at my house. Who’s game for my special treat?’

‘Me! Me! Me!’ cried four voices in unison and raced down the street like obedient dogs following its master.

Everyone loved Lucy Chechi for her simple ways and her kindly, motherly nature. Lucy Chechi was a widow and not much well off but could afford 3 square meals with her daily wages. She had only one son, Benny who was currently not in contact with her. Her husband had died in an accident while working in a factory at Ernakulam. It was four years since her husband left her and the loss was at times very had to live with. Succeeding this, came the additional responsibilities of being the sole bread earner of the family. Benny, who was seventeen years of age then, had finished his schooling. Perhaps the loss of his father was too unbearable or the everyday pain and endless toil of his mother was too hard to see, Benny went off within a year of his father’s death, to some place in the early hours of morning, without telling his mother; leaving behind Lucy Chechi in a heap of tears.

It was rumoured that Benny had gone off to some Gulf country. Lucy Chechi tried in vain to get some sort of contact with her son by asking Benny’s friends about his whereabouts. But no one supposedly knew about him. She could somehow lay her hands on a phone number which one of Benny’s well wishers had given her; but no matter whenever she tried that number, all she received was a buzz and the call getting disconnected.

Lucy Chechi kept herself busy with the neighbourhood, doing small chores in one or two houses. Laughing and telling children stories which made her forget her sorrow momentarily; but the overwhelming silence and loneliness of the night at her small abode made the pain and sorrow thrust a deeper wound in her heart, which turned sore day after day; as though the pain would never go away.

Now she served the little bit of payasam that she had made from the meagre amount of money that she got as bonus during the Onam season from the houses where she worked. It was not only these houses, but  at times she used to volunteer for some odd work or the other at any house for which the people paid her some money for her large- heartedness and her reassuring presence.

The kids soon slurped up the payasam served in their tiny bowls and sang a song to Lucy Chechi and led her again back to the street.

Lucy Chechi could hear Annammama struggle with cooking at her kitchen. She immediately walked in through the kitchen side of the house to greet Annammama.

‘Hello, Annamma dear,’ chirped Lucy Chechi. ‘What special for Onam? Where are Chettan, Appu and Ammu?’

‘Oh hello Lucy,’ beamed Annammamma. ‘Good that you came by. Its just that my husband seems to be in a big hurry, can you help me with the cooking, please?’

‘Why of course,’ smiled Lucy Chechi,’ Anytime dear! 

With that, Lucy Chechi cooked the most sumptuous food enough to feed a battalion. There was the aviyal, ginger curry, banana chips, erissery, pachadi and so on, the list was endless. Annammama was amazed.

‘Thanks so much dear, ‘Annammama was delighted and very much relieved. ‘Here’s a token of my gratitude,’ she said inserting a note in Lucy Chechi’s palm.

‘Thanks Annamma’, bade Lucy Chechi. ‘My heartfelt Onam wishes to everyone here.’

Lucy Chechi stepped out to the street to see the ‘Tug of War’ played by the street people at the nearby field. The volunteers were lining up and the commentators were announcing the names of the two teams. A sudden instant of sportive delight made Lucy Chechi also give her name for the competition.

The two teams were ready and soon the referee was blowing the whistle to mark the start of the game. Lucy Chechi was standing at the extreme back pulling at the rope, for the women’s team, as the ultimate pillion of strength. Initially, it felt that the other team was gaining and Lucy Chechi’s team was soon to be defeated. Lucy Chechi boosted up everyone’s spirit by singing a song of oneness which rose like a ripple through the team, lifting everyone’s spirits that made each member pull with every ounce of her energy so that Lucy Chechi’s team won the trophy.

In the entire hullaballoo, no one asked Lucy Chechi to join for lunch. Everyone was left congratulating the other forgetting that Lucy Chechi was the one who had boosted their spirit in the play. Lucy Chechi tried conversing with others but somehow everyone appeared pretty busy with something or the other.

Cold pangs of isolation caught Lucy Chechi as she walked home. There was some celebrations going on in the street but no one seemed to notice poor Lucy Chechi.

She opened the creaky door of her house and as she closed the door, large drops of tears fell across her face. Sobbing, she took a banana leaf that she had brought from her garden and placed it on the floor to eat. But only burning tears splashed on the empty banana leaf.

Suddenly, she heard a creak at the door and a strong hand caught her shoulder. She leapt up, scared at who the sudden intruder was.

‘Amma, it’s me,’ said a well- known male voice. ‘No need to cry anymore.’

As the rays of the sun fell across his face, Lucy Chechi realised that it was none other than her lost son.

‘Thank God you are alive,’ sobbed Lucy Chechi. ‘Where had you gone? I tried to contact you so many times.’

‘Amma, forgive me’, said Benny. ‘I was tied up very much and had to change my work place thrice and so I didn’t have any permanent lodging or any means of contact, that’s why I couldn’t call you. I was saving each and every penny for this trip to Kerala. Now, you no longer need to stay alone and work like this; I have got a permanent job now, I shall take you along with me after spending my vacation here.’

Lucy Chechi listened to her son, spell- bound. She couldn’t believe her eyes or her ears. It was as though God had answered her prayers and had given her the most precious gift at Onam.

‘Come, Amma,’ continued Benny, urging his mother. ‘Let us have food together and first of all, give your magic smile.’

Lucy Chechi laughed through her tears. They were tears of joy. She was the happiest person on Earth. Lord Maveli had indeed blessed her on this auspicious day.

‘Happy and Blessed Onam to One and All!’

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