Sunday, 11 January 2009


Another Pongal, the exclusively Thamilzh harvest festival, is here. This time, with the additional distinction of being the Thamizh New Year. So that is two New Years in a month.

Sometime last year, the Tamilnadu Government changed the Thamizh New Year date from the first date of the month Chithrai to Thai 1. So this is the first Pongal with the tag ‘New Year’. (The Thamizh year last year which was born in April , Sarvadhari, dies a premature death at eight months, and the new year Virodhi comes early to us. But I find that some calendars are holding on to Sarvadhari till April. Utter confusion).

And guess who is sponsoring my ‘sakkarai pongal’, the special sweet dish made on Pongal day?

To make Pongal a ‘Happy’ New Year, the Tamilnadu government is presenting to all ration card holders a gift of the required ingredients for the ‘sakkarai pongal’. The packet includes – half a kilo each of rice and jaggery, a 100gms of 'pasi paruppu' (moong dal), and a small pack of cashew nuts, raisins and cardamoms. (There is no ghee).

The lady who works at the ration shop where I picked up my packet told me there are almost 2000 cardholders attached to the shop. Multiply this by the number of shops in the whole of Tamilnadu, and you come up with a mind-boggling number. Assuming that the package cost, on an average Rs. 25 (this is a very, very low estimate), what will the total amount spent be! And where is the money coming from? Certainly not anybody’s personal funds, I am sure. It is the tax payers’ money, which is why I went to collect my packet – I had already paid for it.

Free colour TVs, free gas stoves, free spices and condiments, whatever next!

Happy New Year, and Happy Pongal!

An edited news-report version of this appeared in the Mylapore Times dated Jan. 10, 2009.


Maddy said...

Happy Pongal!!!

Puthaandu Vaalthukkal Varumbothu solren!! Its a good thought by Mr. Karunanithi to celebrate Tamil New year on Pongal,but somehow I could not subscribe to that.

Pradeep said...

Happy New Year, once more....!! And, a good point you make there. Indeed we are the one's who are footing the bill...

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello Raji:)

Pongal and New year Greetings!

Your post reminds of the Pongal days I enjoyed in Chennai.

On Bhogi day people used to bring all the old unwanted items in their houses and burn them on the road. If they don’t have anything, they got some old tyres lying on the road side and burnt them. The children standing around the bonfire laughing, shouting, clapping, screaming, beating small drums till late into the night was a fascinating and enthralling sight to watch.

On Pongal day they wore beautiful sarees, pavadai, thavani, gold ornaments etc. They made pongal and shouted, “PONGALO, PONGAL!”

On Kanum Pongal day, the marina beach ( I don’t know what you call it now) used to overflow with people. Even the museum and cinema theatres like Chitra, Gaiety, Casino etc. used to be over crowded people. I have seen policemen lathi charging unruly crowds at the theatre ticket counters and people running helter skelter.

Of course, Jalli Kattu is also there. But I think they are mostly in villages. In Chennai people who owned cows decorated them and took them around the streets and from house to house.

Pongal is a colorful festival. I am not very sure whether Gummi Attu and Kolattam is also played at this time. Kolams were also drawn very elaborately in front of the houses during this time It was long ago and I have forgotten many wonderful things.

As regards Tamil Nadu government using tax payers money to distribute free items to ration card holders, we all know that it is a gimmick to get votes. I will not be surprised if there is a stampede and some people die for getting the freebees. It happened last time when flood relief was given.

Kerala government is one step ahead. They not only used tax payers money to pay the salaries of government employees but also diverted loans taken from World Bank for development projects for salary purposes. World Bank officials are not fools. They soon found out this trickery and stopped giving loans to the government.

Best wishes to you and your family for a happy new year and enjoyable Pongal festivities :)

Indrani said...

Already Pongal?!
How soon the time flies!
We are two weeks in to the new year.

Devika said...

Happy Pongal, and Happy Thamizh New Year, Raaji! :)

Utter confusion -- i'm smiling at my favourite phrase :)

then I decide myself an say 'Shutter Confusion" :))

wishes, again

Exile from the Real World said...

Happy eating!

enjoy your tax return in kind

Swarna said...

Hi, remember 'chettha caallege, uyir caallege'?
I have a tough time explaining to my mallu spouse the practice of visiting the zoo and museum after Pongal on the Kaanum Pongal day.
BTW the auspicious time for cooking the pongal is 9:17 to 9:47 am, 10:51 to 11:49 for puja to Sun God, shares my mom (courtesy Kumudam Jotidam weekly)

Gardenia said...

You are expected to pay for it over again...with your vote!


Maddy, Happy Pongal to you too!

Pradeep, and also for the freebies we did not get - like TV, gas stove etc.

Joseph, a very evocative piece - could be a blog post in itself. Today was Bhogi, and there were no burning of garbage or rubber tyres - eco conscious organisations have drives to discourage this. There are hardly any cows left in the city, so maattu pongal is mostly without the maadu! Kaanum Pongal is when the whole city takes off - everyone and his family go sightseeing as before. In fact, the crowds are much larger nowadays. What is astounding is that government offices go into hibernation for five days - three days off for Pongal , Mattu Pongal and Thiruvalluvar Day(Kaanum Pongal falls on this day),(Wednesday to Friday) followed by a Saturday and Sunday.

Indrani, Devika and Exile, nice comments, thank you.

Swarna , thank you for the 'nalla neram'

Praveen G K said...

Happy new year and happy pongal :-)

PS: Please remove word verification for comments!

Kat said...

I too collected 'my due packet'.

Request alert me when "....Free colour TVs, free gas stoves, free spices and condiments.." are being distributed :)))