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.