It's Vishu today - April 14th. The day we, as kids, used to eagerly look forward to every year. Of all the festivals that we celebrate in a year, this has to be my favourite.
It all starts with getting up early in the morning to see the 'Vishu Kani' that Ammumma and Amma had set beautifully the night before. In the wee hours of the day, Amma wakes us up, blindfolds our eyes with her hands and walks us to the Pooja Room where the Kani is set beautiful with all the fruits and vegetables, gold, money, mirror and Unni Kannan in the midst of all. Even now, watching the kani with all the Vishu songs and other shlokas in the background is surreal. Amma then gives us our first Kaineetam of the day - a tower of ten Re. 1 coins, which back then was a major let down since to us, the kaineetam was more of giving us a 'pocket money' rather than a blessing for prosperity. We would then rush to get ready to visit all our favourite temples. After almost two hours of temple visits we would come back home to rest while watching a super-hit Malayalam movie while the sadya gets ready. However, all said and done, a major part of the day goes by with getting 'Kaineetam' from all the elders. We would ask Kaineetam from all those who came home that day, from all elders we visited, from neighbours who are more like family and from all at home. Growing up, us three kids would compete against each other to get the highest amount. I still remember we slyly asking each other how much we got so that we can go one rupee up. The best part of the day was getting Kaineetam from Achan because undoubtedly his amount would be the highest. But thinking back, more than it being the highest, it was a pure joy getting Kaineetam from Achan because he gave it with all his heart and ensuring we had enough to buy all that we wanted.
Things changed as the years passed by. When I went to UK for my masters, I was at my uncle's house and celebrated my first Vishu away from home there. Despite her husband being (supposedly) an atheist, my aunt and her mom set up the Vishu Kani beautifully and after all the years of taunting and troubling him for my kaineetam, that year I finally got my kaineetam from him. I kept the amount in my wallet for a long time without spending since it meant so much to me - as the years passed, I think I forgot about it and the money got spent in some way or the other. I still send him an email or message for my share of kaineetam every year before Vishu and like all years that has passed by, we fight about the topic every year. Once I got married, I realised that the husband was worse than my uncle. In this seven years, I've never got a kaineetam from the man, inspite of the mandatory call his mom does every year on this day to tell him 'strictly' that I had to be given kaineetam!
Marriage changed my way of celebrating Vishu a lot. In contrast to getting up with Amma's hands on my eyes leading me to the Puja room, it was now upon me to get the Kani ready and to lead the husband and now, the little boy too. While earlier I sat lazying around and running around collecting my share of the kaineetam, only to come back and sit for the sadya lunch, now it is upon me to get the sadya ready. Even with kaineetam, over the years receiving has taken a backseat and giving has taken over.
Yesterday night, after I made the little boy sleep and got up to set the Vishu kani, my eyes welled up. I missed home terribly. It was one of those moments when I realised that the little girl has grown up to be a mother now. All that I wanted was to be back home, oblivious of all the cleaning and setting up of Vishu Kani and waking up to Amma's call to see the Kani. The feeling continued when I woke up today morning too. Now, after a mini sadya that I whipped up for the boys, my mood is slowly changing for the better. I am happy that the little boy atleast got to experience a minute part of my favourite festival - yes, he did have the kani, he got the kaineetam and the sadya. I don't know if he will ever be able to walk through neighbourhoods collecting his kaineetam from everyone and counting the money. But for now, he got the best of what I could offer him.