Pongal, Cardamom House Style.
Monday was Cow Pongal in Tamil Nadu. This is the day when the cow is blessed for her vital role in the lives of the locals and everyone has new sets of clothes. At Cardamom House, we had four VERY rich Americans staying. We needed to impress them. Good reports to their friends could mean more rich guests. However, their pongal was not turning out as they had expected. They had already missed out on the big Bull Running Festival in Madurai. Their visit to Athoor village with Pandi had been disappointing. The cows had already been painted and few people were around. They were getting disgruntled. NO problem. Farmer Kumar had a cow in calf as well as her two calves. Perfect. All that was needed was a bath for the cow, so that she was sparkling with cleanliness for the ceremony, and then we would all be ready. Pongal rice had been prepared and placed in the house temple. Bananas were prepared and laid across the rice. Fresh incense and paints were bought. Great … … except the cow lost her footing and fell in the tank. She needed to be clean, but she didn’t need to go swimming. There are steps out of the tank, but these are very narrow and covered in ten years worth of slime. Various attempts were made to entice her out – lifting her out supported on a raft, to name but one method. No luck. All she was interested in was eating the straw on the raft the rescue team had constructed. The team tried pulling her out, using a climbing sling that I happened to have in my rucsac, the way you do. They tried pushing her. They tried shoving her …. Eventually the rescue team and growing band of onlookers began to lose interest and wandered away. Shankar contacted the fire brigade, but they said that they only dealt with fires. Plan B for celebrating Pongal Cardamom House Style began. Pandi took the guests back into the village, and managed to find someone to invite them in – wonderful. At least the Americans saw something a bit different from the things they might have seen on a normal tourist trip. Meanwhile, back at the tank, only Farmer Kumar, young Kumar and one other remained, swimming around with the cow. The calm ambience brought inspiration. They decided to fill sacks with sand to make a ramp. To everyone’s relief, brains won over brawn . The cow scrambled up the ramp and continued chewing at the grass as though diving into a tank for a swim was an everyday occurrence. Chris was all for cancelling everything, but Farmer Kumar insisted that the cow had to be blessed. So Pongal Cardamom House Style went ahead. The cow was given a new halter. She was painted – not very artistically. Her horns were painted in a bright blue enamel paint. She was fed with bananas and pongal rice … and for good measure, Jancy, the dog was painted as well.