Getting up at 4 am, bleary-eyed and barely awake, I would half-stumble, half be dragged to the swami corner. Multiple applications of water to the eyes would ensue as my parents attempted to make me notice every single tiny detail of the vishu kani. Eventually, about 10 minutes later, my brain would actually comprehend what it was being made to see. I have the most memories of celebrating vishu at home when Thatha was around – he would be sitting there watching me take it all in. In the end there would be a single question as to whether I noticed the finishing touches such as the gold, and the multiple currencies. By this time, Warsha would be taking an active interest in the world around her, even if both our eyes drooped ever so occasionally. Then would come a small prayer, and we would reverentially touch swami padam before we reached what we termed as the best part – vishu kaineetam. Each of us would get it in turn from Thatha, oldest to youngest.. and the tally of how much we “earned” would begin. I remember a time when it was a competition between all us cousins – any and all sources of vishu kaineetam were valid and would be used. Bonus would be when one of the other Thathas dropped by for a visit – it meant significant augmentation to our hoard.
There are a few things that have dropped by the way over the last 5 years. I could earlier figure out vishu based on the preparations the previous night – Appa and Amma would start post-dinner to arrange the many items that had been accumulated over the past week. Different parts would be brought in from their cubby-holes as the decoration progressed. It would be done pretty quickly, but too long for me and Warsha – it was something that we constantly ran away from doing. Contrastingly, my UK vishus were marked by remembering to see God early in the morning, rather than email. This year I managed the closest I could get to something “normal”: managing to see rice, dal, god, and gold at a decently early hour. There is much more I could have done, what I find strange is that I innately want to ensure I hold on to doing them. I am barely religious, and rituals are not high on the priority list – but these small things seem to be the anchors to a better time, a simpler time.. when vishu truly marked the beginning of a new year.