The moment I woke up and inhaled the smell of tumeric and neem, I remembered that today was the first day of Chithirai.
A moment ago, Amma must have sprinkled the floor with water mixed with cow dung. It doesn’t smell good, but that is the best way to kill germs on the floor. Once washed with clean water and sprinkled with tumeric water, the bad smell would disappear.
And now, I could inhale the distinguish smell of roses. Amma must be sprinkling rose water on the floor throughout the house.
It was still dark. I searched around with my hand. Ragu was still there next to me; asleep.
Perhaps he was still tired because Amma gave both of us a tough job yesterday. We were asked to take out two brass lamps from the glass cupboard in the last room.
Both the lamps were as tall as us. I was entrusted with the duty of polishing one of the lamps while Ragu was taking care of the other. We used soap powder and coconut husk to polish the lamps until they were shining.
When Ragu and I completed the enormous task, we noticed that Amma had washed and polished quite a number of brass cups and plates; and was in the midst of washing the items to be used during the new year’s prayer.
“Hey, Ragu,” I whispered while pinching my twin brother who was still asleep. “Are you still sleeping?”
Ragu pushed away my hand a few times. I ignored his reaction. I tried to look at his face. But the only thing I could see in the darkness was a string of yellow light from the kitchen, piercing through a small hole in the wall to my left. My hands started searching for Ragu’s face.
“Hey! What is this?” Ragu asked; apparently still feeling sleepy.
“Today is the beginning of Chithirai; Tamil New Year,” I reminded Ragu excitedly.
I could hear the bed creak a little when Ragu quickly sat up next to me. His hand was searching for my ear.
“Has Amma got up?” Ragu whispered his question.
I did not continue my conversation with Ragu because my nose picked up the aroma of tose. Ragu was inhaling deeply to the extend that his nose produced some funny noise.
Amma must be making tose in the kitchen. I was sure that Amma would have already cooked saivam dishes. Just like last year, in a very short while, Amma would enter the bedroom to wake the two of us.
“Amma would be coming to wake us soon,” I said.
Ragu did not reply. Maybe he was nodding but I could not see his nod in the dark.
“Whom do you want to see first today?” I asked Ragu as I vaguely began to be able to see his face.
“I think I want to see Amma first.”
“Exactly my thought! I too want to see Amma’s face,” I interjected excitedly to know that Ragu had the same idea as I did.
Last year, Amma woke us up at about this time. She asked us to keep our eyes closed. Then, Amma ushered both of us to walk beside her with our eyes still shut.
When she told us to open our eyes, we did as commanded and the first thing we saw was Lord Muruhan’s idol in the prayer room.
According to Amma, on Tamil New Year, Ponggal and Diwali, we should look at a pious or religious object the moment we open our eyes in the morning.
“But wouldn’t Amma get angry if we were to look at her face and not the statue of Lord Muruhan this morning?”
Before Ragu could answer my question, we heard footsteps approaching the bedroom. Amma must be on her way to ask us to get up. Ragu and I quickly pulled the blanket over our heads.
“Ragu, Rama,” Amma whispered dotingly. “Wake up; today is Chithirai Vishu.”
(This extract was translated by Uthaya Sankar SB on 3 November 2011. The original “Doa Tahun Baru” was first published in Menara 6 [DBP: 1995], Siru Kambam [DBP: 1996] and Nayagi [UM: 1999]. This short story is now available in Kisah dari Siru Kambam . Please CLICK HERE for more articles in English.)