Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Other Side Of A Palli Perunnal

Matthew 21:12 : Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

Every May life takes a different course for people of Edappally. The “palli perunnal” (festive season at the St. George church) from 31st April to Mid May brings in ‘believers’ from all over the state to this place in the northern end of Cochin Corporation. And with it comes days of terrible traffic management, unofficial power cuts (to supply the Church with the necessary power) and various forms of health hazards.
I am not being entirely honest if I say I hate the festive period. I love it when people assemble. These are occasions when people celebrate together -The rich and the poor. They come in flocks, eat street food (at inflated prices), drink sugar cane juice, buy cotton candy, pray for petty things and rejuvenate their lives. Little girls running around searching for that perfect bangle while another pack stack up their ammo with 'Potas' (a very mild gun powder) bullets. It is my miniature heaven. Everyone is happy. The parents constantly reminding each other of what it used to be when they were kids. Infact these festivals are something that preserves a little bit of the past. Same old cotton candy, same  old guns, bangles, coloured candies, rosaries... Very little change has happened to a 'perunnal' or 'utsavam' in the last twenty- thirty years.

I am person who generally likes my free space and solitude but love and happiness of a Perunnal cannot be paralleled. I love the overall energy that brings.
But at Edappally there is a strange practice that really does bother me. It is considered holy to be cooking chicken at Edappally during these days. And the believers are encouraged to buy chickens from the church itself (at beefed up prices). And why wouldn't they. Nothing sells like Brand God.
People come in groups, kills chickens in dozens, cooks them, be freed of their sins and leave merrily. But what happens to all that waste? The skins, the feather, the internal organs?
Every year around this time there is dramatic increase in the number of rats, crows and flies. You probably guessed what they feed on. We laugh about it every year saying its a good sign that these creatures are feeding on it. Not GMO and all that.
But life really becomes terrible. Everything we cook at home has to protected from flies. Dead rats on roads starts becoming a common sight. The air becomes so stale that it is hard to breath. Along with the imminent danger of rat bites and related diseases.
It has with time become better. Earlier May evenings used to be like a vampire infested Transylvania. We would all lock our gates and switch off the lights early. Otherwise people would get inside our compounds and start cooking. And there are drunk men we are talking about.

Now the killing has been restricted to school ground and the roads surrounding it. But there is no shortage of flies and rats.
Nothing I say is going to change things. You simply don't mess with religious beliefs in this country! Especially not when it tastes good. But I wanted the story to be out. So that the next time you come with your chicken, you will atleast remember to put the waste in the bin.
As Gloria Gaynor sang once albeit for a totally different reason, "I'll survive" this period like i've been doing ever since my family moved to Edappally.
"Blah", as my friend rightly puts it, "at least it's bio degradable."

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