Chapter – 5
After their conversation about the current epidemic coronavirus spreading across the globe, Sujoy's mind wandered to a year back visit to his Malayalee friend Xavier's home in Vennoor which is between Mala and Annamanada in Thrissur District for their church feast of St. Sebastian. Now the thought of the visit surfaced as St. Sebastian is the patron saint of pandemic or epidemic and it is a royal feast whole over the district which they celebrate in sequence in every church. The feast in Vennoor is always held every year in the second week of January Friday to Sunday. The journey of the whole trip flashed in Sujoys' eyes as a paper presentation. He remembered his journey clearly from travelling by train to Thrissur, getting down at Divine Nagar and hearing the chants of 'Alleluia' from the station as it was just sharing the boundary with 'Divine Retreat Centre'.
After getting down, Xavier drove them in his red coloured Swift through Kadukutty – Sambaloor – Vynthala and reached Vennoor a 25 min. drive i.e. about 12-15 Km from Divine Nagar. During our route mapped, we saw lush greenery and trees like nutmeg, Rose Apple, Indian plum, Egg-fruit, bread-fruit plants, along with Jackfruit, mangoes, lime, tamarind, cashew, Tapioca, banana, Black-pepper, Sapota, Sugar apple, Garcinia indica, Coconut, and other plants and trees everywhere.
After reaching their home, a typical 1 storey nicely built and roof covered with aluminium sheeting house with bathrooms attached and a separate wood room for cooking with the logs or dry tree trunks and coconut leaves. At a glance, one could interpret that everyone in the village was much obsessed with their small house as every house were well constructed and finished according to their capacity with greenery and a well for each house. The well, some deep as of Xavier's was the water source for them which provided naturally filtered clean and clear water for their every purpose. We got reanimate with the cool water of the well which was so refreshing that it took the tiring self from us and felling enlivened within.
Xavier's mother offered us home-made typical traditional Kerala delicacy, Ela Ada, a sweet filling of grated coconut and jaggery covered in a rice flour dough and steamed in banana leaf. After filling our tummy and a hot cup of Malabar tea, we left to visit the nearby places. From there we went to the north of Vennoor i.e. to Alathur junction where I found some small shops that provide the daily needs of the villagers. We drove back to the south side which had the ration shop, dairy and few shops to cater to villagers need. The village seems to be self-supporting with every house having a kitchen garden that supplies vegetables for their daily needs. It has temples, Anganwadi and church. As it was getting dark, he took us to their paadam(paddy field). The area was clear and long enough to meet our eyes. The exuberant paddy field in acres and coconut trees showing the boundaries, a narrow water body that provides water for the crop and a small pond that has flowing water to bath both men and animals. The water body filled with Indian lotus and balled shaped lilac beautiful flower of the tickle me plant along the way make it more appealing. We sat on the small bridge that connects Vynthala and Vennoor and saw the sunset with the cool breeze blowing, a flock of birds finding their way back, the sound of field creatures and sudden view of small fishes in the water took us to another world of a destination holiday spot. We never imagined of such a small yet contained village with so friendly people and calm environment still exist.
In the evening, we went to St. Mary's church which divides the village into symmetry. The church was newly built having a Mother Mary's grotto at the entrance. It has a parish hall, playground, a cemetery and a small garden called as the infant Jesus garden when in a statue of St. Raphael is placed. It was the flag-off ceremony that starts the 3-day feast of St. Joseph, St. Sebastian and St. Mary. The celebration was power paced with village filled pom-poms and glitters. On Friday, there was a Drama, on the second day- fireworks and Ambu pradarshanam as it is called i.e. taking the arrow to individuals house with naadan kottu or band-set. On Sunday, they offer the feast Qurbana with distribution of prasadam. In the evening, they have a royal magnificent convoy with everyone present walking in two rows and carrying a sparkly decorated umbrella and the statues of the three saints on their shoulders with band-set, kottu and prayer chants. After the procession, there is a Gaana-mela or orchestra to wind up the feast.
During the break, Savier and Sujoy went to the toddy shop and bought some fresh sweet toddy called the andhi kallu. The shop collects the toddy and serves its regular people; we took two mud-pots with special kallu-shop curries. The sweet non-alcoholic beverage derived from fresh sap of coconut with the spicy curry was an icing on the cake for the day. It made me think that why should a villager from here to another city, state or country if they can find a good job here? It is surely a small heaven to me. A good bath, typical Kerala cuisine and the calm atmosphere with cool breeze was a utilized the much-needed break. Suddenly, there was a tap on the shoulder and Sujoy got back from the memories of his Kerala visit.
“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in." — Morrie Schwartz