Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sunday mornings

I have been blessed in life. I grew up in a small community where most of our lives, revolved around the temple. It was where we learned a lot of things, it was where the society met mostly for prayers.

When we first moved there, mom got someone to start Thevaram classes at a house for the neighbourhood kids. Then we found the temple and the classes were shifted there under another well known teacher, and so began our sunday morning rituals.

Some 50 students from the neighbouring towns mostly between ages 10 - 5 would arrive for class. Some would walk in huge groups to the class and some would have the parents dropping them. That's how I learned thevaram, at a community class. It was a ritual, waking up early getting to class, running around in our pavadai's and jhupas till the teacher turned up, singing the hymns then breaking for tea before class continued. Tea was usually a simple affair of milo and biscuits or a simple snack. A group of parents used to take turns, the goal was for the children to learn and we did learn.

Stories of appar, Manickavasagar, ngana sambanthar were narrated to wide eyed children. Children who could have spent the morning watching cartoons instead spent most of their sundays at temple. No cartoon can replace the knowledge we got. It was also a respite to parents. By the time the children reached home, chores would have finished, parents would have had a rest and lunch would be ready.

Going to temple every Tuesday and Fridays became another ritual, as each of us took turns singing the pancha puranam (set of 5 hymns by different saints). Believe me not every temple allows children to sing that set. Then they began introducing the thevaram competition, a part of the nationwide movement to get children to learn about their religion. I used to be one of the boys, actually I still am, my group was always made of 3 guys and me. During those times, we'd stop running around, but instead sat and practiced before the teacher would come.

Those were the days, each child from that era could probably still sing a thevaram or 2, while telling you stories of the saints. Each person could tell you the small lessons we unknowingly learnt. How to dress for temple, how to behave, how to be naughty yet not be criminals, how to respect others, how to pray and many more how to's.

These are all part of a golden past and then politics happened, we backed out and slowly the urge to go for classes among the community stopped, since there was no more competition (you know wanting to do something only coz someone else was doing it). No one holds classes anymore, no one teaches children anymore, no one is bothered about being in charge of the class since we backed off. Bro and me never lost a thing, since we just continued learning elsewhere but the community did.

Mom despite being tricked, still decided people should learn and that's how the Margzhali prayers turned into another community class. I can proudly tell you everyone who comes could sing the hymns for you, even the 6 year old with help of course!

Traces of the community's once strong cultural hold can still be seen. People will patiently wait for a religious talk to finish or quietly watch the musical or dance performance. Despite the storm of Suntv serials, you still see people in the temples, you still see the temples filled during festivals, daily. Of course you don't see all the men in veshtis but neither do they come in shorts and most of the women and children would be attired in their indian clothes.

Being a small town, religious speakers tend to address its people as ignorant temple goers. I have chuckled at their ignorance. There have been numerous times I've wanted to pinpoint the truth to them, to tell them come see what these ppl know.

But there are things that are lacking, the new generation doesn't have those Sunday mornings.

How I wish I could teach them, how I wish I could share what I know. The irony is, it isn't that they don't want to learn, it's just I don't want to see the past repeat itself. I have kids asking me to teach them to put kolams, to sing, but I'm just reluctant to do so coz I know the moment I commit the competitions will start again, to see whose a better teacher! I call it the mentality of the crab - no one will do anything nor will they let anyone else do anything. So is it really worth it to go head on despite history's lessons??

I wonder .......


geetha said...

It's a pity the new generation don't value these knowledge. It might not be useful in the commecial world, but it will play a part in building up one's character.

Since you do kolam.. do you have a simple, modern one for a wedding? I am suppose to prepare one for my bro's wedding ;)

Shamgar said...

Visithra... our worlds growing up were so far apart, yet in so many ways the same. The little town I lived close to had 4 Christian churches. Each of them had a Sunday School for children each Sunday morning and often on Sunday evening too, and on Wednesday evening. During the summer there were short two week schools called Vacation Bible School. In all of these schools children learned to sing and learned Bible stories and stories of great people in the Church. And often too, the younger ones learned to play musical instrument. In many small rural communities these traditions continue. Yes competition always arises, but it is a worthwhile risk to take in helping children learn. Perhaps it is even a good thing. I remember when I was young hearing a man say that the Soviet Union had the world's best athletes because they competed and the world's worst washing machines because they did not. Might that not apply to teaching also?

Keropok said...

Not unlike you (and more like Shamgar) I too grew up with my Sundays spent at the church-grounds, for almost my entire childhood.

Those were days that shaped our character, and make us who we are today. There were no Standard 2 match tuition classes or Jazz dancing classesfor 8-year-olds to rush off to.

We could be children back then. We took our time...

anjali* said...

What a nice childhood.

At eight, I forced my mum to let me take Jawi tuition coz I refused to have a red mark on my report card. Pathetic, eh?

Hey, I want to learn how to do kolam la. Can give private tutorial ah? Cheap, cheap free, perhaps? :-P

tulipspeaks said...

visi, u hv just brought me back to my childhood. like u, those were the days i spend most of my time in the temple. mom still will tell u stories how i kicked and cried when she forbids me to visit temple on rainy Friday evenings..

those were the days.. days which may never repeat again.

cherish the memory


Inder said...

very true. life style changes rapidly. your childhood sounds very pleasant. though not thevaram, i learnt quite a bit of ramayan and mahabarat during my childhood. today's children are busy with cartoon network, disney channel, playstations and xboxes. at the end of the day, what matters the most is if the children learn things that would help them in their lives. if cartoon networks and playstations teach them, then be it.

BawangMerah said...

It is a great pity when the peace loving people of the world choose to keep quiet while unrests rages on.

It is a great pity, when the knowledgeable keep to themselves while ignorance reigns.

I don't know what happened before. But I guess we learn from our past mistakes. You didn't know about the politics back then. I'm sure you have some idea now after so many years. Experiences from work and daily life perhaps might help.

The show offs will always be there. The 'my car is bigger than your car' crowd will always be there. There's nothing we can do about it. What we can do though, is to do our duties as best as we can. Impart your knowledge as best as you can. There has to be a better reason that we learn other than to only store information right.

sreekrishnanv said...

kind of co incidence .. but in a strange way !! .. i too wrote about a temple experience and found out a diff. experience here !!

My days(Gops) said...

wow....idhu thaan neeenga 'paadal' kathu'kitta history'a? nice nice...

naan ellam most of the days 'Heman and the masters of the universe' paarthey sunday'a ottiten...

btw, therinchada solli kodutheenga..gud gud...continue pannuneengana.adha vida gud gud..
atleast oru 4peru unga pera solluvaangaley? he he he

My days(Gops) said...

btw, tag pannitom illa,unga blog'la poi paarunga..

Jeevan said...

From my childhood, my Sunday starts with watching TV. In my school days there will be a bajan class on every Friday, the songs they teach us have never come out correctly form my mouth, its full of Sanskrit. My cousin sis will visit the temples on the margali months to sing songs & she will also participate in competition, but never won.

Syam said...

I just saw your blog roll and amazed.....kaalaila elundhu ella blog kum oru visit adichitu vara looks like you need 2 days... :-)

Syam said...

@gops, //4peru unga pera solluvaangaley//
enna solla vareenga, 4 peruku nallathu pannanumna ethuvum thappu illai apdinna :-)

anasalwa said...

I share the same sentiments with you. Sometimes I feel there are so many things I would like to share with the younger generations,but then we do make mistakes, we learn by the mistakes we make in our lives.
But then the teacher appears when a student is ready, right?

Keshi said...

my my I love kolams...wud u do a pretty one for me when I get married? ;-)


sreekrishnanv said...

its tough to have the same things again ... the way things were taught in childhood !!

nobody is to blame !! ... this will happen anyway !!

and tough to retrive those traditions back !!

Sundar Narayanan said...

visithra, by the time you have toddler kids you will face this debate head on! at that point it will be a hard choice. Jr. is taking "ballet" lessons because of peer pressure.. three other girls in her class are pirouetting!! i cant even show her other girls in her class who can learn Indian dancing!


Harsha said...

I could not understand the post. :)

I even searched wikipedia for Thevaram :) but it doesnt have anything. Am i right in understanding that they are hymns, bhajans of a kind. Even google doesnt give sufficient information. You should definitely
teach someone. It might get lost over time u know :)

Although i did get what kolam is :)

b v n said...

your blog looks awesome now,the fotos,the layout...neat !

and this post struck a cord with me too,i'm from a place in kerala where we call the shiva diety in the local temple 'moopilan' which usually refers the old guy in town who advices everyone,gives fundas kinda guy and the deity in the devi temple was called amma(its not like tamilnad,we dont call everyone amma),so for all of us these gods were like family.the temple festival used be our great gathering...and there were festivals like every fourty days or so. In summer vacations we used to hang around the temple river and hear all the ol timers anecdotes for used to be fun.It surely something the new generations will be missing.Again nice post.

WA said...


Visit your kolam pugal ulagamellam paraving said...

great looking pics

Balaji S Rajan said...

As a parent I would like to appreciate your parents for having brought you and your brother in a disciplined manner. Childhood should be filled with memories and yours is filled with memories. Yes you are blessed. Please do not worry about the competition. Teach what you know to the younger ones. There is nothing wrong. If somebody had not preferred to teach you Devaram and Kolams you would not have had the opportunity to learn. Let that not happen to the younger generation. Let us be positive and create a good future generation. Hats off to you for this post.

R. Balaji said...

Nice Post.
But if kids want to learn something from you I think you should just go ahead and teach. Just ignore the sideshow like competition, politics...

Gladtomeetin said...

Nice post dearie...Even i am recollecting my Days of sunday classes and Kolam competitions we used to attend...Sad that today's generation girls and guys are not even aware of half the % of it....

i feel, definitely you should go ahead and teach whatever knowledge you have to people who are interested inspite of politics you mentioned!

Usha said...

Agree that the younger generation is loing a lot that is good in our culture and becoming quite without roots - this is an MTV gen but I am surprised you already feel the difference!
Very nice post!

visithra said...

geethz : somtimes i cant blame them so much - the access to the knowledge isnt so easily available

hope you got my msg - ill love to draw one for u - just tell me how you want it

Shamgar : somehow when i wrote this post i knew ud understand ;)

exactly sunday classes would have been similar just different religions - but the teaching was somewhat the same

i read everyones comments - i agree but still im thinking - lets see

visithra said...

keropok : good to know - i sincerely hope your children are getting the same opportunities - the best part of sundays is driving across brickfields - its horrible traffic but im the happiest to know - its caused by ppl rushing to church and temple for classes

ahhh i probably was the generation that started the tuiton n classes rushing off too - i never had time to idle- n truthfully i have never regretted them - though i didnt take up everything like kids nowadays

anj : yeah was nice - heheh ooh i remember those classes - but it got changed to moral studies miway of my standard 1 class ;p

heheh sure no prob - waitla one day i do a series of how to with photos - step by step ;p

Amu : ahh similar stories eh - hehehe kicked and cried huh - i remember kicking n crying to move when i was 16 ;p hehee

yah memories

ps : would have been nice if we could have met on sunday

visithra said...

Inder : welcome here ;)

interesting part of your life there - I find theres too much isolation among children today

- you cant play games with a big bunch of ppl - its an alone game or most of a duo game - i grew up playing the game boy n sega games - it was pure fun but did i learn anything from it ? Nah not really

Bawangred : id love to agree with u but i cant - the thing is i was the victim - politics does not see age ;) sometimes its best to be selfish - especially when you see the same situation repeat itself in other things -

I have ppl who dislike me - eventhough ive never spoken a word with them coz of these talents - ppl who do stuff to hurt me coz of these talents - so wont i be crazy to push on eventhough i know what will happen?

Jealousy is a horrible thing - unless youve been a victim of it you wont understand it ;)

Lets see i havent decided

Sree : ahha kovil seri but totally different angels ach ;p hehehe

seri seri too much coincidence - antha davani pohta diwali enna ach? ;p

visithra said...

Mydays : paadal vandhu vereh story ;p ithu thevaram ;p
'Heman the master of the universe' - aiii me too always watch but on weekdays evenings ;p
Pahpohm ;) - pathuthomleh ;p

Jeevan : ahhh pronounciation takes time - athula kandhuka kudathu - but its nice illehya to learn together ;) - i know you've told about ur cousin sis ;)

Syam : lol adapavameh daily ehlarum visit pahna avlothan naahn ;p appo appo angeh angeh visiting ;p

;p lol me no going into u gops story ;p

Ana : ah if it was mistakes id have no prob learning - for the amount of relearning ive done - to satisfy ownership rights of some teachers - ;)

ure right there - lets see

Keshi : aww suree ;) would love to ;)

Sree : we think its tough but it isnt - there are means to get things - u just have to strugle more than others had to

visithra said...

Sundar : they were no music n dance classes in the area i lived in - i used to take 2 busses to go to the city n learn - then dad will pick us up from class after spending the afternoon sleeping in the car - sometimes there are sacrificies we have to do

i do have a suggestion if u want junior to learn - findout about the classes around ur area - take her to see the classes - fascination can help ;)

Harsha : ahhh you're right thevaram are hymns sung by saints -

its not lost - its just restricted to one language ;)

Am glad it intersted you enough to find about it - thanks ;)

bvn : thanks ;)

wow sounds fun - but festivals are nice - n i know how it is to have one every other week - we just had a season end this month - u know i have the gods were like family habit too

thanks for sharing ;)

uma : ahha ? Hehhe of course - nengeh oru uk - me, vijay - oru us - ferro oru india - see oru globe sutiachi ;p

ps : and everyone else ;p ithu just kutti example ;p

visithra said...

Lbb : err thanks - hope ure not a spammer

Balajis : yeahh it was blessed n yes they did do lots - but we're pretty naughty too ;p

I guess so - its just ive done the part of imparting once - have been hurt - but the joy of teaching - was tremendous - but lets see havent decided

rbalaji : thanks - if only it was that easy but lets see

Glad : thanks --- ahh u too ? ;))) yeah sad isnt most of them wouldnt know

ah everyone has the same advice - lets see ;)

Usha : even mtv is old ;) - ive seen the difference - so i know how it is - thanks