Vishu is a harvest festival that signals the onset of spring in the south Indian state of Kerala. Image Credit: Pixabay

Vishu’s here again. Looks like this one came around a bit too fast. I know that has to do with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions; days seem to pass more quickly. I’m not complaining. I love Vishu, although it’s more a one-day affair than Onam, which is on a different plane.

That takes nothing away from Vishu, which heralds new beginnings as it marks the onset of spring. It has a different feel: a radiance, a glow. And you feel great.

Like most Keralites, my Vishu started with Vishu Kani, the first sight of the day — the offering made to the Hindu deity Krishna. A lighted lamp (nilavilakku) glows amid a copper plate stacked with fresh vegetables, flowers, and some currency notes. Konna flowers (Cassia fistula) are at the heart of Vishu Kani, and this time around, we managed to get enough.

The fragrance of incense sticks had wafted into the bedroom when my wife woke me. My eyes remained shut as she led me to the Vishu Kani. There’s something about the sight. It lifts your hearts and fills you with energy. Nostalgia follows. Past Vishu celebrations with childhood friends, kaineettam (money) from my father, and the sumptuous feast whipped up by my mother. All those images spring to mind. They belong to the realm of memories.

What’s Vishu?
■ A Hindu festival in the south Indian state of Kerala, Vishu is the day of new beginnings for Keralites worldwide.
■ It is the first day of Medam, the ninth month in the Malayalam solar calendar, marking the completion of the spring equinox.
■ Vishu signals the beginning of Meda Rashi (Aries), the first zodiac sign.
■ Vishu, which means equal in Sanskrit, celebrates the vernal equinox when day and night are roughly the same duration.
■ Some reports say that Vishu has been celebrated in Kerala since 844 AD during the reign of Sthanu Ravi.
■ Legend has it that on the day of Vishu, the Hindu deity Krishna (the incarnation of Vishnu, one of the triumvirates) killed the demon king Narakasura.

The early part of the day was spent sending Vishu greetings to friends and calling up some of them. And each call transports us to the past. Why is that? Maybe, memories are more powerful. I guess after a few years, I may look back at this Vishu most fondly.

Why is this Vishu different? Yes, it feels different. There’s energy and enthusiasm in all of us. That has to do with the global pandemic. The last two Vishus came at a time when the world was suffering under the onslaught of the coronavirus. Vaccinations have returned us very close to normality, allowing us to celebrate this Vishu in the company of friends and relatives.

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Yes, we have guests this time. Our cousins and friends will be home soon for lunch. I can already smell the sambhar and avial cooking in the kitchen. There will be pal payasam (semiya), my favourite. This is not the time to skimp on food; all the diets and regimens will go out of the window. No salad today.

I look forward to wolfing down mota rice slathered with parippu curry, pappadam and dollops of ghee. Ginger curry, pickles, banana chips, kitchadi (not the North Indian kitchdi), pachadi, olan, and kaalan will be on a banana leaf along with the ubiquitous thoran and avial. Payasam will be followed by pulisseri, rasam and moru (buttermilk).

Thinking about it makes me hungry. A nap will follow the hearty lunch, that’s sure.

Another Vishu in Dubai. A Vishu without the ghoul of COVID. I will remember this one for a long time