Those were the Days!
August 21, 2014

 
Those were the days never to forget. We the countless cousins from close-knit families lived in great glory in the early 1950s. Now looking back we only are left to ponder nostalgically over those days that vanished so soon!! It looks just yesterday, and yesterday is gone for another “day” to dawn. Time takes all the glories of life in the wake of its forward march.
 
What I like to say about is the fun and frolic we the cousins from our two families: my father’s and elder brother’s, were having year in and year out during the time of ‘Vodle Festh’ – the annual parish feast which now is no longer celebrated in that fashion.
 
My father had eleven children to the eleven of his elder brother’s. There was joy, there was fun in whichever manner you might like to measure it. We had great company, we were carefree. It was simply one heck of a great galore of a time, come rain, come shine.
 
‘Vodle Festh’, the annual parish feast is the pivotal point when our joyance catapulted to the pinnacle of our glee. We the cousins were joyful beyond measure beyond mitigation.

 
On the day of the parish feast, guests would trickle in from far and wide, wading through the ever stretching tall grassy maidans, walking up the hillocks, climbing down the mountainous terrain, through the narrow partitions between ever green paddy fields. They would walk in valleys, plateaus and finally pour into our houses that were sitting pretty, with hillocks all about.
 
Some guests would spill into our house, some to Uncle’s, it was all the same. There prevailed this uncanny fragrance of joy in the air.
 
There were maternal uncles, paternal uncles; maternal aunties, paternal aunties and the more the guests the greater was the joy.

On the day of the feast, we all would happily make a beeline for money doled out to us by uncles, aunties, father, and even grandparents!! I remember once my father giving me a coin of eight annas (that must be in 1951) – a full half a rupee - a huge amount of money then and you know virtually worthless now!! Isn’t time cruel that takes away all the fun and values in the wake of its forward drill?
 
Our pockets used to jingle well and we would proceed to church in our Sunday best (feast day was Wednesday) with pockets full of money and then walk around the various vendors that had spread their wares and our eyes would virtually pop out with glee at diverse items on display. There were thambde gules, there were ever sounding and beckoning balloons of various hues, sizes and dimensions, there were colorful rosaries and other religious artifacts.
 
We the cousins armed with our guarded treasure in pockets, joyance in the mind, would visit each and every vendor, buy ‘thambde gules’, balloons, and then rush to the church to count the number of priests that were at the altar during the mass. The greater the number of priests, the bigger was the ‘Festh’, also, higher the tone of the preacher, bigger was our awe and the measure of the Festh. The band with its music is another thing that added to the color of the Feast and its glory.
 
After the church, we would rush home, and have great time with our cousins, playing with toys and balloons and then we would begin to count the number of guests that ushered into our place. Based on the number of guests we would establish the magnitude of the ‘Great Feast’ of that year.
 
We never failed to keep an eye on each and every guest after the luncheon feast of the day naughty as we were? We used to take great delight in the way guests would sing the now virtually extinct “Laudate domino….” Soon the feast would turn a bit more profound. Some guests would begin to talk louder than usual, some would begin to repeat the same sentence again and again and again, some would pick a frivolous argument which at times snowballs to grim proportion and soon things would normalize. It was real fun. Didn’t someone then say “Madyana mutta Saanth Marya, Madyana bokka Mande marya?. Yes they did. But the feast had its own charm and unifying features that have given way now to mobiles and e-mails making life drier than ever?
 
Soon, by evening, we would turn gloomy as the guests begin to trickle out of our homes and we the cousins would wait for next Wednesday, and Bellore being midway between Cawdoor and Fajir, we would walk all the way to Cawdoor, a good distance of 15 Kms. or thereabout.

We were not that ‘UNLUCKY’ then as the people are now, to have buses as we enjoyed every step we marched forward with such a euphoric company along, and after all we were going to Vodle Festh at Cawdoor, and we are going to get money, we will be buying thambde gule, balloon, and it was real fun. There was this Gurpur River which we loved in one breath and hated in another, to surmount, so what of that?

As we stepped into the boat all the countless cousins would converge around Uncle Louis, who was the strongest man on earth for us and while clinging to him, we would stare at the river water with dread at one time and fun at another time and breathe a deep sigh of relief once we disembarked from the boat. Soon we would have a whale of a time at Cawdoor with uncle Richi Master, never failing year in and year out to give us a sumptuous sum.
 
Soon Cawdoor would be over and next Wednesday or thereabout off we go to Fajir. Again a walk of 16 Kms and on the way, we would halt at Farangipet, and the pivotal point of our fun was when we begin to gulp down plain soda water, it was not sweet, so what, it gave us thrill. The way the bottle was opened with a mild sound of a gun that drove all of us cousins to a frenzy. Those were bus-less days, walking any distance tirelessly was fun, there was no coke, Pepsi or Miranda, chips or whatever, but we were very happy. No fast food of the present day could in its’ wildest dream would stand a chance to match up to the joy of having those delicacies we used to get then.
 
The soda water would in a way bolster us to master enough courage to sit in the boat that we soon had to get in and then we all would perch close to our uncle Louis who was such a staunch booster of our moral fiber that we cared two hoots to the menace of the River Nethravati that has been eating up innocent lives year in and year out. We never failed to have this love-hate relationship with this River but crossing it was real fun filled with fear.
 
Once in Fajir we all turn worse than inhuman for soon a pig would be slaughtered and we all would relish the cry of the dying pig. Come next day, we would collect our coins in great measure and walk to church climbing a hillock, and cut across a beautiful plateau and descend towards the church. Soon the mass would be over and we would walk back home and have a sumptuous meal.
 
Gradually a time came when we began to hear some murmur from various quarters that Vodle Festh was turning out to be a costly affair and eventually it was abolished. Likewise, we close cousins too grew up and having finished our education we all deviated to diverse directions in search of our future, only to look back nostalgically at those happy days that we relished in our innocent days.