“Konthey, onnu ezhunthuko! Innaiku Vishu aakkum! Appidiye kanna moodindu, paathu vaa!” The moment the wife utters these lines today morning even as early as 5’0 clock, I am certain that our 10 year old daughter will wake up like a robot instantly and start walking. This is unlike the other days where virtually we have to cook up different stories like “Konthey, innaiku schoola film kaatara, get up and get ready quickly or cheekiram ezhunthiru – picnickku late aayidum or dance period irukke innaikku, ezhunthuko,…,… Basically all stories not related to studies! Athe samayam, leavu naalna oorukku minnnaadiye ezhunthuduva. But today as she wakes up and we guide her to the Swami ullu with her eyes closed, she is all full of excitement and enthusiasm. For soon, she will get a few currency notes as Vishu Kaineetam from her Appa and Amma. After the Kani Kaanal is over as I hand over a crisp 500 rupee note to her with blessings, the immediate response is “Ennappa, only 500 Rupees this year also??”
(Now here imagine some cloud kind of thing swirling over my head as I flash back to the Vishu day of my childhood – somewhere in the 70’s)
In Tamil Nadu where I was brought up, Vishu was observed only by Tambrahms of the Palakkad/Kerala Iyer origin. So it’s a day of one-upmanship among friends who didn’t observe Vishu. “Enakku engappa/amma naalaikku naraya kaasu tharuvaale!!!” – kinda stuff. The previous day while we go to sleep, Amma/Appa would set up the Vishu Kani in the night. We can hear murmurs of “Onnoda necklace vei, Ongaloda modhiratha first kazhatungo,..,…” emanating from the Pooja muri. In the early morning usually around 5, Amma would wake us up – “Konthey, onnu ezhunthuko! Innaiku Vishu aakkum! Appidiye kanna moodindu, paathu vaa!” Though we did this year after year, there used to be a sense of palpable excitement as we slowly walked with eyes closed towards the Pooja room and opened the eyes in front of the Vishu Kani! In half sleep mode, generally we went thro the motions of what we were asked to do like worshipping and smelling the Mambazham, Apple,… At the end of it Appa would remove a new crisp 5 rupee note from the silver thaambaalam kept in the Kani and hand over the same to each of us as Vishu Kaineetam. The only day we get to receive money as Kaineetam from Appa. The other days usually Appa’s kai neelum with kuchi. For some silly mistake in the Maths paper or grammar mistake in English paper,… Once we get that in hand, we used to do a shastaanga namaskaaram usually without the abhivadaye in that thookapichu mode!!! And then it’s the turn of the Amma to give a shining 2 rupee coin as her kaineetam. Again a namaskaram ensued. Between the 3 siblings there used to be a competition to olichu vechufy the money from one another. That 7 rupees was equivalent to probably 700 Rs of today enough to float in Cloud 9 for few weeks!!!
Usually Vishu day is a day where we as kids used to have collection targets!! Among kuttigal – “onakku etharai kedachuthu?? Enakku 55 Rs kedachuthu” types. Vishu day or even a few days in the vicinity, if you meet some elderly mama he is supposed to give you some Vishu Kaineetam. So that day even Nanu athimber whom we generally avoid to escape his serial questions, is a welcome entity! Naangale poi avar kaala vizhunthu avar kekara kelvikellam badhil cholliduvom. Just to get the Vishu Kaineetam of 1 Rupee! Similarly we never used to spare the neighbourhood mamas who were from Palakkad. Remember vividly one mama who used to go on a nostalgic trip every year when we went to meet him on Vishu. – “Noorani la Vishu annaikku enna pramadama irukkum theriyumo??” He used to ignore our “Theriyume mama. Pona Varusham thaan chonnele” and continue to labour his Noorani stories. For us it was a small price to pay to maximize our kaineetam collections!!
We usually pray in advance to have some relatives at home during Vishu. And since Vishu is usually in April during summer vacations, some mama, chittappa, athai,.. used to be there. And after Vishu when we used to visit our “Native place” – Kerala for summer vacation every year, the Kaineetam collection obsession continued. Whenever we used to visit our relatives place, before even anybody says something we used to do a namaskaram of the Thatha/mama/chittappa/periappa/Athimber,.. That was the cue for them to open their purses. Some wouldn’t resist the urge to take a dig at us – “Ennada, enna paathale oduvaai. Innaikku vizhunthu vizhunthu namaskaram panraai?? But happily would hand us over our due. So by the time we return to our base after vacation we all became flush with cash. While these are etched in memory can’t remember what we did with that money or where the money vanished???
The nearby Ayyappa temple which was managed in Kerala style with Namboodiris,.. used to distribute Kaineetam on Vishu day to all for which there used to be a long line. After 2 years, they introduced a special line for senior citizens supposedly to give some relief to elders. It so happened the normal line got shorter and the special senior citizen line continued to be long!!! So as children we used to get on to the normal line and collect our Kaineetam quickly!!!
As we celebrate yet another Vishu today, it’s great that we are able to maintain the Vishu and the associated Kani Kaanal and Kaineetam tradition even to this day! But just wondering with all this drive towards reducing cash transactions and increasing digital payments post demonetization,.. kaineetamum thro some App – digital aayidumo?
On that note, wish you all a very happy Vishu!!! “Kaineetathai online la anupichudungo!!!”