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Precious are those memories and the longing….

As the sun was sliding down the southwest horizon and the reddish glow of the setting sun shimmered the sky, I walked up to Koshy’s Fish Stall in the back of the main tent, grabbed a chair and sat down to take a break from the busy day. I was happy with the view I had from there, since it gave me a good view of all the activities happening in all the stalls and the stage under the big tent and beyond. The crowd had swollen considerably and all stalls were busy tending to the demands of the customers. I could see that the customers were excited with the menu and the volunteers were excited to offer the unique cuisine they had prepared for all.

I could see that the traditional dishes were in high demand and the stall volunteers, including my better half were busy serving every order as fast as they could. I could see her glancing at us, might be wondering what is he doing there, hanging out instead of giving us a hand here…?

Given the hectic day, I really needed to take that break and also wanted to get an idea of how everything is going.

Nrutha Malhar was in full swing. The stage was exploding with the dancers at the peak of their performances and the audience was watching in awe with the treat they got for the day. Their faces gave away their astonishment with the quality of the performances they were watching and vibrance of the moves and the costumes of the dancers. Every team was at their best and as the judges confided later, it was tough to grade the performances. The audio-visual team has ensured that the light and sound effects are at par with the performances and the audience got a real audio-visual feast. It took me back to my good old college days watching a Youth festival. Everyone attended was enjoying everything offered around them.

The kids were running around and was thrilled to find the games set up for them at the far end outside the main tent, which helped the parents to be free and enjoy the food and the show. The front desk was busy managing the crowd still pouring in and volunteers were directing the visitors to the various stalls and explaining what they have to offer. It was very encouraging to see that the visitors included a large number of locals and not just the members of the Indian diaspora.

I wondered if they, for a moment thought that they are back in Kerala given the aroma and the cuisine. I could see friends greeting each other and renewing their acquaintances and discussing what to try next. The queue for “Pothichoru” has grown and the anxiety was building whether they will get what they ordered online. The line of customers in front of Samuel’s Rappai’s Chicken stall had extended all the way to the front of the church. The evening was turning out to be an amazing experience for all who were there.

Koshy and his volunteers were busy frying fish and making their trade mark “Meen Pollichathu”. The pieces were flying out tray by tray and they were struggling to keep up with the demand. I was delegated to help in distribution and got a chance to visit some of the stalls. Abison’s “Rainbow Puttu” was running out fast. A few friends saw me and came strolling by to chat about the great menu and to appreciate the experience they had. I was pleased to hear how much they enjoyed the evening.

The evening was perfect with as the 70 degree day brought in a cool breeze. The night sky has crawled in without invitation and shone its shining stars from above. The twilight sky was a perfect background for the festive crowd to mill around and enjoy the evening as the Nrutha Malhar was winding down and everyone got to focus on the authentic Kerala cuisine. It was a sudden distraction when the unique beats of a popular song hit their ears and there was a commotion in the middle of the crowd, when a few folks started dancing to the hit Malayalam song “ Jimmikki Kammal”. I rushed to the middle of the big tent to find that the dancers grew in numbers and suddenly formed a well-choreographed flash mob. The visitors were thrilled to see the excellent moves and gave way to accommodate the dancers. The crowd cheered encouraging the dancers and was ecstatic at the well-timed performance.

The grounds were getting empty as the night was getting darker and the stalls were emptying their menus. The happy visitors were saying bye, the kids were still lingering around to play more and the parents were wondering, if they could….?

The Harvest Festival of 2017 was an experience worth remembering. The visitors left us with a longing whether it would happen again with new flavors and to reignite their nostalgia year after year….!

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