This year, Pongal falls on 14-18 January. It is a time when we decorate our homes with symbols of the harvest. I have tied two tall sugarcane stalks on either side of my front door. There they stand, like exuberant if emaciated knights, guarding the threshold. Young turmeric, plentiful in the market at this time of year, is laid out on banana leaves, which we will feed to the cows tomorrow. My earthenware “pongal pot,” decorated with white designs, has mango leaves tied around the rim. Garlands of fragrant jasmine and marigolds are strung on every doorway. There is green everywhere I look.
I walk to the terrace and draw a design on the floor with rice flour. Orange light fills the sky. It is time. My husband and two daughters troop in. Together we carry trays of fruits, vegetables and flowers out to the terrace. The pongal pot takes pride of place in the centre.
The sun rises. We touch our palms together in a namaste and pray to Surya, the sun god. As we stand quietly, savouring the new light, the fragrance of the pongal rises up and tickles our nostrils.
“Pongal-o Pongal,” calls my husband.
“Pongal-o Pongal,” we echo his wish. May the harvest be bountiful.
Then, we go in, to sample this perfect dish on what will surely be a perfect day.