I’m sitting on the wide, sheltered veranda here at Lakeside watching the rain – the much, much needed rain. In the normal course of events the veranda would be providing shade and a cooling breeze to while away a lazy afternoon. Now the downpour and cool (!) breeze are pulling me back to the greater shelter of the central walkway. I can see three or four crows bouncing around the lawn – they seem to be having a grand old time – diving through some of the low bushes to loosen more of the water drops, preening and fluffing their feathers in a kind of crow car wash. The peacocks just look bedraggled, miserable and the cocks are strangely bereft without their elegant tails – they are just starting this years’ fanning feathers. I’ve been sitting so still that a chipmunk almost ran over my foot and to my great delight there is a small kestrel or raptor perched on the railing near me – she doesn’t appear to like the rain either – haughty and grumpy at the same time. Naturally, I am delighted with the rain! I hope it is spreading further into the plains around Tirumangalam and Dindigul where it is also desperately needed.

The lake itself  has shrunk incredibly in the 18 months since I was last here. The small water gate where the water buffalo would slosh by in the shallows is now at least 100/150 metres from the water and new grazing ground for sheep and goats. I don’t know if the shrinkage is just the result of the ongoing drought or if it is being sucked dry for the agriculture in the surrounding area. Probably the latter – there are huge coconut plantations nearby. How do you balance the needs of the farmers and agriculture versus the wildlife, the fishers and the beauty of the lucent waters which nourishe the soul? And yes I realize that when your crops are withering from the drought, the beauty of the lake is entirely irrelevant. Tangible evidence of the forces of climate change with the poor or absent monsoons this part of the country has faced these past number of years.

On a much brighter note, I had a marvellous, albeit exhausting time with the Pongal celebrations. BTS (the Indian Charity) really goes all out – all the kids from all the outlying residences were bused in on Friday afternoon and settled into the local spots – full to bursting with excited boys and girls! Friday night was relatively low-key with the quiz competitions and set up of the next days’ events – which isn’t to say that somewhere in the neighbourhood of 500 kids from four to sixteen is in any way quiet! Our guest house was full to bursting too, with visitors from the charity’s headquarters in the UK, other sponsors and the principals from the Indian board. Muthupandi, who is the major-domo, chief cook and bottle washer for the guest house was kept incredibly busy looking after us all and preparing vast quantities of delicious food.  Saturday morning we were out on the sports field by eight a.m. for the opening ceremonies, parade, flag raising, “visitation” of costumed historical figures and of course track and field events

I had been taken in hand by the indomitable Nagalakshmi earlier in the week and under her stern guidance purchased two sarees in Madurai. So there I was draped and thoroughly pinned, galloping around, camera in hand for the better part of the very hot, dusty and sweaty morning – nothing I could say to her about the need to be able to move easily, clamber around or just not be concerned about my attire while working made the slightest difference. I was an honoured guest, would be properly turned out and that was that. At least she did concede that I was going to need a LOT of safety pins! Turns out they looked pretty good if I do say so…

A short break for lunch and we were back at it at the main stage until almost 10 p.m. Me in the other sari – but same arguments – same results! I was sunburnt in odd patterns, incredibly hot and my right arm felt like it was going to fall off by the end – that camera of mine is damned heavy. Towards the end of the evening I started thinking, “Ok – done enough here, nobody is going to object if you quit now” and then another troupe from another residence would get up on stage to present their skit or dance or whatever and I’d think, “Well I can’t leave them out” and so on I’d go. I might have whined a bit but really it was a blast and I did get kick out of swishing around in my sarees.

Then there was the Finance Minister, a former student of Dr. Raja (head of BTS India) who drove in from Chennai (really?) along with an enormous entourage to make a speech and kick the tires of the new school; the press reporters and photographers, and of course parents, other related children, former students and friends, dogs and the all important Pongal cow (who we never actually saw other than a certain fragrant bit of evidence that it had been there). 1200 photos later….

8 thoughts on “RAIN and PONGAL!

  1. Oh Kim, how I love the colours and your account… Wish I was with you… Big hugs Wendy P.S. having tum tuck on February 1st… weeeeeee

  2. Light drizzle here in Tirumangalam too – lovely climate and dead quiet!
    The lake is exclusively Dindigul’s water supply while the local plantations probably have their own bore well, copiously replenished from the hills just behind, I remember when that round pond was first built – does the kingfisher still live in the bougainvillea at the side?.

  3. Well Smith, you do look lovely in those saris, especially the orange one! And I cannot imagine trying to be a photographer while dressed like that. BTW if it is climate change has anything to do with the weather conditions in that part of India, it’s a naturally occurring phenomenon that is cyclical on our planet and unfortunately impacts certain parts of the world more than others. Finally, how are your eardrums after all that activity …?!

  4. Aaaaaah, the colour, the children, your lovely sarees! Now to edit your photos (how many thousand did you say?) Clearly a successful celebration. Thanks for giving us a peek. Love, Sharon

    Sent from my iPad


  5. Yay for the rains and a bit of “just sitting!” and observing nature. As for your heavy darn camera…the two of you continue capture beautiful moments repeatedly and successfully. Always a joy to see your work and that gaggle of amazing children look like they are thriving under your tutelage. Also hope that there were equally helpful people to de-safety pin you. You look radiant in each out fit. Continued success and health my friend!

  6. Great photos, exciting happenings, wish I was there with you indeed (although how you managed to take photos wearing a saree (which suit you really well) is beyond me!). Wishing you more happy times. Love – Gudrun

  7. All the colours and beautiful beautiful faces of the kids as joyous as can be. YOu look MUCH happier in the orange sari than the green.. pretty in both though. You solved the mystery to me of how they stay up.. happy travels- hope you found more scotch 🙂

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