One of my most vivid memories of childhood is the family rosary that is said at the end of the day in my ancestral house in Kerala. In my Dad’s house, rosary was an informal affair. This is a house of six sons, so it was a miracle that my grandparents got them to say rosary and that too without missing it a single day till today.
On the other hand, in my mom’s house the balance was in favor of girls, as my mom has so many sisters and few brothers. Therefore rosary was a serious affair and my otherwise sweetheart of a grandfather would become a disciplinarian during rosary time. Since we split our stay in these two homes, the contrast in the families was quite evident in many areas…one of them being the family rosary.
Family rosary in Kerala in both homes still reminds me of a house with dimmed lights, the altar ablaze with candles and the entire family sitting in various parts of the house. Some people would sit on the ground in front of the altar, some on the chairs in the living room, some outside and my mom with me on the verandah, as there was no way I would sit still for the 45 minutes of the rosary. Wherever people sat, they joined in, as one harmonious group. However this is where the similarities in both households ended.
My moms mother, was very fond of cats. And every time we went home there would always be a poochakutty (kitten) for me to play with. And during rosary, as though by some devilish design, the kittens would be at their naughtiest best. They would catch imaginary insects with their front paws and do somersaults in the air and other such naughty antics that would make it impossible not to giggle. My grandfather would raise his voice often during the rosary and call out my name in a warning tone and I would recede into my mother's lap for a few seconds. But the devil had other designs, because the kittens would come up with some more hysterically funny tricks and I would be giggling again. And they made sure that they used the altar room floor for their antics!! My cousins in the house, who were trained by my grandfather to sit down quietly during the rosary, would look at me with gleeful delight, because I dared to break the family rule of maintaining pin drop silence during the rosary.
My grandfather would sigh as the rosary proceeded with my giggles in the background. After the rosary he would give his favorite daughter, my mom, the 789th talk on bringing up kids the proper way, and how he had bought up his kids so well and even though she is now married to a guy from Pala (who are no good compared to the genteel people of Changanassery) she should still uphold the family values etc.etc. My eldest brother would sit through the rosary quietly and even lead at times. So the general consensus was that he had taken after my mom’s family. The family would then look at my second brother M and me and say with a twinkle in the eyes that these two had a surfeit of the father's genes in them.
The Pala barbarian, the daughter of the family was married to, would of course be safely ensconced in his home, going through the family rosary at breakneck speed as his Dad was hard of hearing, so that the brothers could open the bottle while the evening was still young. He would have warned his wife in mock seriousness before she set off to her home with his kids, that he wanted us back the same way he had raised us and not changed to wussies, which is what he thought people from my her side of town were. :p My mom countered gamely by saying that a few days of good upbringing at her house, would do a world of good for her kids. :)
During the rosary, there were other distractions too. Thousands of minnaminungu (fireflies) would adorn the darkness around the house like serial lights. Before the rosary we i.e me and my second brother M, would have already kept our Horlicks jars ready for the catch. And we would fill these jars with these tiny glowing worms that we caught. They made such a pretty sight with their flourescent light glowing in the jar. My mom would make us release these before we went in to sleep.
After the rosary, my mom’s brothers would take out the jeep and drive over to my Dad's house, where their drinks awaited. The brothers in laws got along really well. After dinner my maternal grandfather would make a small drink and tell us stories about saints and martyrs. This would be followed by lights out as the family retired for the day.
Rosary, in my Dad’s house on the other hand was preceded by my Dad and his brothers making elaborate arrangements for the drinking and card session that invariably followed it. This would be preceded by my Grandma and aunts preparing the snacks to go with the drinks. With six sons, my grandma was a whiz in making non veg snacks that served as accompaniments with drinks. When everything was set, the family sat down for rosary. Rosary, unlike in my moms house would be uncomplicated and without the long boring prayers and it would be over in half an hour. After which we could go out and play and make noise and run after the fireflies. There was no bedtime curfew and soon people from neighboring estates would join in. The partying will go on late into the night, as most of these men went to school and college together. It is a time of camaraderie, jokes and political discussions. The tradition lives on to this day. Surprisingly there are more priests and nuns in my Dads family than my moms!
In spite of these contrasts I liked living in both houses.
(This post was inspired by this post
by Alexis, which reminded me so much of my home in Kerala)