Communication Ponniyin Selvan Style

In this busy world that chases productivity with a zest, our productivity tools often encourage speed. I’ve written about The Art of the Considered Response before (here it is) 

The Navarathri season was an excellent reminder of the times we live in. After 2 years of muted celebrations, all the goddesses decided to awaken the true shakthi in all golu organizers, and golu hoppers who missed their share of the festive foods honed their appetites. Navarathri golu invites came via WhatsApp, Evite, email, messages, and social media messenger apps.

Navarathri: 9-day festival primarily celebrating the feminine energy and the different days honor different goddesses (the goddesses of mountains, wealth, wisdom, power, cosmic creation and so on)

Golu: From Wikipedia: In Tamil Nadu, people set up steps and place idols on them. This is known as golu. Photos of typical golu displayed in Tamil Nadu style can be found here.In the evening women in the neighborhood invite each other to visit their homes to view Golu displays, they exchange gifts and sweets.

When one is so lovingly invited to people’s homes to view their creative decorations and bliss of music and divinity, it is hard to refuse. So, in the most efficient manner possible, I had drawn up the following schedule without realizing:

  • Accepted invites to be in San Ramon the same day and time as I was expected in San Jose. While I do live mid-way between the two places – one is nor-nor-east-east, and the other is sou-sou-west-west.
  • Also accepted 3 days of continuous invites to the same geographic location 20 miles from where we live.
  • As if none of this were enough there were often live updates to the actual invites in all of these platforms.

The husband can be relied upon in times of crises like these to make things better or worse. He chauffeured, accompanied, ate the yummies at various places, and sometimes, sent me off with a heave of relief. 

He also contributed by insisting on going to the Ponniyin Selvan movie that had released that week-end. When one friend asked him why he was late in arriving, he said his mouth full of sundal that he was disappointed she kept her golu on the opening week of Ponniyin Selvan. Couldn’t she have moved the golu? This drew a collective gasp from the older generation of aunts gathered around the golu. (If it had been me saying something like that, the aunties would have awakened their inner Goddess Kali to say a thing or two, but as it was an honorary son-in-law honoring Kalki (Writer of Ponniyin Selvan) if you will, they had a gasp followed by a weak giggle.) Even the husband knew what that meant and retreated to a safe place by the buffet afterward. 

Ponniyin Selvan – the movie based on the historical fiction written by Kalki 50 years ago and is somewhat of a cultural icon in Tamil Nadu

In an era where tweets sub in for official diplomatic (or otherwise) communication channels, and all these frantic modes of communication make things harder and harder to comprehend, it was fun indeed to sit back and watch a historical fiction drama set in the 11th century. 

Where 3 tweets would have done the trick, here was a 3 hour movie based on information traveling from one corner of the kingdom to the other. What’s more? Networking protocols and streaming services may have been working full-time to make sure that the theatrical experience of the most modern kind worked as a time-traveling tool, but no networking protocols were used in this story of information gathering and delivery. For that, a suave and charming friend sent as a messengers on horseback did the trick!

In the good old days, even the goddesses seemed to take their time visiting people’s homes on Navarathri and the nine days of singing and visiting homes had a gentle lull to the routine of life, not the hectic hustling that one has come to associate with every aspect of life, including divinity.

Maybe we do need more movies set far in the past like Ponniyin Selvan or in fictional realms with human limits to communication and speed such as the Lord of the Rings. That would remind us that we do not need to react to every Digital byte sent our way, but choose to respond in a more collected fashion. I’ve always wanted to invite folks home using the fashionable mode of dipping a pen in ink, writing a loving note on scroll, and delivering it by hand to our friends.

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