Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Narayanan and our cribs

Decorating the house for Christmas is over. It looks nice, colourful. I never realized that there are so many ornamental items for beautifying a place. Each year new ones hit the market.

Most of them, I believe, come from China – lights which cost anything from Rs.25 to Rs.1000 each, fireworks ranging from Rs5 to Rs.5000, and so on. Cribs, accessories, Christmas trees are all available in the shops. I wonder how much money flows out of the country on this account each festival season.

During my childhood, there were no Christmas decorations as such in our village. Every year stars used to be made at home with bamboo frame and colour paper. (Was it called China paper? I’m not sure.) Either candles or small kerosene lamps were used to light them. They looked lovely, but if there was breeze, some of them could catch fire. This situation prevailed till 1957 when Olavipe was connected to the power grid.

Only the churches and a few affluent Christian homes used to have cribs in our area. And they were made locally, except the figurines. I think those were imported, but certainly not from China. These cribs were normally crude jobs but nevertheless it was nice to have them.

Enter Narayanan.

He was seven or eight years elder to me and about 18 or so at that time. I think it was Ammachi. who put him on to making cribs. He could easily comprehend the idea – basically simulating the cattle shed where Jesus Christ was born.

Before midnight Narayanan had a beautiful crib ready for the statuettes to be placed.

The way he planned the job was remarkable. First of all he collected some thin reeds that grew along the edges of the rice fields and bamboo stalks. Now came the brilliant part. He looked around and selected a wooden stool that was not too tall, turned it upside down and placed it on the floor.

Presto, the base and the corner pillars of the crib were ready.

Narayanan made the roof with the bamboo sticks and fixed it on the posts. The sides and the top were covered with the reeds. Some hay was placed inside the crib for the cattle shed effect. That completed the job.

Having firsthand knowledge from watching Narayanan, I once tried to make a crib. I was with Ruby Rubber Works at that time and staying at Tiruvalla. I had collected the required materials and sat under a shade tree in the courtyard with a mug of chilled beer. My children were around me, watching with fascination.

Suddenly the elder boy, about four years at that time, vomited. ‘Daddy, he drank your beer’, his elder sister said, rather frightened. I took him inside, cleaned him up with the help of my wife and since he was asleep, put him on a bed.

Then I phoned the family doctor. He listened carefully to me and came out with statement, ‘Let the boy sleep it out. He will be okay.’

That year we didn’t have any crib for Christmas.

Coming back to Narayanan – I don’t know for how many years he went on making the crib exclusively for us. It must be some sort of a record. He is still alive and mobile, but unfortunately his eyesight has been failing for sometime now. His crib-making days are over.

Narayanan’s son Rameshan, a fine chap, is with us. He doesn’t make cribs, but is a driver.


ER Ramachandran said...

lovely decoration and all set for xmas. Happy xmas and new year to you and family!

Nona said...

Merry Xmas to you!

You are right about money flowing out of the country! But, I think, this is the case with any country. For festivals in any country, all the decorative pieces come from China. :|

It was fun reading this.

Jothish said...

There are lot of things we miss during the modern Christmas, like collecting the perfect 'kattadi'(beefwood) branch for christmas tree and fun of making the crib with your siblings etc. Now-a-days we get everything ready made from China.

Jothish said...

Dear Mr. Tharakan, wish you a Merry Christmas.

Kariyachan said...

Dear AT Sir;

That was a very good memoir. I was part of a gruop in our parish, which used to compete in crib competition. I am quite pleased to say, we used to be the winners almost every year during 1994-2000 untill we village-friends scattered to various corners and facets of the life journey..

Belated X-mas wishes for you and family, and I hope you are keeping good health.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you ERR.
Greetings of the season to you and family.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you for the comment, Nona. Greetings of the Season to you.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Jothish, you are so right.

We too used to have 'kattadi' branch as Christmas Tree.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Jothish, Season's Greeting to you.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Kariyachan I am glad that that the post brought back happy memories to you.