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Mrs. Parvati’s diary, 1975

Article

Brahmin aged 35, married, 3 children, boy and girl at school, toddler at home. Educated to Intermediate (college) level. Also includes an account of her religious practices

It is with great pleasure I am writing this diary. There are reasons for it. From my childhood I had the habit of writing a regular diary and was praised by my friends and cousins. Till I was in college I was continuing. After marriage only I stopped. Even then I used to write occasionally [about] important matters. The daily diary reflects one's own personality, manners, etc.

Here I must thank Mrs Pat Caplan for giving me this opportunity of writing after a long gap. Hope she will find it alright.

My husband starts for work at 6:30 AM. He has to go all the way 18 miles by Factory Bus. Hence I have to get up at 5 o'clock early in the morning. I will be very sleepy and it will take 1/2 hr to become fresh (wake up properly). I will prepare coffee at once, keep (heat) water for his bath. After 15 minutes I will clean the puja room, put rangoli[1] and light two silver lamps. Flowers will be kept with kum-kum[2] for my husband's daily prayer for few minutes. Next comes preparing tiffin: toast[3], idli, puri, dosa, etc. besides curds and banana.

I will be relaxing for just 10 minutes after he leaves and before the servant maid comes for the day's work. From this time of the day till noon will be very busy and tiresome. The lunch must be ready for my daughter and son; it is (at) 8 in the morn (morning). I have to cut vegetables, sometimes the servant does it, feed the small child and she is very naughty and [at] the same time very sweet. She will lay (lie) in my lap and expects me to pet [her] at least for 10 minutes. She won't get up at all.

Then comes cooking. By the time I finish it will be 8:00. My son will say he does not want rice he wants only toast and at once my daughter will say she wants only omelette not curd rice both. Though I get angry I immediately prepare what they want. In the meanwhile a phone call from B'bay (Bombay now Mumbai) or B'lore (Bangalore now Bengaluru) will come. By 8:10 I will have to plait my daughter's hair and the tiffin boxes must be kept ready. Then at 8:30 I will have my breakfast bread and coffee or Viva [drink] and banana.

Then comes the maid for sweeping and washing. She is with me [for] 11 years now, hence I will trust [her] and do not stand by her side (to oversee her work) at all. Then Ladies Club peon (messenger) comes with some circular. Again a phone call from my brother from his office and then I will have my bath at 10:00. Pluck flowers for puja. I will do the puja for 1/2 hr invariably, [although] my little daughter disturbs me now and then. Then the servant maid gives the child [her] bath and I have to dress her up nicely. She will never show [allow] me to comb her hair. It is a very difficult task for me. After that I have to give her food at 10:45 or 11:00. She will never eat fully (everything). I will have my lunch and immediately I will partly clean the kitchen. I will make the child sleep and read the newspaper Hindu just for 5 minutes and go for noon nap.

I will sleep till 2:30 but most of the days it will be disturbed by some vendors, visitors, wrong phone calls or door canvassing girls[4] . 2:45 I will read letters, accounts and will get ready to reply [to] letters. The child will wake up and [I will] feed her. Every day it is very difficult to decide about the evening tiffin. Most days I will make one sweet and one savoury. More than food (proper meals) my family including my husband like tiffin best. They will be very hungry after the whole day, so [I] always prepare what they like best.

After tiffin I will have a wash and dress [myself] up, so also the child, and my husband will come from the office. After our tiffin we will have one hour to relax completely. Then I will enter [the] kitchen and prepare night dinner. It will not be much (very) heavy. So easily I will finish it off. [At] 8:30 we will have our dinner and my children will do home work and study while my husband hear (listens to the) radio up to the 9:00 news and reading the newspaper. I will clean kitchen, try to make the baby sleep after feeding. And the day ends at 10:00. Good night!!

18th April, 1975 (Friday)

Woke up at 5:00. Made coffee and cleaned puja room and kept ready for prayer.    

5:45: Made dosai and morning breakfast was on the table. 6:30 to 6:45 Just relaxation. 6:45 Had coffee after making fresh myself. 7:00 Cut vegetables, arranged cooker. 7:30 to 7:45 Fed the little one.  7:45 Finished cooking.

8:10 Served food for my older children. The small child was doing some gallatta[5] in between. 8:20 Combed my older daughter’s hair and put oil to (onto) [son’s hair]. Arrange the tiffin boxes, tied flowers for (in) older daughter[‘s hair]. 8:40 Kept water for bath and ate toast and drink.

9:00 Phone call and heard (listened to) radio. A fruit vendor came. She insisted that I should buy from her so that she would get a nice bargain. So she never allowed me to refuse buying fruits. 9:30 Took bath and made puja for 15 minutes. 9:50 The toddler had her bath and I dressed her up. Gave coffee and food to the servant maid. Gave instructions for washing [clothes]. 10:15 Club peon came. 10:30 Lunch for the little one. 11:00 Cleaning the fridge. 11:40 Lunch for self. It is very boring to take food alone without any company.

12:00 Cleaning the kitchen. 12:30 Made the small one sleep. 1:00 Letter and newspaper reading. 1:30 Rest a while. 2:30 Got up and kept ready [food] for tiffin. 3:00 Phone calls and somebody came to talk. 3:30 Milk for small one. 4:00 Coffee and prepared tiffin. 4:30 to 5:30 Tea and tiffin. 5:45 Dressed [up] and went for a wedding. 8:30 Had dinner in the marriage (at the wedding). 9:30 Came home and had good sleep.

19th April (Saturday)

Woke up at 5:00, prepared coffeeand slept and skipped arranging for puja, made toast as breakfast. Since the schools had closed for vacation there was no hurry for food and hence slept immediately after my husband left for the factory[6]. The servant maid was waiting. She was reluctant to call me since I was sleeping unusually [late] in the morning.

7:30 Woke up and had coffee. Fed the baby. 7:45 Started cooking. Coconut bath and curd rice bath[7] and chips are [on] the menu. So finished in no time. My son wanted to go to his cousin's place at Besant Nagar. So had to serve him food at 8.30 itself. 9:00 Had nice oil bath[8]. I could do puja for more than half an hour. I could [this] without any disturbance. Read slogams (= slokas) in praise of Goddess Lakshmi, Mari Amman, Gods Shiva, Subramanya and Pillaiyar. I was really happy. Then at 10:00 my daughter [said that she] wants to join in the tailoring class [and that] I had to take her. So we had food at 10:15. At 11:00 we had some visitors. They stayed 1/2 hour so we could not go to [the] class. So we played with the small baby and my daughter sang some nice songs and we all slept till 2:30. Luckily no one disturbed us.

2:45 We had tea and some biscuits. I prepared nice dosai and chutney for tiffin. 5:30 When my husband was taking his tiffin my elder brother came to visit us directly from the office. Hence he also had coffee and tiffin with us. At 6:30 the club secretary came and we were talking. Then I had to cut [up] vegetables. Plain soups and ladies fingers curry I made besides dhall powder, appalam and pickles.

We had our dinner at 8:30 and my husband immediately went to bed since he was tired out. We heard some nice music and then left for bed. I wanted to stitch clothes but this small one is very bad. She never allowed me for (to do) stitching. She is very mischievous. I [have] got good clothes but because of this girl I am not able to stitch.

20th April (Sunday)

Since it was a holiday we all got up only at 7:00 in the morning. Soon after coffee my hubby and my son went to [do some] gardening. Both of them have very good liking for it. Though my son is [only a] small boy he does wonderful work.  8:30 We had our breakfast, masala uppuma and coffee. My daughter and son had prepared omelette by themselves and ate. One by one [a] number of visitors came. Sunday is always a busy day. I will prepare some sweet or savoury so that we can give the visitors something to eat. My brother (last = youngest) came and my husband and he argued regarding their business [for] more than 1/2 hour. In the meanwhile a call from B'lore from my F.I.L. (father in law) came and immediately my elder S.I.L. (sister in law) rang up from Mylapore. She wanted to come in the afternoon with children and spend the evening here. So we said OK. The children and my husband had oil bath.

We had our lunch only at 1:00. I did not even clear the kitchen. My S.I.L. and her 2 children came, my children were very happy to see them. They all played in the compound. We were talking till 3:00. Fed the small one, she liked to have cornflakes[9]. I prepared puri masala for tiffin. By 5:00 tiffin was over. We all dressed up neatly and went to a movie with all the kids. The movie was not bad. We reached home at 9:45. My S.I.L and her kids went [to] their home directly from the picture (cinema). All of us had fruits, some curd rice and pickles and went to sleep.

The little one was not at all sleeping. She was crying and crying insisting that she would sleep in my lap only. I got angry and scolded her. She started crying loudly so I slapped her. After 3:00 only she slept alright.

21st April (Monday)

A normal day without anything special to write. But bought very good mango fruit and sapota. The sapota was just like a cricket ball and so sweet. I could not control (stop myself from) buying the two fruits each a dozen. The vendor lady was very happy. My husband was surprised to see the size of the sapota. He carefully kept the seeds [because] he wanted to sew (sow) the seeds in our garden. 10:30 There was a nice drama on the A.I.R. (All-India Radio).  We all listened till11:15 and then only slept.

22nd April (Tuesday)

Woke up as usual at 5:00. After my husband left (for the) office I started cooking and finished by 7:45. 8:00 to 8:30 Fed the baby and played with her till 9:00. Had breakfast and dressed up and went to Central Station to reserve and buy tickets for 30th May to Bombay. I had children's concession forms. After 45 minutes of waiting I came to know no berth was available till 4th May in any of the trains. The concession was valid only up to 2nd May. So I thought over. I imagined I could buy tickets for 30th with my brother's influence[10]. So I returned home with bad luck. 

I was so tired I directly had my lunch without taking bath. Immediately rang up to my sister and asked her help to get reservation. Her husband's cousin is an I.A.S. (Indian Administrative Service i.e. a senior civil servant) officer. She rang him and asked. He said he would definitely buy tickets and send home and also said don't worry. So we were very happy. At 3:30 I prepared tiffin and food (meals) side by side and went to the beach in the evening. My brother also came there. We were all standing (paddling) in the water [for] more than an hour and [then we] visited my eldest sister in Besant Nagar and came home at 8:30. Had food and immediately slept off (fell asleep).

23rd April (Wednesday)

We celebrated Sri Rama Navami day[11]. 9:00 to 10:30 I prepared special lunch [of] payasam, vadai, green gram kari neer more and panakam[12] besides fruit.

Today first I had my head bath (washed my hair) and wore new clothes, and made food. Puja room was decorated with flowers. My son and daughter helped me a lot. He looked after the child. My older daughter put rangoli and arranged everything for the puja. She plucked two basketfuls of hibiscus flowers so we made garlands to Lord Venkateswara and Sri Guru Vayuraga. The puja room gave wonderful look and was very good to see idols decorated with flowers. After puja we all sang in praise of Lord Rama. Today was his birth star.

We had lunch only at 11:30. Kitchen was horrible. I had to wash the whole thing. By the time I finished work it was 12:30. At 2:30 I got up and had tea. Little one also woke up. I gave her cornflakes and biscuits and played with her just 10 minutes and prepared light tiffin [of] lemon aval[13] and fried appalams. Side by side (At the same time) I finished the night cooking also.

 By 4:00 everything was over and dressed up and went to the club secretary’s house to go to W.V.S. (Women’s Voluntary Service) meeting. 3 others came. We went in her car first to T Nagar to witness a Sri Rama Navami day conference cum meeting. As some lecture was going on we couldn't stay there more than 15 minutes. Straight [after that] we went to Ethiraj [College]. Inside the auditorium we had our annual meeting [of women’s organisations]. Mrs Shah, the [Tamil Nadu] Governor's wife, presided. She is the founder and everything is under her.  Since it was [an] even day mourning period due to former President Radakrishnan's death[14] [the] Chief Minister could not participate in the function. Mrs Shah asked to read (to have read) each department's activities. A social worker read the pre-school activity [report of the Ladies’ Club) in place of our Club President[15]. In her note she praised the pre-school to sky high. She also said we are doing sincere work. She also said she would give full cooperation to our club.    

It was 6:30 so we got (up) from the meeting seat and cooly (slowly) came to the bus stop. Since we did not get any [bus] we all walked up to Mt Road V.T.I[16]. and at once got a 19S bus and came home at 7:30. Children were all tired and my husband was not very happy for I had left the baby for a long time. After food he became alright and ordered me that I should not go [out] for such a long time leaving the children alone at home[17]. The baby never allowed me to do anything. I was petting her till she went to sleep.

24th April (Thursday)                                                                                                                             

Got up at 5:00. Everything was ready for my husband [but] unluckily he did not have time to take his breakfast, so I was a little upset. 7:30 to 8:30 Went to the market and bought vegetables for one week. Sister in law (second) with nieces came and stayed for 2 days. My son went to stay with his cousin. 8:30 Had bath and made puja till 9:30. Cleaned the fridge. 9:45 to 10:30 Finished cooking. My sister in law helped me in cooking. 10:30 to 11:15 Plucking all mangoes, about sixty, from one mango tree. Children were very happy for they could eat [green] mangoes with chilly powder and salt. 11:30 to 12:30 Took lunch with guests and had very nice time talking, playing, singing etc. Had good sleep till 2:30. We all had tiffin from hotel (i.e. a take-away) - the kids enjoyed it very much.

We all had been [went] to the sea (beach) after my husband's arrival; he did not come. We came back early and prepared night food, puri, channa, vegetables bath, payasam and fried appalam. My S.I.L. is of a very good type. She assisted me in cooking the whole thing. The children were playing telling stories after dinner and we elders were talking for a longer time. The little (one) was happy since she got company. Everyone had nice slumber.

25th April (Friday)

The day started with very good mood. All of us went to Elliott's Beach at 7:00 in the morning. Came [home] only at 9:00. The children had sea bath (swam in the sea). We all returned with wet clothes and sand [in them]. 9:30 to 10:30. Cooking after a good bath. Performed puja [for] just 10 minutes. All took lunch and a quiet calm day. Evening the guests went home. We had chutney and chappatis for night dinner. The little one was having some skin infection and it was [had been] aggressive since [for the last] two days. She started itching and was irritable.

26th April (Saturday)

Was in a hurry from the morning. I did not know why. As soon as he[18] left for work I went to my sister's house to ask her whether she [had] received [the rail] tickets. Bad luck! She gave a negative reply. I felt very bad. Immediately I came home and cooking rice and dhall and had slices of bread and coffee and went to Central Station. Long queues were standing. I went and asked for seats. 11th only was available and in another train 15th was available. I did not think anything (hesitate). Just bought the tickets for 11th Mail for B'bay. I was really upset I’s could not use [children’s] concession since it was out of date. Anyway I bought the tickets. We are going to B'bay.

I at once got bus to come back home. In the bus I saw my neighbour and we were talking till we reached home. My sister had invited us for [for] food. Coconut rice, tamarind rice, sweet pongal, potato curry, buttermilk koyambu[19], appalam chips, vermicelli payasam, besides custard.  She had invited my sisters in law also for food. We had nice time and returned home only at 2:30. The little one slept and so we also slept. 5:30 my husband came. I told [him] the happy news of the day. [It] was very quiet and we all slept pretty early.

27th April (Sunday)

Summer has started, it was quite hot. I got rice flour and green chilly ground [up]. So started making vadams[20] as soon as my husband left for [his] job. Up and down [the stairs to the roof] I had to climb twice or thrice for the purpose. I had prepared the flour. On the plastic sheets with my daughter's help I made vadams. I requested my son to remain upstairs only to see crows did not touch it. 10:00 I came down, had bath and started cooking. Though it was Sunday my husband had gone for work so I prepared light food and we all ate at 11:00 and [then I] was reading some story books and weekly magazine. My small daughter never allows me now to read any book. So for past 2 or 3 months I [have] stopped reading. My [older] daughter went to the tailoring class and I wrote some letters and had to do some phone calls also. Evening I suddenly thought why didn't we go to a movie. So I asked my husband he said he was not interested. So I took 2 children and went to a picture and came back at 10:30. My husband did not take food and he was also waiting. We ate chappatis and only curd rice and some curry. The little girl was fast asleep and only in the morning she saw us all.

28th April (Monday)

Though it was a holiday I woke up at 5:30 and prepared food for childrensince we had to go to a marriage at 7:30 in Dharmaprakash in Purasawalkam. We left the house exactly at 7:30 and immediately got the bus and reached Egmore at 8:30.We bought some gift article and at once we got the bus to go to the marriage place. The marriage [had] just started and [we] were happy to see friends and relatives.  We had lunch there and left the place at 11:30 came home by 12:30. The little girl was excited to see us [as] I brought sweets and biscuits. She was very happy so also [were] the other two. We all slept till 3:30. I prepared tiffin and coffee and started for cooking also. Evening we all went to my brother's place and stayed for a long time chatting. My mother came from Madurai hence we stayed more time there. Finished food and cleaning soon we went to bed very early at 9:30.

29th April (Tuesday)

The day was quiet. Nothing unusual happened. We all went to one of our close friend's house in Shastri Nagar itself. They were very happy to see us all. We were all very homely (relaxed).  Children played in the swing. They did not want to come [go] home.  After great hesitation they left the swing and we all came home [inside]. I prepared alu that is potato parotta for food.  It was quite hot and tasty and everybody liked it immensely and drank buttermilk and we were hearing some nice programme in the radio and went to bed.

30th April (Wednesday)

I slept again after my husband left for the office. Immediately after coffee I had my head bath (washed hair) and plucked flowers [and] did puja before my little girl got [up] from the bed. I prepared sagu (spinach) vadams for the meeting and kept aside. 7:40 Started cooking greens, dhall, rasam and juice, curds, appalams. Finished cooking and went upstairs to make vadams and came down only at 9:30. Children after[wards] had food and [we] went to my brother's house. There my other brother who was in (on) leave tape recorded all my nieces, nephews' songs, stories etc. They all were very happy to hear their voices immediately in tape recorder.

My daughter went to the tailoring class [where] she learnt nice embroidery. She picks up everything very soon (quickly).  Evening we thought of visiting Mrs Caplan. I asked my husband and he said ok. I rang Mrs Pat and she was happy to receive us.  We stayed more than 1/2 hr. My little one was playing [on] a tricycle of her son's and she did not want to leave it all. We forced to leave her and Mrs Caplan – it was very nice of her -]said she would drop us back [in their car]. Dr Mrs Kalyani and Mr Nityanandan were there. Mrs Caplan was very good talking to us.  We all had pleasant time at her place. Came home and made iddlies and chutney. Morning sambar was [still] there [left over]. So we went to bed at 9.30 after cleaning the kitchen.

1st May (Thursday)

 The day started with a good mood.  At 6:45 I had a phone call from B'bay. My brother in law was in (on) the line. They all are eagerly looking forward for our arrival soon. At 8:30 or 9:00. I got letters and in that (one of them) I got some share [of] dividend money also quite a good sum. I was very happy because it was unexpected. My mother rang up and invited us three for lunch. As I had not started cooking I said Ok. Went there at 11:00 and came home at 2:30. Very nice lunch. Evening was very busy stitching my daughter's birthday dress. Some visitors also came [and] had to be with them more than an hour.  Night food was quite heavy and went to bed after finalising previous month accounts.

2nd May (Friday)

Very happy day. My first daughter's birth day. Immediately from the bed I went to the puja room. I prayed to God for her welfare and good. I made payasam and heavy lunch. I had special puja also. She wore new dresses (clothes) which I had stitched.  She went to see her grandmother (my mother) to get her blessings. We all slept nicely.  I prepared masala vadai and jaggery aval for tiffin. She went and gave this to my sister's house and brother's house[21]. We all dressed up grandly and waited for my husband. He had tiffin and liked it very much. He wished her many happy returns only in the evening.

We all had been to our next house owner's (neighbour’s) granddaughter's wedding reception at New Woodlands [Hotel]. A.V. Ramanan[22] . Musiano[23] was there. The little one was restless as it was terribly crowded there. She never allowed me to sit or hear the music so we stayed [only] 40 minutes [then] came to Woodlands hotel, had a good dinner and came home. The day really was good and this year we didn't have any birthday party like all the other years.  Cousins, uncles, aunts, grandfather all wished her happy birthday over the phone.

We hope Mrs Pat Caplan likes this way of writing and the diary. Thank you!! 

Mrs. Parvathi on Religion

This is the longest list of festivals given by the 5 women who wrote about religious observance. She begins with a list of the Tamil months and mentions that a number of religious observances are monthly, but the remainder are annual and include a number which others do not mention.

Tamil Months with respect to the English months

1. Chithirai - April 13 to May 15

2. Vaikasi  - May 15 to June 14

4. Aadi  -  July 16 to August 16

5. Aavani  - August 17 to September 16

7. Aippasi  - October 17 to November 15

9. Margarghi - December 16 to January 13

10. Thai - January 14 to February 12

11. Maasi - February 13 to March 13

12. Panguni - March 14 to April 13

 

I am very proud of writing this article on 'The Festivals and Poojas celebrated in one Kasi[24] family' for Mrs Patricia Caplan. I am very thankful to her for giving me this chance to write this article for her. The functions are as follows:

1. Tamil New Year's Day (Chithirai month)

We wash all idols' and gods' pictures and put fresh sandalwood paste and kumkum [on them] and decorate [them] with flowers. We put a big rangoli in front of the gate with red chemman around it. This day is called as Vishnu’s. We also keep a mirror, a gold chain, jack fruit, mangoes and bananas in the puja room along with and coconuts. As soon as we get up we don't see [look at] anyone else but go straight to the puja room and we see all the fruits, etc through the mirror and then we light the lamp. On this day we make payasam (sweet milk porridge), vadai, fried appalams, and special vegetable preparations among which the raw plantain preparation is a must.

2. Full Moon Day

Also known as Chitra Pousnami, it is a special occasion for the Goddess Shakti. We make different rice mixtures like coconut rice, lemon rice, tamarind rice etc and papads. If possible we have the night dinner under the moonlight either on the terrace or on the beach.

3. Krithigai

This is an important day for Lord Muruga. This day is celebrated in every Tamil month when the karthigai star falls. We place betel  leaves and nuts, plantains, coconuts and other fruits and make Nivadhayam to Muruga. We also recite slokas that praise Muruga.

4. Adi

We take an oil bath and then make vadai, payasam and other items as offerings to God.

5. Pathinettam Paruku

This festival marks the abundant flow of water in the Cauvery River. The people pray for increased fertility of the soil. To mark the occasion wedded (married) women in the family exchange blouse pieces, coconuts, etc. We prepare various rice mixtures.

6. Varalakshmi Viratham

We pray to Lordess (Goddess) Lakshmi to give us all aishwaryas (good things). When there are elder sumangali[25] ladies in the family who are doing this puja the younger sumangali ladies should not do it separately but join with them. We keep a silver face of the Goddess Lakshmi on a kumba and do pujas. We (only ladies and girls) wear the sacred yellow thread on our right wrist. We recite slokas from Lalitha Sahasranamam.

7. Avani Avittam

It is a function meant for the menfolk. On this day they renew their sacred threads. Married men should wear silk panchakajain while boys wear silk dhotties. In the night they fast.

8. Gokulashtami

This marks the occasion of the birth of Lord Krishna. On this day we hang fresh mango leaves at the entrance of the house and also put a big rangoli before the gate. Then we draw shapes of felt[26] leading from the entrance to the puja room. It is believed that Krishna walks into every home on that day. We keep (put out) a picture of Lord Krishna and do pujas. We also prepare small balls made of jaggery, rice flour and coconut and balls made of salt, rice flour and coconut and various other savouries.

9. Gowrie Puja

It is performed for Lordess (Goddess) Parvathi. Sumangali ladies give two murams with marijal, kumkum, coconut, mirror, comb, blouse piece and betel leaves and nuts to two poor sumangali ladies and give them lunch also. It is said that ladies pray for the long life of their husbands.

10. Vinayaka Chaturthi

It is an occasion for Lord Vinayaka. We make an idol of Lord Ganesh in clay and perform pujas.  We recite slokas on (about) Lord Ganesh and make Nivadhayam of five kinds of kozukattai, idlis and sundal. The next day we immerse the idol in a well. If that day is a Friday or Saturday then it is immersed on a Sunday.

11. Sarva Malaya

It is especially for our ancestors who are dead. We make vadai and payasam.

12. Navarathri: (Purattasi month)

It is celebrated for nine continuous days with three days each for Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswathi. We exhibit dolls called 'Kolu'. We invite ladies and girls and give them Manjul and kumkum along with betel leaves and nuts. We celebrate the Saraswathi day on the day when the moolam star falls. On this day we keep (put) all books and other instruments [of work] before the deity and do poojas. We also decorate [our] cars, cycles, and buses. We pray to the Goddess to give us good knowledge and skill.

The 10th day is Vijayadasami day. It is auspicious for starting new ventures and small children are especially admitted into schools [on that day]. On that the night the dolls are all laid down and are packed [up] the next day. We make sweet pongal on this day.

13. Deepavalli: (Aippasi month)

This is a major festival. We get up before dawn and take oil bath. Then we wear new clothes and burst crackers (let off fireworks). Then we eat various kinds of sweets and savouries and exchange the eatables [with other people]. We also go to the temple and get blessings from our elders also.

14. Karthigai: (Karthigai month)

This is a festival of lamps. In the evening we light lamps made of mud and clay and thereby illuminate the whole house. It is believed that the light chases away all the darkness in one's life and makes the future bright. We make appams made of rice flour and jaggery and pori made of puffed rice.

15. Vaikunda Ekadasi: (Markhazhi month)

This is a day when you are supposed to attain moksha (salvation) on death if you visit a Vishnu temple. We undertake a fast for the whole day and also stay awake the whole night.

16. Thiruvatirai

This always falls on a full moon day and Lord Shiva is worshipped. We make an item called kali made of rice rava, cashewnuts, jaggery and ghee.

17. Bhogi

On this day we have a bonfire and throw away all unwanted things. Most of us clean our houses and whitewash them. All of us take an oil bath. We make vadai and a sweet called poli made of maida (wheat flour) and jaggery.

18. Pongal: (Thai month)

This is a festival of the farmers. It is a thanksgiving function to Lord Surya (sun god) for having given or rather helping to give a good harvest. We make Pongal and along with sugarcane and an item called 'ellu' made of copra, groundnut, jaggery, puffed rice we make Nivadhayam. Kanu pongal is celebrated the next day for the well-being of brothers and sisters. We make various kinds of rice mixtures, vadai and payasam.

19. Thai Friday

The Fridays falling under (in) the month of Thai are very important for Lordess (Goddess) Shakti. We take oil bath on all these days and make vadai and payasam, and make pooja to the Lordess (Goddess).

20. Mahasivarathri: (Maasi month)

This day we make archana (puja) to Lord Shiva with Bilva (?) leaves and undertake a fast for the whole day.

21. Ugad (?)

This is the Telugu new year's day. In spite of it being an occasion [mainly] for Telugus it is our family custom to celebrate this function. We perform pooja and go to the temple. We prepare vadai, payasam and a special item called Pacchadi which has all the tastes of sweetness, hotness, sourness, bitterness [in it].

22. Sri Ramanavami: (Panguni month)

This is celebrated as Lord Rama's birthday. We keep (put out) a picture of Rama and do poojas. We prepare vadai and payasam and special items called Kosamali - a mixture of black gram, mango, chillies and ginger. Paanagam - jaggery dissolved in water. Neer moh -  a lot of water added to buttermilk.

23. Karadaiya Nonbu: (Maasi month)

This is a function when the womenfolk pray to God for the well being of their husbands. We tie the sacred yellow thread in (around) our necks. We prepare an item called velladai made of jaggery, rice flour and cow pie (pea?) gram. We make poojas to the God by keeping the edge of a plantain leaf and placing on it the velladai, butter and a banana without its skin. After making pooja only we tie the thread.

* The banner photograph is of a group of women belonging to one of the organisations studied. It is not a photograph of diarists.                                                                  



[1] Rangoli is a geometrical design similar to kolam but using coloured powder.

[2] Kumkum is a powder used in Hinduism for social and religious markings, usually on the forehead. It is either made from turmeric or saffron. The turmeric is dried and powdered with a bit of slaked lime, which turns the rich yellow powder into a red colour.

[3] This diarist was the only one who records having toast for breakfast. Perhaps this was because she had 3 young children, and toast is more quickly prepared than idly or dosai.

[4] Young women selling goods or services from door to door

[5] Gallatta – from Tamil film

[6] It was common at that time for offices and factories to work a half day on Saturdays

[7] In the context of food, ‘bath’ means that the item is immersed in something e.g. curd

[8] Most Tamils take an oil bath at weekends when more time is available. Oil is rubbed all over the body and head, then washed off with soap.

[9] Cornflakes had only recently been introduced – they were Indian made not imported.

[10] Railway tickets for long-distance trains were very difficult to obtain and people would often have recourse to using the influence of relatives or friends.

[11] Festival celebrating the birth of Lord Rama. In Tamilnadu it is held on the ninth day of the bright half of the month of Chaitra

[12] Payasam – rice cooked in milk with sugar, vadai – fried savory snacks, kari neer – curry of neer, panakam – drink made of dried ginger and other spices.

[13] Aval – dish made with different kinds of dahl.

[14] Ex-President Radhakrishnan had died on 17th April 1975, only a week before, so this was written within the 11-day intensive mourning period.

[15] The Club president at this time was the wife of an IAS officer and it is possible that she too would have had to observe mourning.

[16] Victoria Technical Institute – a well-known handicraft emporium

[17] Women occasionally found that their husbands objected if they appeared to be spending ‘too much’ time out of the house engaged on their social welfare activities

[18] Wives never refer to their husbands by name.

[19] A dish made with a base of tamarind, urad and toor dals, and spices such as curry leaves, chili, and salt and sometimes including tomatoes or tomato juice as part of the base.

[20] Vadams are like rice dosas that are dried in the sun and can be stored for a long time.

[21] It is customary to share sweet food with relatives, friends and neighbours on auspicious occasions.

[22] A well-known singer

[23] Light music group

[24] Kasi are Saivite Tamil Brahmins.

[25] Sumangali are married women whose husbands are still alive.

[26] To look like footprints