Come Sankranti weekend, households across the city witness a flurry of activity, what with cleaning and throwing away old and broken items and making pretty muggulu (rangolis). It’s that time of the season when the winter chill is replaced by the warmth of the sun and the blossoming flowers.
For most people, the festival means meeting relatives, gorging on the delicious nuvvula undalu, bellam garelu, boorelu and pulihora and the ubiquitous kite flying. Beyond these traditions, very few among the GenY actually know the science and logic behind some of the rituals performed during this time.
That’s why a small group of parents are choosing to send their children to Vantamamidi, some 30 km away from Hyderabad this Sankranti to help them understand its significance. “The idea is to connect the kids with the local communities and help them in discerning how Sankranti is ingrained in the agrarian cycle,” says Nivedita of Dirty Feet who regularly organises day trips to villages to give children a slice of rural life. “The farmers tell the kids how burning agricultural and domestic waste helps clear the trash and protects the fields from harmful insects and worms. We tell them about the science behind Bhogimantalu and the significance of sprinkling cow dung mixed water on the doorways and Haridasus,” pipes in Archana Londhe, cofounder, Dirty Feet.
In fact, during one such festive trip, she shares an instance where children got over their inhibitions and took an active part in cleaning activities like sweeping, making muggulu and gobbemmalu. “When we told them to mix the cow dung, turmeric and water, they all went, ‘eww I’m not going to touch it.’ But after explaining how the Gobbemma creates a worm-free environment in the house, they all made the balls and went looking for other doorways after they were done with the main door. We teach them the rituals in a fun way plus it’s a great community building exercise. They learn how to make pappu chekkalu and children feel a sense of accomplishment participating in the household work,” opines Archana.
Another reason, parents send their children on these trips is it leads to an attitudinal shift. Homemaker Manjula Vemuri has been sending her daughters on these trips for ten years now so they can experience the same things she did growing up in her village.
“My childhood was very different from that of my children, my friends and I would play simple games like hopscotch and cycle tyre rolling. After visiting a Sangareddy village, my younger daughter Kaveri came home very excited and told me that we should build our own mini greenhouse. We settled for the much easier vermicomposting which worked wonders on our kitchen garden. It was nice to see her practically applying what she had learnt,” says Manjula. On a lighter note, Kaveri also requests her to make dishes from the sahapanthibhojanam she had on a previous trip. “She learnt how to make pappu chekkalu and boorelu last time. Food wins hands down in any trip, you know,” adds Manjula.