The Palani section of Vidya and Judy Nagarajan’s kolu

The term Murugu denotes youth and its beauty in all glory and so Murugan, the uniquely Tamil deity, is all that is beautiful personified. And considering that Navaratri is a lovely festival, it is appropriate that my friend Vidya Nagarajan and her mother Judy Nagarajan dedicated their kolu to this six-faced God.

Before I go on to their kolu, a few words about this mother-daughter duo may be appropriate. Vidya, who is a corporate high flyer began coming to my walks a few years ago and became a good friend of Sarada and mine. She had this habit of making payments in figures ending with one – so if a walk was priced at Rs 800, the transfer would be for Rs 801. Gradually the office came to recognise who this was without even checking for the name. In all our outstation tours there is a sub contingent that keeps the Laughter Quotient high and Vidya is one of the leaders. When we did our Outing to Oude, we realised that Vidya’s mother Judy (real name Alamelu Nagarajan) was a senior version of the same. A pro ¬†at whistling, using two fingers, which I am sure must have stunned entire classrooms into submission during her long stint in education, she now devotes time to social service in the same field. Going back to the Lucknow trip, when Suhail in our group expressed a longing for rasam, Judy went into the Taj Gomti Nagar kitchen and instructed the cook on how to make it. And when we landed at Chennai airport, she insisted the entire group sang For He/She is a Jolly Good Fellow for Sarada and my benefit, much to the surprise of the rest of the passengers.

Each year, Vidya and Judy begin planning on their kolu months in advance. Like Kalpakam Mami’s display, this too is entirely thematic and usually dedicated to a temple or a deity. Each item on the kolu will have something to do with the theme. The space utilised in minimal but the impact is huge. A couple of years ago it was Tirumala and everything from Marapachis to MS Subbulakshmi was included. The research is meticulous, the actual work on putting together the display is I am sure backbreaking and involves not only the duo but craftsmen, who thereby benefit.

This year, the theme was Arupadai Veedu and the display featured not just the idols from each of the six temples, but also the sthala puranas, important geographical and natural features of the places, the religious practices and the great saints, savants and poets associated with each of these. More importantly – the takeaway or gift bag had many items, each sourced from or having something to do with one of the six sthalams. I have a full list from Vidya, and the takeaways differed between men, women and children but each was thought provoking and an eye opener. I am sure Devi, the mother of Murugan, must have been delighted and happily yielded her central space during Navaratri and made way for her son.

Last evening Ashwath Narayanan was there to sing a couple of songs and add to the festive atmosphere. It was a mood enhancer of an evening, spiritually uplifting. This is a kolu I look forward to each year. And by the way, one of the most touching aspects is this – before the start of the kolu arrangements, mother, daughter (and I am sure dad Nagarajan as well), go to the temple that is their theme and conduct an Archana for the wellbeing of everyone of their invitees! It cannot get more heartwarming than that.

Join me on my heritage tour of Tirunelveli between November 22 and 24, 2019. Details are here

You may also want to read my story on some classic Navaratri dolls