Another wintry activity was feasts. Everyone feasts during December. Our father worked in a near by small town, at that time. The office turned into a makeshift home of sorts for folks who traveled from far off places and went back only on Sundays. The office staff decided to close for Christmas holidays after having a small feast and the children were invited as guests.
On the day of the feast, we got dressed prim and went to father's office on time. We folded our hands and greeted all of father's colleagues rather obediently. Someone took us to tour the town on foot. The pooja pandal was the cynosure of the market place. Men hung around it drinking tea and smoking bidis. Younger men, who exerted ownership over the pandal, had just been done with their annual repertoire of festivals. Starting with Ganesh Pooja in August, to Durga Pooja in September, Lakshmi in October and finally Kali in November. They were fluxxomed collecting contributions, organizing processions and decorating and discarding.
Tired after our walk around the town when we returned to the office, it had been shut earlier than usual on account of the feast. We entered through the backdoor. The cooking had begun. The children helped around chopping a cucumber or two for the side salad. But mostly were sitting around and getting bored.
When the time came, banana leaves were rolled out on the floor and sprinkled with water. Steamed rice and spicy hot chicken curry were served to all the participants of the feast, starting with the children. Fresh coriander leaves were fetched from the kitchen garden meticulously maintained by the folks who stayed over nights at the office. Green chillies for some of the adults.
I hardly remember what we looked like as children that young. I have no memory of what those colleagues were like. I barely remember what father used to be like back then. But I remember flavors of the curried chicken and how it filled the entire corridor where we sat in rows, against both walls. And the overpowering coriander. The chicken had been cooked in pestle crushed spices, since nobody had no grinder.
After the feast, we folded our hands again and bid goodbye to all. On the way back, a slight chill had filled the air as we crossed fields of cabbage and cauliflower. Fields of cabbage and cauliflower, ah. Such a sight to behold, flowers sprouting from the ground. When we reached home, we saw mother having her cup of tea on the porch.