Arré Checklist: The Despair of Pongalo Pongal


Arré Checklist: The Despair of Pongalo Pongal

Illustration: Palak Bansal/Arré

Pongalo Pongal was not a happy camper. It was Sunday, January 14th. This is where it was supposed to start: three days of celebrations, and all about him! He should have been on top of the world. So why was he sitting all alone?

Tentatively, he murmured, “Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum!” But no one heard him over the clamour of the yelling children a few yards across the playground. Pongalo looked wistfully towards them. Colourful kites flew through the air as they ran perilously close to a large bonfire. The sun blazed merrily overhead. It was Makar Sankranti, everyone’s favourite holiday of the New Year.


The Beginning of a beautiful friendship

Pongalo sighed, dejected. Just as he did, he could have sworn he heard another sigh issuing from the jungle gym region. He turned towards the sound and saw a small girl perched on the bars. It was Undhiyu, a nerdy kid with glasses whom he’d never really spoken with. What had she got to sigh about? Something about her piqued Pongalo’s curiosity.


Undhiyu’s reverie was shattered.

“Are you talking to me?” she asked.

“There’s no one else here,” replied Pongalo. “Just me and you.”

He went over to sit beside her on the jungle gym, expertly scaling the bars. Together the two young holidays eyed the Makar Sankranti crowd, watching them set off some obnoxiously loud fireworks. The cows bellowed their disapproval into the void.

“How come you’re not with them?” asked Pongalo.

“I have my own special day today,” said Undhiyu, looking none too pleased about the fact.

“Wow! I didn’t know that!”

“Most people don’t. They think I’m just a vegetarian dish, or the Gujarati excuse for a long weekend.”

Pongalo grew pensive.

“People think those things about me too. I wish they had a bit more respect sometimes. Just because I’m Tamil doesn’t mean I’m not a real festival.”

“I’m not,” muttered Undhiyu. “I don’t have a history or culture or anything. I think they felt bad for me.”

“Don’t say that!” cried Pongalo. “You should always enjoy your special day, even if other people think you’re boring and unnecessary.”

Undhiyu looked at him properly for the first time. Pongalo was a kindly harvest festival, perhaps not as raucous as the Sankrantis, but not without his charms. He had an appealing wholesomeness when he wasn’t busy pitting murderous bulls against the populace.

“I don’t think you’re boring or unnecessary,” Undhiyu declared.


And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

“Thanks,” said Pongalo, startled. Then he shyly spoke up.

“You know, I really like undhiyu.”


Pongalo nodded. He and Undhiyu sat in companionable silence, observing the Sankrantis, who were now bloodily sacrificing one another to Surya. Their resentment and longing began to fade as the skies darkened. Suddenly, Undhiyu leapt off the jungle gym and proffered a hand to Pongalo.

“Come on. Let’s go to Swati Snacks and get some undhiyu!”

Pongalo took her hand, confused.

“Isn’t that sort of cannibalism?”

She smiled at him. A blissfully pointless long weekend stretched before them. Maybe they could go to Goa?

Hand in hand, Pongalo and Undhiyu walked off into the sunset. It had been a special day for them both.