The village of Mayilakam and the areas around it, baked in the hot summer sun. The Earth was dry and the small river that flowed through the village had very little water left.
The people of Mayilakam were farmers and depended on the timely arrival of the Monsoon rain for their livelihood.
The rains brought joy, prosperity and much-needed respite from the sweltering heat. The villagers marked the onset of the Monsoon season with a unique festival called the Boat Festival.
The local meterology department had predicted that the Monsoon would set in a week’s time.
The boat festival was celebrated on the third day after the rains started. The river actually flowed through the village, through the backyards of all the homes, which stood on either side of the river.
During the rainy season, the water nearly came up to their back doors.
That year when the rains started, the villagers got busy with preparations for the boat festival.
The villagers made paper boats of different colours and shapes. They had become masters of this craft. Even children were quite adept at making these boats.
While the boats were being made, the village band was readying itself to play on the day of the festival.
The other and most important specialty of this festival was that inside each boat was a small pocket, where messages could be placed. The message was written on a piece of paper, folded, with the addressee’s name on top, put into a small plastic pouch and tucked into the boat.
The philosophy behind this practice was that all of them, who lived as a community, and who depended on rain water, welcomed the water and sent their boats down the river, where another group usually waited to pick up the boats and remove the message packets. The messages were sent to apologize to others, to profess love, to share love, to brighten up someone’s day.
Again, there were boats made up of black paper with messages that contained the bad qualities people wanted to change in themselves. These boats were allowed to float away, symbolically purging away the villagers’ negative qualities.
The whole village was happy, as the rain lashed and the boats floated down merrily.
As the band played, the messages were given out – two young women smiled shyly as they had received proposals from eligible young men; two brothers, who hadn’t spoken to each other in a year, hugged each other in remorse, a child who had lost her parents was adopted, the richest man in the village had gifted the village school its own computer center.
They danced, drenched in the rain, united in that moment of collective happiness, where they let go, and felt lighter in spirit, ready to take on another year of hard work on their land.