March 4th, 2009



The sight of a beautiful little swing in the home of one of our friends set me thinking nostalgically....

There was a time when a swing was an essential part of a home. There were, in the houses I went to as a child, always large "koodam"s as they were called, surrounded by small rooms; the life of the joint family was very much in these "koodam" or halls, and the small rooms were for sleeping (and perhaps procreating!) purposes...the front hall always had a large swing, dominating the room. In fact, there would not be very much more furniture, as most of us would spread out "pAy" or reed mats if we wanted to sit or nap, or even sleep at night. But the large teakwood plank, suspended on chains was the delight of a child who came to visit grandparents for the holidays. The chains might not always be oiled, and the swing would go creak, creak, creak, as people sat on them and gently swung...I loved lying on my back on my grandmother's swing, and looking up at the wooden beams of the ceiling above me. Later, a ceiling fan was added, pushing down the oppressively hot and humid summer air on to the persons on the swing.

How many family discussions, squabbles, and arguments must have been threshed out on the swings! How many marriages arranged, names of babies decided! How many surreptitious touches between young couples who were prevented by prudish morals from showing their affection for one another openly!

In fact, the "oonjal" or swing ceremony is still an integral part of the Tambram wedding, and the couple sit on the swing as the ladies from both sides of the family sing and circumabulate with water which is supposed to have been fetched from the holy rivers.

The swing is often used as a metaphor for the ups and downs of life...and a life that is hanging by a thread is described as "uyir oonjal Adugirathu".." the life is swinging", literally. Of course "swinging" in English also has the extremely negative connotation of being hanged!

We also refer to "swinging youth"...iLamai oonjal Adugirathu! There is, in fact, a movie with this title... and here's a song by ILaya rAja, who, to my mind, is every bit a musical genius as A R Rahman...

(Sideswipe: Don't miss Kamal Hasan's PINK safari suit!)

Funny how such an intrinsic part of our lives has all but disappeared from our lives..the lack of space in our apartment buildings has ensured this. Well, it's nice to see slimmer versions of such swings in friends' homes, at's the slender version that I photographed in our friends' home!

olapally's house swing

What's also sad that in some homes, the swing is still there on the balcony, but mosquitoes, traffic noise, and a need for the fan and air-conditioner has ensured that it's hardly used....

I think I am going to buy a nice swing seat for my daughter's front porch, if I can afford it!