I cannot be alone in my observation that this Avurudu season 2016 was celebrated with more fervour than ever. The shops were stacked with more merchandise; the shoppers were more frenzied; the choice of goods was mind-boggling and it seemed evident that there was more spending power.
Avurudu season descends upon us at a time when children are on vacation, the heat makes us wilt, and everyone, no matter what religion they follow, slips into celebration mode. This year, those who can withstand even extreme temperatures have found the heat more than oppressive; yet enthusiasm remains high. The climate has had a small effect on the pavement shoppers who are reluctant to endure the unrelenting sun and harsh heat. Yet judging by the throngs of people frequenting the air-conditioned stores and malls, there is a readiness to swap the pavement for shopping in comfort.
In every corner of the city and suburbs, shoppers can be seen carrying loaded bags full of merchandise. Stores find they have to restock their shelves at lightning speed and bakeries cannot cope with the demand for cakes and goodies. As Sri Lanka moves towards middle-income levels from low-income status, there seems to be less restriction about spending on luxuries. It is the natural progression of a nation on the upward move and it is heartening to see people aid our own economy by patronizing shops.
There is also the tendency for people to move towards purchasing quality merchandise. Time was when Colombo’s ‘Petticoat Lane’ – the town of Pamunuwa in Maharagama attracted a sizeable portion of shoppers. Pamunuwa is known as a place where low-cost garments could be purchased. These are often produced by home-based women. This area and its unique business position is certainly an important albeit unheralded cog in the economic wheel. This year, the products on display in Pamunuwa too had stepped up a notch or two quality-wise. The manufacturers and merchants were quick on the uptake and knew that in order to remain competitive, they would have to up their quality as shoppers were that much more discerning.
The Avurudu season is without a doubt infectious – it is a time when all Sri Lankans can unite. Buddhist and Hindu neighbours send trays loaded with Kevili to their neighbours in a spirit of camaraderie and amity. The wonderful traditions that have remained throughout the ages continue to flourish. Remembering relatives with gifts and tokens; observing the auspicious times; respecting elders and engaging in religious observances being some of them.
Some things have become victims of progress such as the ubiquitous cheeththa that used to be part and parcel of the Avurudu gift catalogue. The cheeththa is a fabric unique to Sri Lanka. It is a strong yet porous cotton fabric printed in riotous colours embracing nature themes. Flowers, leaves, vines, birds and butterflies in often mismatched colours form the prints. Womenfolk used to stitch utility garments out of this fabric – items we would today address by the fancy term ‘loungewear’.
Savvy establishments have resurrected the cheeththa in time for Avurudu. One establishment is offering Tee Shirts in cheeththa prints while a reputed jewellery manufacturer is offering jewellery in riotous colours in homage to the cheeththa. This certainly means that nostalgia is alive and kicking as people desperately hold on to the little things that made Avurudu special.
There are those who still manage to cling onto the perennial complaints. Pavement hawkers and merchants despite selling several rounds of stocks, will still complain that sales were marginal. Others may also want to douse spirits by moaning about the costs not realizing that Avurudu season comes but once a year. It is hardly likely that this small section of the community can douse the enthusiasm of the majority who seem to embrace Avurudu totally.
Avurudu is a time when all Sri Lanka puts on a huge party. In the villages the games festivals called ‘Bak Maha Ulela’
often extend up to the end of April. These are occasions when people gather together and engage in the great leveller – sports and competitions. Avurudu is one of our most glorious traditions – embracing love, generosity and goodwill. It is a time when our little island pauses in its tracks to let loose and have one truly awesome celebration.