By Buddhisha Dissanayake
Avurudu always reminds us of one thing, “family”, a place where we share our love and laughter, where we speak our hearts out and can yet be certain that we are heard. Gavel Mora is a family where we can unmask our true selves without fear and embrace our souls with all their glamour and imperfections. Therefore, what better way would there be to celebrate Avurudu than with the beloved Gavel family.
While we were all sitting on our couches at home, scrolling through our WhatsApp chats for the notice of yet another online gavel Avurudu meeting, what we received was the unexpected surprise message of “A physical Gavel Avurudu meeting”. But alas, it was cancelled at the last moment due to the prevailing situation in the country or so we thought it was…
Even with the cancellation of the physical Avurudu meeting, our gaveliers were not ready to accept defeat. So, the plan was changed and flyers with news of an online gavel Avurudu meeting started to circulate.
After hours-long zoom discussions where piles of ideas were thrown back and forth, finally, the big day arrived. On the 23rd of April, all our gaveliers huddled up before their computer and smartphone screens with excitement to take part in the avurudu celebrations.
Following customs, our president gavelier Suthira Wijayawardena called the meeting to order sharing his thoughts on this traditional celebration. With that the control was handed over to gavelier Thulasithan, the toastmaster for the day, who announced his arrival with a melodious tune that brought the true Avurudu ambience into the meeting. And he went on to speak about the “true meaning of the term, “Avurudu”, going over all the rituals, with a special mention of the most anticipated, “Ganudenu Kireema” (the exchange of money) which turned out to be more about “ganu” (taking) than about “denu” (giving). 😉
Since it was a festive day, all our gaveliers knew that something special was set for the Round Robin session. And it wasn’t a wonder, when a screen covered in betel leaves came up with the warning, “Want to survive? Then better come up with the biggest lie”. 5 betel leaves containing interesting questions were displayed, and the gaveliers had to pick one question and present a convincing lie as the answer.
Undoubtedly, it was a mischievous and fun-filled session. However, now our gaveliers’ “Trustworthiness” seems a little questionable.
Whenever we hear that Gavel is having a themed meeting, we all expect one thing for sure; “Games!”. Surely, any Avurudu celebration wouldn’t qualify to be one if there weren’t any Avurudu games. Now one might wonder if it is even possible to play any Avurudu game via an online Zoom platform. Why not? With the ingenious creativity of our gaveliers, anything is possible.
Soon all the gaveliers were assigned to five different breakout rooms: Aggala, Kokis, Kawum, Pani Walalu, and Laddu. The first game was “Sagawunu Wasthuwa,” an adaptation of the avurudu game, “Sagawunu Amuththaa”. The gaveliers in the breakout rooms were provided with a picture. Within the given 5 minutes, they had to find 15 Avurudu-related objects hidden in that picture. And obviously, if they had finished the game before the time was up, extra marks were added. It didn’t take much time for the break-out rooms to echo with the excited gaveliers’ chatter and laughter.
It is a well known fact that gavel has always been a place of expression, and speaking is certainly one of the most rewarding ways of revealing one’s inner creativity. But penning our thoughts down can also be a very efficacious way of expressing our feelings. That was why “Avurudu Sannasa”, an article writing competition and “Bak Mahe Kaviya”, a poetry competition were held prior to the meeting. An Awarding ceremony for the winners of the competition also took place during the Avurudu meeting. The first, second and third places of Avurudu Sannasa were secured by Navindu, Sithum and Udari respectively while Pipuni, Chathura and Tharindie secured the first three places in Bak Mahe Kaviya.
Crowning the Gavel Avurudu Kumara and Kumariya is imperative to any Gavel Avurudu celebration. Gaveliers appreciate beauty in a unique and elegant fashion and not in the conventional way. Rather than admiring the physical beauty, the eloquence of gaveliers is admired and appreciated.
Our gaveliers never fail when it comes to speaking their hearts out. Deviating a bit from the usual TT session, the table topic master gavelier Malintha set the table topics and explained that the best table topic speakers would be crowned the Gavel Avurudu Kumara and Kumariya for the year.
The table topic session started off with gavelier Amirthavarshani coming forward, as usual, to do a surprise topic. She described the mouth-watering festival sweets with a lot of dramatic expressions. She described how much she loves the smell of ghee and cashews being fried and how she loves it when sweets melt in her mouth. I’m sure everyone started craving for some avurudu sweetmeats after hearing that speech.
Then gavelier Namina delivered his thoughts on the topic, “Good things take time”. He grasped everyone’s attention with his melodious voice.
“Maybe I’m foolish
Maybe I’m blind
Thinking I can see through this
And see what’s behind”
He took us back to his school age and told us how he was heartbroken not being able to get selected to his dream school after the grade 5 scholarship examinations. But as per the saying, “Good things take time,” after 15 years, when he got selected to University of Moratuwa, he realized the amazing changes time can bring.
Following the same path as our toastmaster, Gavelier Dasis shared his view on Avurudu rituals, especially the one involving money, “Ganudenu Kireema”. Given the current situation of the country, he reminded us all how important it is to handle money carefully.
In their speeches, gavelier Samitha and gavelier Umesha took us to their fathers’ hometowns, where they got to meet all their relatives. Samitha shared how joyful it was to make dodol with them, though it certainly needed a lot of hard work. Even with all the hard work, he still loved it, because it gave him the authentic Avurudu feeling. Finally, he ended his speech by adding something that most of us would agree with, “I am very worried that we are not small anymore. I don’t feel the real essence of Avurudu now.”
Sharing and caring make Avurudu special. Gavelier Thulani took us through clusters of coral trees covered with beautiful red flowers where we all listened to the melodious tunes of the “koha” (cuckoo bird). She also went on to remind us the real meaning of Avurudu as she said, “People clean their houses and get ready for Avurudu. But I think we should clean our minds and qualities for Avurudu. If we can share what we have with others, it will be a great pleasure for them. It also will also offer us a sense of happiness that can’t be bought with money.”
Gavelier Yathursiya also had the same thought this Avurudu season. Whenever she went to the temple on an Avurudu day, she used to see poor people who don’t get to celebrate Avurudu the way most of us do. So two years ago, she made a promise to herself. “I stopped spending money for poojas, because we usually give fruits, milk and other food to the gods, who can’t eat them. Instead, I believe we can spend that money on the poor. So I stopped spending for poojas and started spending on the poor.”
Avurudu comes with a great message about humanity and it carries the notion of ‘uniting as humans’. Gavelier Saeedha had an amazing life experience this new year season as she had got to spend this Avurudu vacation with a group of her friends belonging to different ethnicities. She shared her gratitude for them for being cooperative with her when she was fasting during Ramadan. She said that she experienced true unity there. She said, “All of them had their own cultural way of celebrating the new year. Although the methods are different, the meaning is the same: a new beginning, letting go of all the bad things in the past and having a new fresh beginning”.
Meanwhile gavelier Sithum wanted a new year filled with love, peace, and happiness. According to him, all it takes is new hopes and a change in this country.
Gavelier Chathura, gavelier Viruthshaan, and gavelier Udari spoke on the topic, “United we stand, divided we fall”. Emphasizing the country’s current situation, their speeches made us realize the importance of standing together as one nation in the same way our forefathers did in the past for this country. Gavelier Julian also had a beautiful message for us. He said, “Even though this new year is always referred to as the “Sinhala and Tamil new year”, this time it was a new year for all Sri Lankans. Despite the differences in their races and religions, they stood together as one country, as one family, for a better tomorrow.”
Adding to it, gavelier Chehal mentioned how all the ethnic groups in the country got together and showed everyone the true meaning of unity, a practice that should not be limited to the new year.
Gavelier Chega’s message for all the gaveliers was something that should not be forgotten. Simplicity and gratitude, that are promoted through the new year rituals, are something we all are blessed to experience. In her view, these qualities should not be limited to the Avurudu season.
Gavelier Nirodha went with the surprise topic, “Avurudu as a family”. He related an amazing Avurudu ritual he has in his family. “We all get a chance to make a wish on Avurudu day. This is a ritual our family has been following for years. So this year when I got my chance to make a wish I couldn’t do it, since all that came to my mind was how people were struggling out there in the queues and didn’t even have enough food to celebrate Avurudu. So I couldn’t make my wish”. But he added, “I would like to make my wish here today, with my gavel family. I wish that everyone can get their meals in this difficult time.”
Our final speaker for the day, gavelier Prathiba had an insightful thought to share with us. “New year is about being happy and sharing love with each other. This is a time where we find happiness within ourselves.”
Our gaveliers never run out of ideas when it comes to games and fun. Even though we were all stuck before our computer screens, the essence of a real Avurudu celebration was not out of the reach. The floor stirred up once again when our game master introduced another Avurudu game, “The Fancy Dress Parade” . The game took the same façade as the usual fancy dress parade. The only difference here was that all participants had to log into a digital platform to dress up a girl and boy (fake ones actually), to win the game.
I can assure you one thing. One would never be able to find the characters created by our gaveliers in this lifetime, but perhaps in a parallel universe. But in the end it didn’t matter as, “the greatest gift of human imagination is that it has no limits or ending.”
Then all the speeches in the table topic session were evaluated and finally came the time to crown the Gavel Avurudu Kumara and Kumariya.
“papara pam.. pa paaam…
For the most creative speeches, the crown of Gavel Avurudu Kumara 2022 went to Nirodha Sandaruwan, and the crown of Gavel Avurudu Kumariya 2022 went to Amirthavarshani Ananthan.
The winners of the online Avurudu games were then announced marking the end of yet another Gavel Avurudu celebration. But surely, there will be another one next year and then another the year after. Every year there will be one where there will be new faces. Though there may not be some of these old faces, that wouldn’t matter, because all these years what we learned and shared as a family will remain unchanged.
P.S: Special thanks to our organizing committee for their late night zoom meetings and every minute of hard work which includes the overthinking and worrying parts too.