Joseph John (PGP 2012-14) relives his memories of Onam while on campus…
We all have some childhood memories that we cherish. There are rare moments from your school days which you fondly recall, some which cannot be relived. The daily dose of backyard cricket in the evenings, school annual days, summer vacations and visits to grandparents’ houses, the occasional foreign gifts from an uncle working in the Gulf, family get togethers when you crash on the floor with your cousins at night etc… are the best pages in our diaries. For every Malayali, the festival of Onam evokes similar feelings, but in a much stronger manner.
During August or September Onam is celebrated across the state with a great deal of delight. The much detested Onam exams happen across the schools, followed by the ten day Onam vacation. The Malayalam calendar points out ‘Thiruvonam’, the grand finale, and scattered family members try to be together to celebrate this harvest festival. Ten days before Onam, people start putting flower rangolis known as ‘Pookkalam’ on their verandas and courtyards. Also, Onam special sales begin and everyone gets a new pair of clothes from the head of the family. The art & recreational clubs of the neighbourhoods arrange numerous games and other entertaining events throughout the period. A couple of examples are: ‘Pulikali’ – a folk dance where people with huge potbellies paint themselves as tigers or as a hunter with a big moustache and then dance to the beats of drums; ‘Thiruvatira‘ – where ladies in white set saris dance around an oil lamp in the evening.
Also, the feast which is eaten from a fresh banana green leaf, comprises of about 15 vegetarian dishes, 4 varieties of fries, 2 to 3 desserts and 3 spicy chutneys are relished course by course at midday. And yes, we love our coconuts; most of the dishes will be generously doused with shredded coconut and prepared in coconut oil. Post lunch, people either take a nap or else indulge themselves with the latest Malayalam movies which are aired on TV as part of the Onam special.
What makes Onam different is that every single person in the state of Kerala celebrates this fest irrespective of their religion, caste, age or financial status. During Onam you can see the same amount of eagerness and happiness on the faces of anyone, from a young Muslim girl to an aged Christian monk; even though the roots of the festival derive from Hindu mythology. It’s a time when people rush to their childhood homes, back to their roots and rekindle sweet memories. It’s a time when families laugh together and get away from the routines of life. Keralites scattered across the world show the same spirit of oneness when celebrating Onam. College and work has prevented many of us from joining our families during Onam, but wherever we are during that time, we make sure to make the best of that time. The story at IIM Bangalore was not any different and we happily shared the joy with our friends.
Onam is truly the king of all festivals to us.