Onam to me has always been a time of excitement and every Onam brings nostalgic memories of childhood and our growing up years.
Onam holidays, after the exams, were a huge relief as we were taken to our houses, from the boarding school.
And we a pack of kids, with no care in the world, would roam in the woods and the hills, gathering flowers from the wild, to make our little floral carpets.
We’d walk long distances to gather thumbapoo, kaattuchetthi, pullanji and krishna kireedam flowers.
It was so much fun then and I doubt if the malls in the cities can offer as much thrill to the kids of today.
As we entered our teens, our priorities changed a bit.
We were more into planning our Kavani sarees and colourful contrasting blouses for Onam celebrations at school or college. We worried unduly whether the jasmine flowers that we would buy the previous eve to adorn our hair, would stay fresh or wither by morning.
Gradually, the wild flowers, that I have had a soft corner for, were replaced by store bought flowers.
The pink, yellow, white and red petals we bought from the florists were pretty enough but then all the floral carpets in the schools and colleges looked alike…differing only in the designs.
And it’s here, that our old childhood pookalams of flowers from our yard and the wild, scored over…each unique in their own way.
Plucking flowers from nature’s bounty, the sounds of laughter, the feel of the wind in your hair and the freedom to wander without worries were all added joys.
If Onam saw us at the age of ten, busy gathering flowers for the pookalam, in our late teens we were seen helping out in the kitchen. That was fun too. In between helping to stir the curries, cutting vegetables and squeezing out the milk from the grated coconuts, we would smuggle the squeezed grated coconut to the younger cousins who were now in charge of the wild flower hunt.
They would add watercolors to the grated coconut and use it to fill the spaces in the pookalam. Now, that was cheating, but it was also the norm.
Onasadya the feast, was a grand affair.
All of us preferred to sit on the floor and eat the the sadya from the banana leaves, polishing off with payasam poured on the leaf, into which we crushed crisp pappads and squished ripe little bananas…
The highlight of the sadya!
Years later, though we left our homes to stay in places far away, we Malayalees would find a way to gather and celebrate Onam.
We still eat from banana leaves on Thiruonam but usually at the dining table. Creaking bones and aching knees are blamed for not being able to sit cross-legged on the floors.
But exciting it still is, because all our dear ones gather home and make merry, playing musical chairs, lemon and spoon race and other games besides.
Onam for the last two years saw Kerala struggling due to severe floods.
But we could overcome it all, standing together as one, showing the true spirit of Onam.
This year Onam is just around the corner but so is the Coronavirus. People, the world over, are struggling in the throes of the Pandemic…
There won’t be celebrations or visits from dear ones.
But let us not give in to the gloom.
It’s heartening to see that Malayalees world over are connected, even from the confines of their homes and enterprising enough to come forward with sadyas, payasams and even designer Onam masks, online, to celebrate the occasion.
And that I feel shows the resilience of the people of Kerala.
cheerful and hopeful and stand together to defeat the virus,
and see the victory of good over evil, which is the essence of Onam…
Wishing you all a happy and peaceful Onam.