If you ask me is Onam one of the things you remember from your childhood, my answer would be a straight No. Though from Kerala, I have never really stayed there as a resident until recently and in the parts of the country that I stayed in Onam was unheard of. However, mom used to make it a point to remind us of this annual festival every year and make time for a small feast on the day or the next immediate Sunday. There was no celebration, there was no get-together, I didn’t even know it was a 10 day long festival until a long time.
When we shifted to Palakkad in my 9th std., I came face to face with the maximum number of malayalees for the first time. I learnt more of the language, the people, the places and the food. With all of this, Onam also started getting important. I got a holiday for the first time ever for the festival, so that was a big deal for me. I visited my ancestral house for the very first time during Onam. We put rangoli with flowers, chit chatted and played, drank a lot of payasam and got new clothes too! I regretted how much I missed this over the years.
But this happiness didn’t last long as soon enough we got shifted out of Kerala. Since we were still in South India, we continued to get a one day holiday for Onam and celebrated it in our small way at home. We had malayalee communities in our city and attended the Onam cultural programs and sadhya. I also remember participating in kaikottikali during one such functions. I learnt a new art form!
A few years of that happened and then I got busy with college and then job. I couldn’t be present at Onam anymore. The onam with a family of four of us became an Onam with family of three after my wedding. Though for me, Onam completely changed post-wedding.
It is a huge deal in my in-laws family and rightly so. After all, that is the only main festival we have other than Vishu, the malayalee new year. It became a mandate to reach my in laws place a couple of days before Onam, shop clothes for everyone and have a family get-together. If we don’t have holidays, what are all the Casual leaves for?!
I am just back home in Bangalore after 4 days of Onam festivities at my in-laws place. This is also my fourth Onam of this form and I don’t see it changing for many coming years. It is a time of excitement and joy to play with my niece and nephew, get new clothes for them, cook a variety of dishes and sweets. It is also a delight to watch my father-in-law make and arrange the thrikakarappan every morning during those 10 days. We have guests at home and at times we turn into guests at different homes. Lot of phone calls are made and social media is updated. It is also a time to be glued to different malayalam channels on TV as they broadcast the latest hits. We don’t realize when days turn into nights and then days again. It is a full roller coaster those few days and howmuchever tiring it is, you wait for it every year.
This time though this Onam was little more special as it also marked the first long drive in our car. We had an adventurous ride both to and fro with lot of unexpected happening but we are back now, after everything and I can’t wait for life to get back into the normal routine. Come next year though, I will be as excited as my 7 year old niece to slurp on all the payasams and get new clothes.