Sunday, September 7, 2014

A time for family bonding

SHARJAH: The UAE being the home away from home for several thousands of Indians from Kerala, the festival of Onam holds deep significance for them in staying rooted to age-old traditions and culture.
The awesome message of unity in diversity was manifest when The Gulf Today spoke to several residents about how they celebrate or look at the festival.
“Onam is traditionally a time for families, and this year will be no different. Thousands of people of all religions from Kerala sit down in groups for Onam to enjoy a feast marking the start of the harvest festival. I have been attending the Onam celebrations since my childhood,” reveals Abdul Gafoor, CEO, Moonway Group, Dubai.
Alisha Moopen, Director, Aster DM Healthcare, says Onam celebration brings back fond memories. “We visit our family friends, who would have adorned their doorsteps with ‘Pookalam’- the intricately designed flower mats. We enjoy ‘Onasadhya’, the elaborate vegetarian meal on banana leaf, which is always fun for kids too as it’s a unique experience.”
She says that the practice of making the flower mat with friends and family is one of her favourite traditions of Onam.
Asked about her favourite Onam dish, she replied it would undoubtedly be the “Payasam,” (the traditional South Indian dessert), especially the “Pal Payasam” and “Ada Pradhaman.”
Edward D’Mello, who runs his own communications company in Dubai, says that Onam has remained one of the enduring memories from his native Mumbai, where his Malayalee friends and colleagues would celebrate it in the traditional style and involve others in the festivities.
“Families and friends make it a point to be together for this important festival. In Kerala, I have seen it uniting people across all communities, religions and economic statuses — making it a very secular festival. When I came to the UAE, it was heartening to see  Onam being celebrated in a more elaborate way and that non-Malayalees also participated wholeheartedly in the celebrations,” he points out.
“I am here in Dubai since seven years. We celebrate the festival in its traditional splendour. We decorate our house with Pookalam, listen to Onappattu, we wear our Onakoddi and we prepare Onam Sadhya,” reveals Prakash Kumar, a businessman.
“Yesterday, I went to the nearby store, wading through the thronging crowd and bought a traditional “Mundu”  and a packet of sweets sourced from home country, made of plantain and jaggery for celebrating the Onam,” informs P. Subramanian, who works in the insurance sector.
“I also bought grated coconut, grey gourd (‘elavavan’) and other ingredients required to make a traditional Kerala dish “Olan” to test my culinary skills and the tolerance level of my guests who would visit me on the day of Onam. When I realised that this year’s Onam festival falls on Sept.7, my feeling of deja vu knew no bounds as it is my birthday too!” he adds gleefully.
Krsna Dhas says he is unable to break the nostalgia. “Back home, I used to receive the Onakkodi from my father, After a temple visit, the sadhya was great fun.”
R Vijayan, from Palghat, based in Dubai, says the earliest memories of Onam are that of his paternal grandmother decorating the Thrikkakkarappan and Mathevars kept in various order in the central courtyard of our ancestral Tharavad.
“As children we all used to run around the neighbourhood to collect différent flowers for the floral décorations. The morning breakfast always had to be bananas (in boiled form as well as chips) pappadams, ada (sweet préparation with rice flour, jaggery and coconut.) etc. All family members made it a point to be présent for lunch.”
 “In  Al Ain, we celebrate Onam with our family and friends in a traditional way,” discloses Sajeev Menon, from Thrissur in Kerala. “Here we conduct Pookalamatsaram, drama festival , Chendamelem , Vadamvali and other cultural activities in Indian Social Centre. The celebration  ends up with traditional Onam Sadhya with more than 30 types of South Indian dishes served on a tender banana leaf.”
“Being a Malayalee, Onam is always very special for me. Born and brought up outside Kerala during a major part of my life, it was the harvest festival of Onam that gave me and my family to visit our ancestral home at Thrissur every two or three years,” reveals Rajashree Menon, based in Abu Dhabi.
“I still remember the days when I was the only girl child among a big group of cousins. All of us gather at our ancestral home and our grandfather and eminent educationist late PA Narayana Menon used to guide us on various rituals and celebrations associated with it. There used to be floral decorations, swings and other games we children play joyously. It was followed by a sumptuous lunch and then on the 4th day, we all go together with our elders to watch the famous Pulikali,” she elaborates.
“Being a resident of the UAE, I find the festivities of Onam carried out with more fun and fanfare here than any other cities I have lived. At Abu Dhabi, we celebrate it in a big way at the India Social and Cultural Centre. It brings out a harmonious union of all communities and nationalities,” adds Rajashree.
Rajani Ramkumar, based in Abu Dhabi, says she considers Onam as an eternal efflorescence. “We  cherish the nostalgia of ONAM: O-Ona Pookalam, N- Nakila Sadhya A- Arppu Vili and the M- Memories of great King Mahabali.”
For TV Ramesh, based in Sharjah, Onam is much more than a feast and new clothes. “The great feeling of togetherness and celebration in the society without any religious or economic barriers is the key.”

1 comment:

  1. Another really positive post!! :) Yes, for people who live far away from their homeland, Dubai gives them opportunity to get together and celebrate!!! It is a blessing for them, yes a home away from home :)