Thursday, September 15, 2005

Hello, Onam? Its Maveli here!

Today is Onam, the harvest festival of Kerala; celebrated alike by all the Keralites! This is the fourth consecutive Onam I am away from my family and relatives. I feel jealous of Maveli (the king who once ruled Kerala). What if he was sent to pathaalam (underground; location of purgatory) by Lord Vishnu for a holiday, at least he is able to visit Kerala during Onam; and me... Well, it is not the time for such senti stuff. Onam is the time to enjoy, to celebrate and above all, to be happy!

I think it was in my 4th standard that I set an athapoo (Floral Carpet put for 10 days ending on Thiru-Onam) in our patio for the first time. Our house was well known in the village for its huge assortment of flora. Three cheers to my achan (father). So getting flowers for the athapoo was not a problem. But there was a threat. During Onam different societies (short lived co-operatives run by children & jobless majority of Kerala youth, which spring up during Onam even faster than a mushroom colony whose primary objective is to collect money in the name of Onam and secondary objective to enjoy life with that money) come to my house to get those flowers for their respective athapoo extravaganzas. So I have to surpass them to get the flowers for my athapoo.

After the sadya (lunch), children of our family assemble at my grand mother’s house where we play different games. One of my uncles would already have tied a swing in the jackfruit tree. In the evening there would be film shows (using a TV and a VCR) by the aforementioned cooperatives. Films like Vandanam, Indrajalam etc. were advertised heavily. My parents didn’t allow me to go and watch these films in the open air auditoriums aka road-sides. I continued this athapoo-ing for quite some time and it stopped somewhere in my high school.

Athapoo during Engineering, S5 - Designed by yours truly.

During engineering we had college level athapoo competitions. Our class put athapoo on all the Onams we got there. In college, someone will come up with puli-kali (a game with people wearing costumes of leopard) and stuff like that. Then there would be payasam (kheer / a sweet) distribution. In the evening people go outside their classrooms and what follows is a scuffle which even beats WWF, in what we call Ona-thallu. We also conduct Vadam-vali (tug of war) competitions and Uri-adi (madka-phod / breaking the pot) competitions.

When I was working in an IT company, a few of us decided to celebrate Onam in our company for the first time in its history. We wanted to put an athapoo in the reception. We went through all those hierarchical battles to get it approved by the admins. Well they can't be blamed for this. What if clients from GE and all see this at the reception of a Top 5 IT company of India on their visit to the company? When the athapoo was put, and the more than 1500 employees saw and appreciated it, we felt like having a cup of hot pal-payasam!

Now history is going to be written once again. We have planned to put an athapoo in our institute on Thiru-Onam. Yes, the first time in its history. I am just back after drawing the design. Early morning we will go to the nearby flower market. And I dont feel like sleeping!

Wishing you all a Happy Onam... Onashamsakal!

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Athapoo that we put today

Athapoo a bird's eye view