My First Onam In The US

What is Onam? The instant answer that comes to my mind is “Onam is the national festival of our state, Kerala”. This was the first line of the essay or composition writing (as it was called in our curriculum vitae) on “Onam”,in my grade 4. So whenever I hear this question, I think about my composition note book. Since Onam is a big story, I don’t want to elaborate it here( I have been telling the story to every non malayali, I meet here, in the past 1 week, and infact even my hubby who is a malayali). Let me just mention that Onam is celebrated in memory and honor of a very benevolent King who ruled Kerala ages and ages ago; Mahabali or Maveli. If you would like to know the full story and the traditions, its available here .

This Onam was really special for us, since it is the first Onam after our wedding.Our grandmothers deeply felt that “our first onam” should be celebrated in full pomp,like in Kerala,with a good feast, flower carpet,traditional dressing,etc, though we were in the US.Its like a custom. Even we wanted to make it a memorable one. So we thought of inviting a few friends over , and cook some authentic Kerala dishes. And make a small flower carpet ; together.

All these years, my duty on Onam day was to put the flowers.Till I reached high school, my mom would give me a hand, but after that I took on complete authority. I used to enter the kitchen very rarely on that day, if time permitted after my flower carpet work. I just loved to make very big flower carpets and that generally took me from early morning upto noon, to get it done. But this year, with a lot of responsibilities, it felt like I was in my mom’s shoes : cooking two three dishes, giving instructions, giving a hand in the flower carpet project going. It was total fun.

Our friends came home the previous day and we did all the vegetable chopping part. Sunday morning we started cooking, one by one. The only thing I felt bad was , we got all our guests into kitchen and made them do something or the other. We have a saying, “Athithi Devo Bavah”, which means “Treat Guests like God. But, because of the different items we had to prepare, once we added all the main ingredients, we would hand over the spatula to someone, to keep stirring and cook it, without letting it burn off. So all our “Athithis” were kept busy throughout.But thats the real spirit of Onam, everyone participated in every thing.

Our Onam Sadhya menu had Plain Rice, Sambhar, Pulisseri, Koottucurry, Oolan, Cabbage thooran, Chammanthi, Pappadam, Pickle, Chicken Fry(usually not a part, but few of us can’t manage without it), Paayasam and Coke(again an irregularity).

Our flower carpet came out quite well too, though they were not familiar with it. I helped them only for a while and then got drifted with cooking. After that every time I managed to take a peep at the flower carpet,it was getting more and more beautiful. They/them here are Meesu(the guy in blue shirt at the left end of the pic above) and Keets ( the lady sitting third from the right side in saari). Back home we used to buy boxes of flowers for the day, but here we just bought two three bouquets, since flowers are very expensive here.

Another highlight for the day was we were in traditional Kerala clothes,as you would have seen in the pics. We even made our non-Kerala friends wear traditional Kerala outfit. After our delicious lunch we went to our apartment park to click some pictures in our outfits. We knew everyone would be surprised to see us, and yeah, all eyes turned in our direction. They just couldn’t understand what we were in. Though we were willing to help anyone who wanted to know what we were upto, no one asked us anything, except for staring at us from head to feet. And there we stood like some new species smiling vainly, but indeed enjoying the very expected stares.

We made our first Onam together very memorable with all our friends who joined us..Though away from Kerala, we managed to celebrate a wonderful one here, as our grandmothers suggested we should. Hope the next Onam, and the next, and the one after that, is as beautiful as this one. 🙂

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One Response to “My First Onam In The US”

  1. Happy Onam.

    Read your Onam story. Hope You may not have to write onam essay again in your life.


    Note: We have lot of Onam Scraps in our collection. If you can use our onam scraps for posting onam wishes in orkut and facebook it will be great

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