Kerala Diaries - Rendu

Mahabali at our Hotel
Kerala celebrated its state festival Onam last week. It is celebrated over period of ten days. I was always indifferent abut this festival until I landed here during the festive season. It is believed that King Mahabali or Maveli as the malayalees say, visits them during Onam every year. Mahabali is an asura king who is good; the only bad thing in him marks Vishnu's fifth avatar - Vamana. The people under the good king's rule were happy and prosperous. The king soon developed an ego that he had everything he wished in the world.  The king had kept a yadnya where he promised that he would grant anyone with anything he asked for. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu in his Vamana avatar asked King Mahabali for three pieces of land equal to his feet. As soon as the king granted his wish, Vamana grew into the skies, kept one foot on the entire heaven; the other on the entire earth. When Vamana asked, where should he keep his foot for the third piece of land; the king told him to keep his foot on his head. And the mighty king was sent to Pathala with a blessing that he could visit his kingdom every year. The entire Kerala is decorated with flowers and peoples during this period; yes the people look very adorable in their traditionals.

Peek-a-boo! A beautiful Pookulam in progress.

Onam Sadhya  is served as a special food delicacy during this period. Every function on this occasion has an Onam sadhya. The food is served on a banana leaf; rice and sambhar are the main items and are accompanied with banana chips, chutney , avial, rasam, pachhadi and the wonderful payasam to end it with a bang. The ladies come dressed in their traditional sarees with jasmine flowers endorsing their thick hairdo. The gentleman are at their best in a shirt and a veshti. The keralaites welcome their king with Pookolam or the flower rangoli. So, there are Pookolums everywhere.

There is always some background instrumental music playing at my workplace. During Onam they would play classical music; ghatam and flute. What a combination! I never enjoyed IT more than this. For those who didn't get the pun, it is deliberately written in capitals and is not a mistake. Everyday they serve us with tea or coffee at the desk. I thought they could have served us with various types of payasam for those ten days. Tongue-in-cheek.

A Pookulam at a function organised by the client.
Later this week, there was a bandh declared by the trade unions all over India. The localities here said that Kerala would be bandh for every minute of the twenty four hours that day. And they were correct; not a shop was open; it was a 100% bandh for 24 hours. Kerala might be having some history on this voluntary 100% bandh. In Mumbai, the protesters have to break down some shops and then they shut down shops and after all this, all the shops open by 6 o'clock. A bandh in Mumbai is officially over by 6 o'clock. Kerala kept us hungry that day. The entire Kerala was closed execpt for our client's office. So we walked 3 km to the office that day. I may seem a little unprofessional here but why didn't the protesters throw stones at our building. That was a prospective holiday for us. Tongue-in-cheek-two.

The bandhs in Kerala are followed quite diligently and that is also one of the reasons that the buses have shutter windows and are not made up of glass. I repeat - I have a strong feeling that Kerala might be having some violent history on this voluntary 100% bandh. Also this week, we were transferred from a hotel which was just three hundred meters away from office to an apartment with no complementary wifi and breakfast and three thousand meters away from office. So this post is brought to you by McDonalds' free thirty minute wifi. Tongue-in-cheek-hat-trick and see you in Kerala diaries - Moonu.

P.S. Check out this video courtesy KAPPA TV for more on Onam.


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