Diners eat a special mass lunch of 27 vegetables curries known as 'Onam Sadya.' File/AFP
Niloufar Saleem, Staff Reporter
It is a festival like no other. A ten-day joyousness of floral finesse, fashion and feast, which has an inclusive spirit, inviting people from all communities to take part in the festivities. Onam, celebrated by people not just in India’s Kerala state but also the world over, including the UAE, marks the harvest season and the homecoming of the mythological King Mahabali.
The zeal could not be more pronounced in the UAE, a country hosting cultures of over 200 nationalities, and which has a huge expatriate presence from Kerala. Many Malayalees feel they are totally at home in the UAE, finding their stay here very heart-warming and fulfilling.
Millions of Keralites mark the ten-day festival decked out in traditional finery, bonding with family and friends alike. Thiruonam is the star attraction of the 10-day festival, which was celebrated on Wednesday, and also sees a crowdpulling boat race in the state.
It is that time of year when the magnificent flower carpet, Pookalam, is handcrafted by both girls and boys and graces all homes. It is the only occasion where a scrumptious spread of over 22 dishes, Sadhya, is laid out, an annual reminder of the Malayalees’ unique culinary skills – a universal must-have in every home.
On Onam people dress up in the mundu which is a white dress draped with gold lining.
The ‘Sadhya’ is served in various restaurants in the emirates to keep up with the Onam spirit.
Some expatriates are seen entering offices in traditional white clothes whereas many take a lunch break to enjoy the delicious food served in the nearest eateries around town.
Gulf Today contacted a few residents to find out how they were looking forward to celebrating this festive day. Here’s what they had to say:
Nidheesh, a talented designer working in the UAE, shares his schedule for the day with us. He goes on to tell us how he has invited his colleagues and friends out for lunch at the nearest food joint that is serving the ‘Sadhya’.
“Onam is a festival that we look forward to celebrate with loved ones and since my family is back home, I am taking a few colleagues and close friends for lunch so they can experience how Onam is actually celebrated.”
We could hear the high-spirited Nidheesh’s excitement to see how his friends enjoy the lunch.
On the other hand, Anila Asgar is not from Kerala, surprisingly, but she is really excited about hosting a few friends over for lunch. She is making a few dishes that she has traditionally learnt to make so she can host friends and family and experience the true spirit of the festival.
“I love cooking and experimenting with new dishes and when I heard about the wide spread prepared for Onam, I had to give it a try. So here I am hosting friends and family for a traditional Onam lunch.”
That’s absolutely sweet of Anila to join in and celebrate the spirit of Onam, was the general pervading impression in the gathering.
Prem, a buying co-ordinator in a firm, really misses home and meeting relatives but says the UAE feels nothing less than home.
With the number of Keralites living in this warm, extremely hospitable country it’s difficult not to be celebrating a festival so loved and cherished by the beautiful South Indian state.
“I miss home and the beautiful elephants decorated and the clothes and stuff but what I miss most is the food. But living in the UAE has never made me feel too homesick. I just step out of my home and see so many people wishing and getting dressed and making plans and it makes me feel so good. The best part is the variety of food that’s available around is also commendable.”
We totally understand Prem’s feelings and second his opinion. As we are aware of the love and warmth this country has to offer to the various different cultures and traditions.
We wish, this Onam, we bring more people closer to one another and make them realise that all cultures and traditions shouldn’t divide but only unite.
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