Article by Jestin Jacob Cherian of S3EB.
ONAM is the cultural festival of Kerala, which used to be god’s own country and later changed to be dog’s own country. The one thing that startled me on this onam was the site of an ‘Athapookalam’ that had the great king Maveli being chased by a bunch of dogs. Though this was made as a whatsapp joke, this is the real face of the ‘new’ kerala. The great festival, Onam , used to be a festival of wealth and prosperity and the indication of the beginning of a season of good yield and natural harmony. This ‘was’ celebrated in the memory of the great king Mahabali who treated everyone irrespective of their wealth or caste. It is believed that this great king would visit his kingdom ‘kerala’ on the day of onam from the underworld. While this was the old senario, today, Onam is celebrated as a way to show the power and wealth one has. Instead of the oneness and harmony we had, today this festival has turned out to be a dias of exposing one’s luxury and standard of living. In the older generation, while children used to find fun in arranging the athapookalam and in the onam games now the so called ‘new’ generation children makes ‘their’ athapookalam in whatsapp and play the onam games in the playstore. Family gatherings have turned out to be social community hubs with each member staring down to his/her phone without even uttering a word to each other. The funniest thing that striked me at this Onam was the introduction of the new ‘delivered onam sadya’. Today, instead of the home made onam sadyas we had, we have food delivering websites that parcels the sadya for money. Instead of the famous ‘vallamkalli’ and ‘onakally’, we can see ‘the Onam fashion show’ where people, especially women ,would dress up with a 50mm layer of make up on their faces, which is supposed to make them look 18. And the men would do their rounds of liquor and cigarrettes. And the kids, would be sunk up in their expensive branded electronic gadgets, streaming in some social media sites. This is not an exclusive, but common site in the ‘new generation god’s own country’. We should remember that these ‘high’ class jokes are happening in a state which have a large population doing their level best just to have a full meal in their table. And that these ‘extravagancies’ are occurring as part of a festival in remembrance of a king that treated everyone equal and a time when everyone had everything in equal proportions. Who knows, even the great king ‘Mahabali’ would have abandoned his land and moved to the underworld willingly after seeing the events of this ‘high class onam’.But we should remember that the ‘real onam’ is only possible at a time when all of the people, irrespective of their wealth and power, can drink and eat from the same table. In my opinion, this was the dream that the great king ‘Maveli’ and our great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi had.