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Onam Special: 9 Things nobody tells you about celebrating Onasadya with a true Malayali spirit!

Last Sunday, there were several Onam community celebrations across Delhi and Noida. After my amazing Onasadya which I enjoyed with thousands of simple devotees in Prashanti Nilayam, I had no doubts which one to attend this time. I know this sounds silly but I like to keep things pretty simple. Fancy stuff - nooo!

See this Onam pookalam below - it was so lovingly made by a few Tiruvalla Christian families. The home is that of a Christian too who gave his unoccupied home for the Onam celebration. We tend to go crazy on social media about religion, the right to eat beef and so on. What amazes me is that not one person expressed an interest to cook a non-vegetarian dish for this Onasadhya, which had mostly Malayali Christians! To me, this is the spirit that Malayalis always had - to actually care for others, to show respect to another's faith whether they endorse it or not. [READ: Happy Onam celebrations - Revisiting Memories] 

If this spirit doesn't capture the simplicity and essence of Onam, tell me what does?



Onam is about simplicity, cooking and sharing a meal together. To my delight, I discovered a very active Malayali community in our own building with over 35 Malayalis who had already put their Onasadya plans in place. I was allotted two Onasadhya dishes (not my first choice actually) by the organisers - Ishtu and Paalada. Of course, I was confident about the Paalada coming out delicious but I had never made Ishtu before for any sadya. 

You see, I am not a big fan of Ishtu as a sadya dish but I had no choice and so I got my mother's recipe and the dish came out yummy. There were people who asked for second helpings and a gentleman who got the remaining dish packed for his wife who was unable to attend the celebration. Hurray! 




So, what did I like the most about this Onasadya? Many things such as:

1. We were all Malayalis from different regions of Kerala, belonging to a different religion and we cooked dishes and served it together in a spirit of oneness.

2. Not one person had even thought of cooking a non-vegetarian dish - given that a majority of people who had gathered were non-Hindus. 

3. We introduced ourselves with an openness and simplicity that I really liked. 

4. For a change, the men insisted that women and children eat first. They served us so patiently and caringly and then we took charge.




5.  In most of the Onasadhya gatherings that I have attended, Malayalis are dressed to kill, not to mention the gold and jasmine overload. For this Onasadya, people were dressed in a very simple manner and interacted warmly.

6.  The biggest change I witnessed was to see my 11-year-old son struggle to eat with his fingers - something he has not done since he was a toddler. Cute!




As the men were being served, I noticed that the kids who had eaten were glued to smartphones, including my son. Something in me seemed to snap.

No way!!!

7. I called my son over and said, ''This is an Onamsadya. You have to serve."

DO READ: A Dad's advice to the Daughter he loves

Adi was horrified. He has a problem with touching food with his fingers, especially south Indian food which comes with strong scents of spices. When I cook sambar at home, he stays kilometers away from the kitchen! He doesn't like the smell of asafoetida or sambar powder.

"Me?," Adi asked, looking like I had announced a sudden test paper or something.

"Yes, you will serve. " I know I sound like a Monster Mom but I had to do this. 

"But I don't know how. I haven't done anything like this before..."

I thrust a dish of rice to him and said, "Today is a good day to begin. So let's figure out how to do this right, okay?"

A miffed Adi took up the task with the same enthusiasm that I used to attack my Maths test papers. But once the activity got started, I could see the happiness on his face. He was beginning to glow. He was happy. He began to volunteer and serve other dishes and do so without me saying anything.

I learned a valuable lesson through my son's involvement in serving the Onasadya. 

8. It's not what we wear or cook that matters on Onam. It's how we commit ourselves to making others feel happier. 

9. It's how we begin to change when we serve people. We feel joyous inside.

That is all that matters. 

[READ: Investment Banker leaves high-flying job to live in Prashanti Nilayam]

Tell me about how you like to celebrate your favorite special and do you feel you are happy at the end of the day?

Comments

Haddock said…
to see my 11-year-old son struggle to eat with his fingers - I just love using my fingers, and hate it when I have to use the spoon & the fork.
Somya Gopalpani said…
I love the festival of the Onam very much because it is one of the best time to enjoy along with the family members. In this festival i like to enjoy the dishes which are prepared very much tasty. Thanks a lot for the most wonderful lines which you have shared with us. I have been to this place in the month of December from Goa to Kerala and it was one of the best experienced which was gained by us.