For a community that was starved for celebrations, September literally has been a carnival. First was the Ganesha Chaturthi that we celebrated with much gusto. Over the last weekend, we celebrated Onam, albeit a little late from the actual festival date.
This time the Malayalee community decided to do something different, I guess to make up for the 2 years we went without any community get-togethers. Spread over Friday and Saturday, the event saw enthusiastic participation from residents across the community. This year for me was a unique experience too.
On Friday evening, we had a Pookalam competition between blocks. Pookalams are designs made with flower petals. They are an important & significant feature of Onam. Though beautiful to look at, there is a lot of hard work that goes in. One can’t use full flowers, but only petals or leaves that at finely cut. These are used instead of colors to form a design which is called Pookalam.
That evening, the entire society was filled with the heady smell of flowers and oil lamps, heralding the festivities. A few ‘enthu-cutlets’ including me from our block participated. We had fun prepping for the event. From meeting a couple of days before to decide on the concept and colors, to go shopping for flowers and gorging on yummy Masala Benne Dose and separating the petals in preparation for the Pookalam, we enjoyed every detail. Here are some pictures of the Pookalam & all of us dressed in our traditional finery.
Our Pookalam also had a concept – a story that spoke of the spirit of Venezia.
Saturday began with the procession of Mahabali within the society. This was followed by the Thiruvathirakali – a traditional dance performed in Kerala by groups of women in a circle around the lamp to celebrate the female energy. Though this dance was previously performed a few years ago, this time a mega-event was planned. Around 90 women from the community danced together. It was both a beautiful sight to behold and a pleasure performing as part of the group.
Though not a professional dancer, in my younger days I have performed many dances and choreographed a few too. However, for some unknown reason, I have stopped dancing now – it just does not excite me. When this Mega Thiruvathirakali was being planned, I was unsure of joining. Then friends coaxed me into joining as, if nothing else, we would just have fun together. So I did and it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. For around 12 days, we practiced every day. After a hectic work day and handling responsibilities alone at home (my husband was traveling), I was surprised at the eagerness with which I looked forward to the practice sessions at night. The ‘teachers’ who are friends too made it so interesting for all of us, patiently making sure we could pick up the steps. The entire practice session was full of fun and banter from ordering the costumes to practicing how to wear the Kerala set mundu.
On the final day, the energy and vibe was something else. Around 90 women from all age groups – from 5 years to senior citizens – all dressed in the Kerala White & Gold, laughing and complimenting each other, helping each other with the gajra or final adjustments to the mundu. It did not matter if we knew each other well or not at all. At that time we were all sisters wanting to dance together and enjoy ourselves. Believe me – all of us looked so beautiful. I am sure our vibe carried on to the audience too. Though the dance was a slow one, each of us danced it with passion and ended it to thunderous applause. It was no mean feat to pull off the coordination of 90 women who practiced across different batches. Compliments are still pouring in from family and friends who are seeing the pictures and videos. Kudos to our teachers who made it so seamless! Their patience and dedication helped us create this wonderful memory that each one of us will cherish! And to keep these memories fresh forever, we had a dear friend clicking these amazing photographs.
After this high, many of us had a sumptuous Onam Sadya and went home to sleep it off! The evening brought in the party spirit with music and an open dance floor, where everyone danced their heart out.
Onam is indicative of new beginnings and prosperity. This year’s experience definitely was the beginning of something new. Here is hoping that we can celebrate Dusshera/Durga Puja, Diwali, Christmas & New Year too with the same gusto!