When Nostalgia Strikes…

Posted on 8/30/2017

At my primary school, there was a cent percent sure question for the general essay category, either in English, Malayalam, or Hindi, or even in Social Studies, during the first terminal examination that comes just before the Onam holidays. The question was ‘write a short note on Onam’. Whichever be the language, we all were so well versed with the answer and why not, the ten sentences written as the answer was not even reframed for many years. It goes like this…

“Onam is the national festival of Kerala. Onam is celebrated during the month of Chingam. It starts with Atham and extends to the 10th day Thiruvonam. It is believed that on the Thiruvonam day King Mahabali returns home to visit his people for a day. Family members gather together to celebrate Onam. We get new clothes for Onam. It is also the harvest festival of Kerala…”

…and it continues like that touching all the factors including pookkalam, thiruvathirakali, and delicious feast served on plantain leaf etc. till the concluding sentence which says, “we should celebrate Onam with happiness and harmony”.

Actually what is Onam? The harvest festival of Kerala? The day when king Mahabali returns for a day log visit? Or a day for fun and enjoyment for the family members? Years before, Onam was all these for me too. Now, after completing 16 years of expatriate life in Kuwait, Onam is the time when nostalgia strikes me the most. It is the time when I start missing my childhood terribly. It is the time when I miss the beautiful cool moonlight of Chingam.

Born in a traditional family with lots of close knit members, I was lucky enough to have a childhood blessed with treasurable moments of togetherness and fun, especially during Onam. All the family members had agreed on a common point that during Onam holidays all should be there at the ancestral home. Final day of the terminal exam was of unusual energy and thrill for us with the preparation to go to our native place.

The fun of being together actually starts from the night we reach, with the bedspread on the floor of main hall where we all the kids sleep together. That night was always young for us with lots of things to talk and share, starting from the expectation of new cloths that we would get the next day, to the trip to see the boat race that happens 3 days after Thiruvonam. I remember, unlike the adults, we kids were not so keen about the traditional Sadya except for the tasty Payasam by our grandmother.

Those were the days when the floral carpet ‘pookkalam’ at our ancestral home takes its creative dimension in its colour combination, with all kids together. As we all reach there just a day or two before Thiruvonam, setting out to collect flowers was a thrilling expedition on fire because each day pookalam has got its own significance in its number of rings, shape and basic ingredient flowers to be used. For example the first day only a single color flower is used which gradually increase as the days progress. A healthy competition on the floral wealth was there between the groups of children whom we came across on our expedition.

Swing was an inevitable part of Onam celebration for us. The question was how many turn for each and who is going to swing really high. The cheering group around was, of course, a support system. None of us was afraid of height and none was there to stop us saying ‘you will fall down’. No parenting specialist was needed to tell our parents how to improve the confidence level of a kid. The swing was actually a confidence booster in disguise for us, as kids. The life itself was simple, yet an amazing trainer.

It was a custom that the elderly person of our family gives Onakodi (new dress) to those who were underprivileged in the neighbourhood and could not make it to celebrate Onam and my grandmother served them the sumptuous Sadya. Our neighboring families also joined us in this act of share and care for the fellow beings.
The splendid evenings were full of laughter, discussions and unconditional happiness. At times we went to the beach side for a magnificent sunset. Played ‘catch me if you can’ with the waves and always we were the ones to taste the failure. It was my uncle, who told us to concentrate on how the soil under our feet got drained away by the receding waves. He told us that a slight body balancing could leave us untouched, once it recedes. It was fun when we experienced it first and succeeded in our attempt not to fall. We laughed at those who could not make it and that teasing was an extra dose for them to try again until they made it. Again, what a lesson on life!

Memories never end and nor does the impact that each Onam holiday left on me. Onam is a time when I am drenched in it. Sometimes I feel sad that my kids are missing all those experiences which seasoned me as person, yet happy and thankful that I am doing my best in that matter, within the limits what life has offered me. Sometimes I wish to go back in time and relive those days. Wish I could!
Happy Onam to all the readers of www.indiansinkuwait.com!

Reshmy Krishnakumar,
Reshmy Krishnakumar is working with Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) as Research Assistant. Having done her post-graduation in Statistics, she worked as lecturer at St.Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, until her relocation to Kuwait. As a freelance writer, she is contributing to various magazines, blogs, and websites. Her passion includes classical dance, writing poems in Malayalam and Hindi. She is a member of the Writers’ Forum, Kuwait and the Indian Women In Kuwait (IWIK)
Reshmy Krishnakumar

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Posted on Wednesday, September 6, 2017

First sentence itself wrong Onam is not a national festival.

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