Though they miss the backwaters of Kerala, they don't complain about it and have happily adjusted themselves in the City Beautiful. For them, Chandigarh is their home away from home. Keralites hardly feel that they are missing out on anything, while staying in the tricity.
Having a population of 25,000 comprising Hindus, Christians and Muslims, Keralites started moving in the tricity in late 70s and started working in Ranbaxy and Punjab Tractors Limited. Today, most of them are working in medical profession, besides being engineers, teachers, health workers and some of them are into business.
Malayalees have Ayyappa temple situated in Sector 47-C. The community has formed the Sree Ayyappa Samajam, Chandigarh, which caters to the Hindu population of Keralites, while the Malayalee Samajam in SAS Nagar caters to Christians, Muslims as well as Hindus.
The community has Kerala Bhawan in Phase 11 of SAS Nagar, where Malayalam classes are conducted for children.
Eight years back, a direct train from Chandigarh to Trivandrum- Kerala Sampark Kranti Express - was started, allowing them to reach their state within three days.
Sharangadhran Pillai, who is living in the city for the past 21 years and is president of the Ayyappa Samajam, says, “We feel that Chandigarh is our first home with a high standard of living. The interesting thing about staying in the tricity is that people, who are from various communities, are very secular and celebrate all festivals. We are grateful to the tricity residents for extending all help to our community.”
Besides celebrating other festivals, Onam is their main festival, which is celebrated in mid August-September. It is the traditional harvest festival of Kerala that marks the homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali.
Benny Thomas, president of Malayalee Samajam, who is in the city for the past 20 years, says, “We are lucky that we are staying in Chandigarh. Though our children do not speak their mother tongue, we are now conducting classes for them at Kerala Bhawan. Also, we have a direct train to Kerala once a week, which will soon be running twice a week.”
Keralites also organise Kerala food festival once a year in the month of February. They also have an exclusive store in Sector 47 from where they get exclusive ingredients to make their local dishes.
Mercy Mathew, a Keralite, says, “The families in Chandigarh do not want to go back.”
“Despite insisting our children to speak Malayalam, they do not want to learn it. Anyone who comes to Chandigarh once, never dreams of settling down anywhere else,” she adds.
Know the community Population 25,000
Main festivals: Onam, Kerala Privir (Kerala formation)
Worship places: Ayyappa temple in Sector 47-C and St. Mary's Orthodox Church, Sector 46.
Staple food: Rice and fish
Traditional dress: Mundu (dhoti) for men and cotton handloom sari for women.
Popular dish: Pradhaman (kheer) and pottu (made of rice powder and coconut)
Prominent Keralites in tricity
Mohammed Shahin, deputy commissioner, Chandigarh.
Charles Samuel, director, Mount Carmel School, Sector 47, Chandigarh.
Professor Sebastian Velassery, department of philosophy, Panjab University.
John V George, former DGP (Haryana), now settled in Panchkula.
K Koshy, former DGP (Haryana), now settled in Chandigarh.
Shaju Peter, environmental engineer and former Rotary governor.
Chandermohan, CEO, Nahar Industries in SAS Nagar.
Piyush, vice-president, Grozbucket in Chandigarh.
Shree Kumar, vice-president, Max India Limited, Chandigarh.
Kalyan Krishnan, director, Ranbaxy in SAS Nagar.
Preparation: 15 minutes, Cooking: 5 minutes, Ready in: 20 minutes, Serves: 8.
500gm puttu (rice, powdered and roasted)
Salt to taste, to be mixed with water for equal distribution
2-3 cups warm water, to make powder wet enough to be cooked
1 plate coconut scraping, scrapped using a coconut scrapper
* Take a bowl of warm water and mix salt to taste. Take puttu powder in another bowl. Add salt water in small quantity to the puttu powder and mix it with a spoon. Once it is wet enough, use your hands to make the wetness even to the mixture. Be sure not to make the mixture too wet that it will become watery and of no use.
* Now, using a coconut scrapper, get coconuts' scrapping. Use a pressure cooker without the weight or a puttu pot, add some water and allow the steam to come with full force. Take the pressure puttu maker; add the filter in the bottom. Now, fill the puttu maker with the mixture and coconut scrapping, alternatively, starting with coconut scrapping in the bottom.
* When the steam is of full force, place the puttu maker, filled with mixture, on top of the pressure cooker or puttu pot, so that the steam passes through the mixture, via the hole at the bottom of the puttu maker. Wait for 5 minutes for the puttu to get cooked.
* Once the puttu is cooked, take the pressure puttu maker out from the steam, and using a stick, push the filter under the mixture carefully to get the cooked puttu out on a plate, without breaking it. It is ready to serve.