The frenetic pace of Mumbai may not allow its Malayali residents to celebrate the harvest festival of Onam over 10 days, as they do in Kerala.
But today, the city’s close-knit Malayali community will make the most of the one day they get to enjoy Onam with close family and friends.
For many families, the most important part of this daylong celebration will, of course, be the traditional Onam sadhya or feast, served traditional style, on a banana leaf.
“The only reason I look forward to Onam is the sadhya. It’s tasty, traditional food that we otherwise don’t have the time to make all year round,” said Matunga resident Srinivas Narayanan, 27, a software engineer.
Once Onam is spent with the family, many Malayalis in the city also get together for a larger celebration with a local community association.
The Bombay Keraleeya Samajam, the city’s oldest Malayali organisation established in 1932, is one such association that has planned a large meet for its members on September 5.
“Not all of us can take off from work during Onam. So we plan a celebration for our members on a Sunday close to Onam and have traditional dances (koikottokali) and pookalam (flower rangoli) making competitions, and of course, the onasadhya,” said Premraj Nambiar, joint secretary, Bombay Keraleeya Samajam. About 3,000 of the association's members could be taking part in the celebrations this year.
For other Malayalis who don't have family in Mumbai, Onam is just time to get together with friends and do something special.
“A whole lot of us Malayali boys from the hostel are going to go out for a traditional Onam lunch. Many non-Malayali friends also join us for the meal. It's fun telling them about the festival,” said Rohan Mathew (20), a student of St Xavier’s College.
Abey Tojokaynaday (20) and his friends plan to go to college wearing the traditional mundus to mark Onam.
“Apart from that, the celebration will be nothing like what it is back at home,” said Tojokaynaday.