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Kerala Deluge: In no mood for Onam celebrations, only prayers, say Pune Malayalis

Say staying away from family and watching news is depressing.

pune Updated: Aug 18, 2018 18:56 IST
Anjali Shetty
Anjali Shetty
Hindustan Times, Pune
pune,maharashtra,kerala deluge
People visiting Ayyappa temple in Khadki contribute towards Kerala flood relief fund on Friday.(HT Photo)

The state of Kerala is experiencing the worst floods in a century. Thousands of people have been rendered homeless, more than 150 people have lost their lives, hectares of crops have been destroyed and air, rail and road transport has been disrupted.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the situation was serious but was optimistic of overcoming, as most of the state remained under water amid continuous rain, landslides and floods. He said that over two lakh people have been shifted to 1,568 camps across the state but many are still stranded. While the relief and rescue teams of the Indian Air Force and Indian Army on Friday started distributing food packets among those who have been marooned in several flood-hit areas of the state as more boats and helicopters were pressed into service, Malayali families in Kerala are praying for the safety for their friends and family in Kerala.

Sheila Rajan, 70, was to leave to Kerala for a family wedding on August 17 but the current situation of her home state has brought in gloom over them . Sheila said, “ My cousin’s daughter, Dr Lakshmi D’s wedding is to take place on August 19. It is at the Guruvayur temple. We have decided not to go. I really don’t know how the wedding party will reach the venue from Alleppey. Hotels have been booked and the entire event has been planned. We are all very upset. Another incident is that my cousin Lata Rajendran has been asked to leave her home because of the swelling of Pamba river and water entering the canals. The situation was so dangerous that they have been evicted.”

Sheila added that in times of crises people are helping each other. “All caste, creed and religion is forgotten. They are united in their adversity,” she added.

Chenthil Iyer, author and investment advisor, who was born and brought up in Kerala and currently resides in Pune, said, “Natural calamities do happen from time to time. Though it is destructive, it brings out the feeling of brotherhood among people. They help each other forgetting the various factors which divide them. Also it's high time that we realised the potential disastrous consequences of rubbing nature the wrong way through our own skewed models of ‘development'."

Prayers not celebration, this Onam

Onam is a festival of Kerala that celebrates rice harvest. It also a celebration of hope and prosperity. This year the festival will be more to do with prayers than celebrations.

Every year, each member of the community eagerly awaits Onam. This is a festival where the entire community comes together and celebrates the festival. However, this year the feeling is not the same. Sheetha Chacko, media professional, said, “Staying far away from family and watching the news of floods is very depressing. The worst feeling is when we are sent pictures of our homes and surrounding areas on family whatsapp groups. We are in Pune and feel so helpless! Such a terrible situation has never happened in Kerala since the time that I know. So there is no excitement to celebrate Onam this year.”

Iyer said, "It’s not just a ritualistic festival. Only the nature of the celebration this year will be more of a prayer to the almighty with a deep acceptance of the sins we have committed that lead to climate change and the resultant consequences.”

Actor Siddharth Menon said, "My own house back in Kerala has water seeping in. The state has undergone losses worth crores. Lives and properties have been lost. It is saddening. So, this year, Onam will be a day to remind everybody not to give up.”

Heena Grover Menon, ,media entrepreneur, added, “Onam is one of the most special festivals for all Keralites. And since I am married into a Malayali family, I have always looked forward to all the cheer it brings home. But owing to the floods and grief it has brought to the state and its people, we have decided not to celebrate. Instead, we will pray for those who have lost their lives, family and homes in the floods.”

First Published: Aug 18, 2018 14:51 IST