Sardines are one of the cheapest and healthiest fishes available in India. They contain plenty of unsaturated fat, Omega-3 fatty acids and minerals and hence extremely good for your health when consumed in steamed or curried form and not as fried fish – although fried ones taste exceptionally good. In the state of Kerala, the Mathi Curry (fish curry made out of Sardines) (Mathi or Chaala in the native language) is probably the most common lunch dish among non-vegetarians that comprise of some 90% of the Kerala population.
Fish curry in Kerala style comes in three or four close variants and they are fairly easy to make. The secret to making lip-smacking fish curry lies in the quality of ingredients used – primarily the coconut and the fish itself that has to be fresh and cleaned really very well (Read: Not like how your vendor does it).
Let us now head over and see how my variant of Sardine curry recipe looks like.
Indian Sardines (aka Indian Oil Sardines) – 1Kg, cleaned & cut into 2-3 pieces
Mustard Seeds (big) – One pinch
Shallots – 1 cup, finely chopped
Ginger – 1/2 inch, sliced lengthwise into 3-4 pieces
Garlic – 4 to 5 cloves, sliced lengthwise
Green Chillies – 2, split (once lengthwise)
Curry Leaves – 10-12 leaves
Salt – 1 teaspoon
Cambodge (Kokam) – 3-4 pieces (Soaked in water for 15 mins)
Coconut Oil – 2 tablespoons
Kashmiri Chilli Powder – 1 teaspoon
Regular Chilli Powder – ½ teaspoon
Coriander Powder – 1 teaspoon
Turmeric Powder – ½ teaspoon
Fenugreek Powder – One pinch
Fresh Coconut – ½ portion, scraped
Note: Ingredients from 11 to 15 can be replaced with 3-4 teaspoons of Eastern or Nirapara brand of Fish masala powder. I personally use the Eastern brand
For decoration & seasoning:
– Curry leaves – 1 string
– Shallots – 2, vertically sliced to make thin separable rings
– Coconut oil – 1 tablespoon
Preparation of Mathi Curry
Grind ingredients 11 to 16 (Kashmiri chilli powder to coconut) into a fine paste after adding adequate water.
Heat a seasoned earthen pot (or non-stick pan) and add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil to it. When the oil is really hot, add mustard seeds and wait till they crackle.
Add chopped shallots to it and sauté it in high flame till it turns light brown and soft. Add ginger-garlic slices, green chillies and curry leaves and stir fry for about 30 seconds.
Add the ground paste to it, about 1½ cups of water and soaked cambodge (along with the water used for soaking), salt and mix very well.
Add fish pieces and make sure that they are immersed well in the masala. Cook in high heat till it starts boiling and cook in medium flame further for about 8-10 minutes occasionally (every two minutes or so) shaking the content by holding the edges of the earthen pot rather than using a ladle to stir.
Turn of the flame and add the string of curry leaves on top to garnish.
For seasoning, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in the seasoning tawa and add the shallot rings to it. Stir fry till they are dark golden brown and add it along with the oil to the fish curry.
Mathi Curry can be served hot with steamed white rice or boiled red rice while another popular combination is Kappa (Steamed Kasava or Tapioca) which is one of the staple foods in Kerala.
Sardines need to be cleaned really well even after your fish vendor has done a decent job. It has to be without any stain or blackspots on the inside part and no scales whatsoever outside. Rub them and wash well with crystal salt for extra cleaning.
Coconut used should be really fresh, slightly sweet and full of milk and that makes all the difference.
Kerala is one of the most gifted states in terms of natural resources, most educated manpower, high health standards, highest life expectancy, women empowerment, rich art & literature heritage and what not? Unfortunately, the state of affairs in “God’s own country” right now is not as green as it looks from 10000ft above the ground reality.
Today, the state is more known for serious issues such as alcohol addiction, high number of suicides, frequent hartals / bandhs, ‘quotation” gangs who commit political murders etc. Most of these problems are caused by frustration among the educated but unemployed youth while the expectation around consumerism and quality life style is quite high for most of these people. Even worse, it has been a borrower state for decades now (no self-reliance) and has a massive debt of 1.15 Lakh Crores (internal + external) at the moment which is said to be at 30% of its GDP! Unfortunately the state’s revenue is not really coming from core sectors such as manufacturing or agriculture but primarily via tax revenues, tourism and money transfer from abroad. Some haste decisions such as the recent alcohol ban – which was taken purely for political gains – is going to aggravate financial trouble for the state with guaranteed spike in unemployment rate as well (The unemployment rate already hovers around 16% – for people below 60 – which is highest among all states in India despite lakhs of people migrating and working in the gulf countries).
So, where did all these problems in Kerala arise? How come each child born here has a high debt burden along with something good numbers such as great high life expectancy and other health indices?
The causes are mostly known to all. Kerala has been a Communist state for many years now and one of the most liberated states due to the same reason where people are more or less equal in terms of their social status, rights to everything in life. I must say that the communism initially was very successful in combating social imbalance and injustice but things changed after a couple of decades of progressive work by the communists and similar revolutionary establishments. Currently, the same passion with which people fight for their rights, is not shown when giving back to the state by showing and committing to their responsibilities. This is exactly why there’re numerous trade union driven strikes, hartals and hence none of the industries would survive in Kerala. Well, trade unions are rampant in many other states too but then their agricultural sector wasn’t affected as badly as it did in God’s own state. In Kerala, even the farmer community wouldn’t be able to do agriculture due to shortage of manpower and those labour class who suddenly decided that they wouldn’t do any job for ‘bourgeois’ in that key sector. At the same time, the same average labour class is willing to do any kind of construction or agriculture related job for much cheaper wages (considering the cost of living) and poor conditions abroad – I am talking about that section of the Malayalees in Gulf countries.
Where does Kerala head from here?
Well, mounting debts may not be a big issue for many other states (some may have even higher debts) in India that have proven track record of agricultural and manufacturing output. But a state like Kerala where the money comes from very limited sectors and tax routes; it is a very serious issue. Soon, the government wouldn’t be able to provide salaries to its employees, repair roads or complete basic (survival) development projects. The state is already in doldrums and it can only get worse from here if corrective actions are not taken immediately by some strong governance, ruthless law making and strict action against offenders.
So, what is the need of the hour?
A few immediate changes are required in the mindset of people as well as the government so that the state can get back on track. The state is entering a point of no return when it comes to its finances and such a situation can result in severe law and order situation and many social issues.
To begin with, for heaven’s (i.e. God’s own country) sake please stop Hartals and Bandhs immediately by force or the right law making. There is no point in observing a state-wide bandh or hartal for the death of a local leader (of any party for that matter) or when Saddam Hussein is executed. Keralites cannot afford to inject huge losses to the state’s exchequer by these forced shut downs several days every year.
Next, it’s high time the state modernized its agriculture sector. In the history of this state, most of the communist revolutions and strikes happened around agriculture sector and farmers. Due to this reason, it was never allowed to grow in terms of implementing modern technologies to fight manpower issues hence resulting in poor outputs except in some crops and spices. Kerala now has reached such a bad state where the basic labour has to come from Bihar, Bengal and UP but at the same time output is not optimal either. Modernizing the agriculture sector with the right technologies is the only way forward for this state as there is not a lot of scope for big things in the manufacturing sector. Self-reliance in food matters is the most important aspect for any state!
Another big issue to tackle is the dangerous consumerist traits that most Keralites exhibit. Most of the visible issues such as alcoholism and suicides are related to high expectations from life and ridiculous levels of consumerist attitude while the money just doesn’t exist. It’s common in Kerala that, those people who can’t even afford a 1-bedroom home always dream of and tend to build a two-storied 3000sqft home. Wedding would be extravagant with tons of gold that the bride wears – no matter how much her father had borrowed. As a highly-literate state, it is high time Kerala bid good bye to such show-off life style. Things wouldn’t change with awareness campaigns alone but enforced harsh laws to address this issue (e.g. very heavy taxes and penalties on big houses etc)
Then there are these very dangerous evils called campus politics and religion based politics. Both these things have drooped to such a bad state where campus elections are fought with vengeance whereas the religious politics is sure to hamper the development ideas that a coalition government might have. Hence the bad politics has to come to an immediate end in Kerala. If any state in India can achieve it, it’s Kerala and it’s time to say ‘NO’ to (bad influence of) campus politics and all religious parties – be it Muslim League, SNDP, NSS or Kerala Congress.
While large scale manufacturing and heavy industries may not be easily possible in such a dense and small state, the manufacturing and industrialization definitely need to leap forward with some big drastic steps. Kerala needs to prove to the outside world that no company will be closed down due to petty strikes called by trade unions and hence a new revolution is realistically possible here. Without having some new industries – other than fisheries, tourism and spice exports – there is no future for this state. Well, it has the bad history of closing down many companies in the 1970s and 80s due to union strikes, but with that part already taken care of (from my first point), it can be a new beginning for Kerala.
Finally, the government should first take measures to improve the financial situation of the state even before deciding to discontinue revenue generating businesses. I am referring to the recent alcohol ban policy here. It may sound unethical to expect that the state should make revenue at the cost of its citizens’ and families’ health and peace (which what the politicians are tapping into), but it’s better than everyone dying out of hunger, right?
Dear country men and political leaders of Kerala, As you celebrate the Onam festival this year, please spare some time to realize where you are heading! Most of the things are in your hand while the new central government definitely can be of good help if some good planning and change of attitude is guaranteed from your end.
(The writer is a Keralite too although living outside the state for quite a few years now)
I have prepared this type of cut mango pickle numerous times in the past but got the chance to post the recipe only today – thanks to some pictures clicked during the process. So, without much blabber, let’s get into the act.
Raw mangoes – 2 medium sized
Green chillies – 10, sliced diagonally into 3 or 4 pieces
Curry leaves – 4 to 5 twigs
Garlic (optional) – 8 to 10 cloves sliced lengthwise
Gingelly oil (Sesame oil) – 2 tablespoon
Red chilli powder – 1 teasooon
Kashmiri chilli powder (Paprika) – 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder – ½ teaspoon
Big mustrard seeds – ½ teaspoon
Vinegar – 2 tablespoon
Fenugreek powder – 1 teaspoon (1 tsp seeds fresh toasted and powdered)
Asafoetida powder – ½ teaspoon (solid asafoetida toasted and powdered)
Salt – 1.5 teaspoon, or as per the tartness of the mangoes
Clean mangoes well, wipe it with a cloth and let it dry for a few minutes. Cut them into small pieces (ideally ¾ cm cubes) with the skin on. This recipe of instant Kerala mango pickle (nadan manga acchar) needs very good raw mangoes with thick skin.
In a pan, heat 2 tablespoon of gingelly oil. When the oil is really hot, add mustard seeds and let them crackle for a few seconds. Add curry leaves, garlic, sliced green chillies (beware, never add whole green chillies to heated oil as they may explode and splash hot oil) and stir fry it for about 30 seconds. Lower the heat and add chilli powder, Kashmiri chilli powder and turmeric, salt and stir well for another 30 seconds. Turn off the stove and add vinegar when the pan is still hot. This helps in vaporizing some water content in the vinegar.
After five minutes and when the pan is still warm, add mango pieces and mix it all together very well. Yes, in this variety of pickle, we don’t cook the mangoes but it’s consumed rather raw. Sprinkle asafoetida and fenugreek powder and mix again. The mango pickle is almost ready!
In about an hour, this hot mouthwatering mango pickle can be transferred to an airtight bottle. You can start consuming this instantly though it tastes better after a couple of days. If garlic is used, it tastes good typically in a week or so.
By the way, while salt and gingelly oil are good preservatives, whatever little moisture the ingredients hold is good enough to spoil the pickle in a few days. Hence, if you can’t consume it within 4-5 days, you may have to refrigerate it.
Postscript: Gingely oil, Fenugreek powder and Asafoetida are the three most important ingredients that make irresistible South Indian pickle! Hence, never miss any of these ingredients nor pick any substitute oil.
(This picture is shot by Aditya Edassery. He wanted all that decoration around the pickle bottle)
I had some tough luck with my previous attempts of mastering the art of making Kerala Porotta’s at home. But not any longer! This time the experience was better and my porottas turned out to be really good and delicious. (Well, it could be still better…)
So here’s how you go about making Kerala Porottas or Malabar Porottas (Alternatively you could directly jump into our Kerala Porotta making Video)
Ingredients (to make 8-12 porottas)
Maida (All purpose flour): 500gms
Salt: ½ to ¾ tsp
Sunflower oil or your favorite Vegetable oil: About 100ml
Egg: 1 (Beaten)
Baking soda: ½ tsp (if you like more leavening, I avoid this)
Warm water: As required
Some people like with a tinge of sweetness and in that case you may add a teaspoon of sugar as well. I personally do not do this
Method of Preparation
The complete step-by-step instruction to make Kerala Porotta is available in the following video that I recorded recently.
However, if you want a written recipe, here is how you go about making Kerala Porottas.
Step 1: Take half a kilo maida in a wide mouth bowl and make a well in the centre. Add half (or as per taste) a teaspoon salt, about three tablespoons of oil, one beaten egg to this and mix well. Add warm water and mix thoroughly and evenly for about 4-5 minutes to make a soft and rubbery ball of dough. You may keep adding more water and oil during this process.
Step 2: Apply some oil on this dough ball and keep it covered with a wet cotton cloth for about 60 minutes.
Step 3: After an hour, split the big ball of maida dough into smaller sized (about the size of a very small orange) dough balls and keep them aside. Half a kilo of maida will usually make about 10 such dough balls. Apply some more oil on them and keep them covered with the wet cloth again for about 10 minutes.
Step 4: Now for the difficult part. Take each of these dough balls, flatten on your clean kitchen counter and lift and beat them on the counter as demonstrated in the video. You have to lift (not so high) the flat dough with your left hand, beat on the counter while supporting from the top with the right hand. Do this till the dough becomes a flat long dough mat. This process needs some expertise, in fact, I am still mastering it. If you can’t get it completely flat and thin, help with your hand to spread it further.
(The above process is what earned Kerala porotta the name ‘Veeshu porotta’ because it’s just like you are using a paper fan)
Step 5: Now, lift from one of the broader sides of this dough towel and fold it towards the other side to make pleats (refer to the video) to make a long pleated length of dough. Further, this length has to be coiled into a dough spiral and tuck in the the other end nicely down. That’s it and we have to repeat (Step 4 and what we just did for all other dough balls)
Step 6: Now, it’s time to toast the porottas. Heat a tawa or skillet and pour about one teaspoon of oil in it. Reduce the flame into medium to low. Flatten the dough spirals on the counter with bare hands to make it to a 5-6” diameter porotta. Place this in the tawa and you have to toast it for about 3-4 minutes occasionally (every 30 seconds) flipping it. It’s better to use a large tawa that can accommodate 4-5 porottas.
Step 7: The last step is the fluffing up process. When 4-5 porottas are ready from the tawa (and when they are still hot), stack them up on the counter and tap them firmly using your palms from the sides (refer to video). This fluffs up the porotta layers making them soft and nice. And that’s what make them quite unique from other types of rotis or parothas in India.
That is it! Delicious Kerala porottas are ready!!
Kerala Porottas are best enjoyed with protein rich spicy curries such as Kerala style beef curry (non beef eaters, please excuse), Chicken or Mutton curry, Egg masala or even Green peas masala. One of the hot favorites in Kerala road side shops (thattukadas) is beef fry or beef chilli with Kerala porottas.
Kerala porotta is not exactly a good habitual food, health-wise. Since it is made of white flour and drinks a lot of oil, it’s bad on your intestines. White flour tend to increase your bad cholesterol (LDL) levels as well. I recommend that you eat a lot of onion salad (Sliced onions rubbed with salt and vinegar) along with porottas and beef to help with your health. Also, make it a habit to drink a lot of hot water after eating porottas to help with the digestion process and ease stickiness.
Please note that your favorite roadside shops may be using Dalda (Vanaspati or Margarine) for making Kerala porottas. Though this is tastier, it’s extremely harmful for health
…and let me know how your Kerala porotta making experiment turned out to be.
As I age, I get a feeling that I am becoming more and more nostalgic about the simple life, limited number of options and opportunities that were present, good food, clean environment, closer interactions with people and less of noise and emissions that electronic-mechanical machines cause. The recent trip to my hometown has already made me even more wistful, in fact. However, ‘change’ is must for the humanity to progress and… sigh… I have to live with the present.
As for my childhood to college life, I have so many things to share some of which was mentioned in a recent post on this blog. Today’s post is about some of those great old brands and products that have been part of our lives during the 70s and 80s. Of course, some of them are still being produced and sold but have transformed for good while many of them have been discontinued. Here are the things that I am talking about:
1. Parry’s Green hard candy
Unfortunately I do not have a picture of this but I am sure anybody in their 30s and 40s must have eaten whole lot of them during their childhood. These candies – known as ‘Green Parry’ (‘Paccha pyaari’ in Malayalam) – was among the four or five wrapped candy options that we had at that time apart from those local made ‘uncovered’ ones. I remember, Parry’s competitor Nutrine introducing an imitation of the same several years later.
The Parry’s Confectionery ltd company was taken over by ‘Lotte ’several years back and this particular product has been discontinued since then, I believe.
2. Hero Pens
As far as I am concerned, this is the ONLY Made in China product that I have ever liked in my whole life and it was my first Chinese experience as well. Unlike today’s children, we never got to use the ball point pens until the age of 12 (or sixth grade) on account of ‘bad hand writing’ resulting from ball point pens. Most of us started our writing with cheaper ‘Bismi’ or ‘Jubilee’ fountain pens and then progressed to using the Hero Pens (fondly called ‘Heero pena’ In Malayalam. Many of us in fact get to use it only for exams – for some not until the SSLC examination – and it was indeed a super smooth experience to use them. Mostly people used to get these pens as gifts from those who worked in the Gulf countries but later on they were available in shops for Rs.25 or so in stationery shops.
The hero pens were cool due to their smooth quality of writing and the ability to fill ink via a cool press-suction operation. Old time pens had to be filled via direct pouring of the ink and we used to end up having the ink spilled on the floor as well as on our shirts.
As I moved to college, the Hero pen gave way to Pilots, Parkers and Sheaffers but the Hero fountain pen was always my hero!
3. Happy T-shirts
Now, this one is tricky and probably only Malayalis will understand what I am talking about. During those days mostly there would be at least one Keralite from every other household working in the Gulf countries (Generalized as ‘Persia’) and they make a visit once in every four or five years. At that time, everyone in the family – to the n’th relationship level – neighborhood and the village need to be gifted something or other. Cigarettes, cheap perfume sprays and synthetic clothe material or saris that will last beyond five generations were some of the cheaper options to keep everyone happy. Among these gifts, the kids usually gets the so-called “Happy T-shirt” which is nothing but a round neck T-shirt made of cheap synthetic fabric and a big H A P P Y written on it in a semi circle. We kids were, indeed, very happy to get them as gifts and would proudly wear them till they wore out. Those who wear Happy Tees were identified as the Gulf fellow’s son or relative.
(Several years later somebody revealed to me that a dozen of them would cost only something like 5 Dirhams or so and that’s how the poor Gulf Malayali could afford to buy them for everyone of our age group in that village. By the way, I do not know the actual the brand name of this T-shirt but it was always known as Happy shirt)
4. Chelpark Ink
Of course, the usage of fountain pen would mean daily refill of ink in the same. When we were in fourth or fifth grade, we used cheaper “Brill” or “Camel” brand of ink. At that time my father was using a Sheaffer’s pen and he used to buy this blue-black ink by Chelpark. It was super quality ink for the Indian standards and I believe it’s still being produced in India. However, the original wide-bottom glass bottle is missing now.
I used the Chelpark ink for several years, I would say till I got my first job but had totally forgotten about it until my co-brother Manoj reminded me of that brand last week. In fact, that was the inspiration behind this post.
5. Camel instrument box
The camel brand of math instrument box is no brainer. Camel is still a leading brand in India for stationery and art-craft supplies. However, during our school days it was something big and getting a Camel box was an ultimate achievement in one’s otherwise limited wish list. Some of us get them during fifth or sixth grade and had to use the same till you pass out of 10th standard. Many times, the original paper sleeve wrapper around the box would be preserved intact for many years in order to protect the precious box from losing any of its print work on the surface.
For those who couldn’t afford to spend two rupees more, there were brands like ‘Nataraj’ and the twin-brother of Camel was the ‘Camlin’ brand of instrument boxes.
6. Premier rubber slippers
Lungis and Dhotis were the perfect clothing (and it still is for many) for Malayalis due to the sultry climate conditions and rains aplenty. The perfect footwear that goes with them was a pair of ‘Premier’ rubber slippers. I believe, I am recalling the name right because before brands like ‘Paragon’, ‘Fisher’ etc surfaced, it was all about Premier Hawai chappals. I am attaching a picture of the currently available Paragon slippers to give you an idea of how Premier looked like. But I guess, Premier brand is not available any more.
Talking about these Hawai chappals, most Malayalis wore them to school, colleges or even to work. And like their ultra white dhotis (Mundu), these slippers used to be maintained ultra clean was well. The jobless and educated mallu’s main hobby – apart from discussing international politics and Hartal or Bandh opportunities – those days was cleaning own slippers not just from the top but from sides and bottom as well.
I have used this brand of slippers for many years and I still have a pair of Paragon at home.
7. Murphy radios
Now, this should ring the bell for all because many Indian families must have had one such Murphy or Philips vintage radio until recently. These were known as ‘valve sets’ which requires quite some skill to tune it to the right frequency and several precautions for proper maintenance. Many of the featured a green dancing light valve that can be seen outside and moves according to the tuning procedure. The frequency needle – mostly sitting at a centimeter or two away from the actual frequency numbers and usually dangling – had to be carefully positioned to get the right radio station and its position usually is not the same when you tune from left as compared to the right. Basically only the owner of the radio and most likely only the elder male member of the family could tune it to perfection.
These radios also had external antenna fittings and sometimes sporting a long mesh antenna – stretching from one end of the house to the other – was considered something royal. Due to issues in tuning or reception, most of the radio stations then used to sound like the distant Ceylon station. The cold starts used to be almost impossible and needed some heating via incandescent bulbs and occasional taps (out of frustration as well) on its wooden cabinet. Usually to listen to the 12:50 noon news (called Delhi news), one had to start preparing at around 12:30 itself.
Despite all the above issues, it was fun to see and listen to such a Murphy radio. And I almost forgot to mention the Murphy logo which had a sweet baby’s face.
Does anyone still have a vintage radio at your home?
8. Dyanora TV sets
Now, these are not really very old entities but it was the first Indian television brand that I got to watch (at my neighbour’s place). I believe it was in 1980 or so? These Dyanora TVs (black and white) used to be thrice as big as its picture tube itself with two speakers on either side and sliding shutters that would close from both sides. It had pathetic design aesthetics but who cares when the transmission itself is available for only one or two hours per day – that too in black and white and with full of interruptions (Rukaavat ke liye khed hai!)
Though I never ever liked Dyanora as a brand, I think it was one of the household names during those days and I remember it as the first TV I ever watched.
9. Vijay Super Scooter
Well, in a comment within my post about the Bajaj Chetak Scooter, I had mentioned about the Vijay super scooter. I learned riding on a Vijay super which is a discontinued model for years now. It was in fact something that looked like a Lamby and would run on a half-petrol half-kerosene mix. Though, this combination meant starting trouble and occasional ‘fut-phut’ sounds, I always remember it as the first geared two-wheeler I have ridden in my life not to forget the Luna moped which I had tried prior to that.
Now, how many of you can guess what it was? Tinopal (later it became Ranipal) was one of the clothe whitening agents (like Ujala) that I have seen my mother using during my childhood. It always amazed me because a drop of it was good enough for a bucketful of white clothes to make it surprisingly sparkling and smelling good. Its fragrance was similar to that of the modern fabric conditioners but I believe it was far superior. Sometimes, I just don’t understand why such brands were discontinued.
By the way, I managed to Google out this newspaper ad announcing the brand name change – Tinopal to Ranipal
Over to you
I am sure all of you have plenty to talk about those retro brands. I still have many in my list but some of them that I haven’t directly consumed or experienced.
Let me know if you have any pleasant memories to share about those products or old brands that you have seen, used or experienced 20 or 30 years (or even before) back!
Malayalees (people from the state of Kerala in India) celebrate their biggest festival – Onam – today. Though most of these years I have been working on Onam days, I opted to take a day off today. The idea was to spend the Onam day with my family and also to pass on bit of our traditions to my elder son Aditya who is 8 now. For him having a day of pure vegetarian lunch (Onam Sadya) was something strange but today he was in a bit of celebration as well.
The preparations for the day started yesterday evening itself with us buying a lot of flowers to put the Thiruvona pookkalam. Today morning, I managed to put this small pookkalam (floral decoration – see picture) in front of our entry door and it didn’t quite turn out be all that good as I was missing some must-have colors of flowers. However, Aditya was excited about the final outcome. In the meantime my wife managed to prepare the traditional Onam lunch with four to five various vegetarian dishes and the paayasam (Watery dessert)
Things are changing
Though most of us still do celebrate Onam, as the years pass by, the interest is slowly coming down. The traditional aspects are giving way to modern fast life and related lifestyle entities. Onam was originally started probably when most people were poor and on the Onam day they used to eat well, celebrate and enjoy. Nowadays, when most days are like Onam or even better, the importance is no more there, I feel.
For a few years now, Keralites have been the biggest alcohol consumers in India. The state government gets most of its revenue from the state run Beverages Corporation which owns a number of outlets though out Kearla only through which one could buy alcoholic drinks. During festival days the alcohol consumption is at the highest and even children in their early teens do drink alcohol. It’s one of the biggest threats to the future of my beautiful state and the ever growing unemployment rate is adding more to the woes.
The unemployment rates have actually forced one or more members of many families to work abroad or in neighbouring states. This means that many of them have to travel back to Kerala on holidays to be really with their families to celebrate Onam – and Onam is the celebration were everyone is expected to get together in the tharavadu or joint family dwelling. Personally, I haven’t been able to be with my mother on many Onam days in the recent years and this is something that I feel really bad about as I grow older. My mother on the other hand is not willing to leave the greenery and good neighbourhood of my village place to be with me here in Bangalore where there’s no life for a villager in an apartment setup.
Commercialism is part of any festival and Onam is no exception either. In our childhood days we used to actually walk for miles and collect flowers for putting the ‘pookkalam’ but now I have to buy them – that too not exactly the kind of flowers that I would like to have. Every single vegetarian dish and crispy Kerala banana chips etc used to earlier made at home but now many of them are available in the stores to buy. Even the government run Kerala Tourism Development Corporation have arranged various tour programs for attracting Malayalees and making them realize what Onam stands for. The growing flat (apartment) culture in Kerala is basically churning out a generation that do not understand their traditions and values (Of course I do stay in an apartment in Bangalore and my son definitely miss a few things that I enjoyed as a child)
Overall, as we celebrate this Onam, I have mixed feelings. Though I am trying my best to make our children understand and learn our traditions, I am not 100% satisfied on that front. The responsibility to the next generation in terms of passing the culture, language etc is not completely met. At the same time, by not being with my mother today, I am not doing the duties as a son as well. I only hope that I get to enjoy the next years Onam with everyone in the family.