For every malayali, the only “national” festival apart from a hartal ( read strike ) is Onam. For the unitiated, Onam is a festival of harvest here in Kerala. The legend that lead to the creation of Onam is a rather odd one, story goes that there lived once a demon king Bali who was a polar opposite to all things demonic. Kind,big hearted and he never ate anyone (really…he did not ) the land of Kerala that he ruled out from was picture perfect with no malice and evil whatsoever and a perfect haven for humanity. Now this puzzled the gods for if this guy’s popularity went on increasing then the entire pantheon of gods would have to look for jobs elsewhere. Off they went appealing to the lord Vishnu, who took an incarnation in the form of a dwarf (named Vamana) and went to Bali’s kingdom ( read kerala). Kings of those ages went to any extent to fulfill the wishes of sages and/or priests, Vamana asked for three steps worth of land and Bali agreed. What happened next might have caused Bali’s jaw to drop, for Vamana drew himself upto mega size and in two steps covered the entire universe and the heavens above.There was no place for the third step and Bali being the man of his word asked the lord to place the foot on his head and he was banished to the underworld ever since. The lord was not entirely merciless, for he granted a wish to Bali that he could come visit his subjects once in an year. That day falls on the month of Chingam and on the day of Thiruvonam, it is this day that is celebrated as Onam (Quite a story ain’t it ??)
Now back to the reality, Kerala of the present day is millions of miles away from Bali’s Kingdom of happiness. The eve of Onam and the day of Thiruvonam are exhibitions of how “Spiritual” malayalis are. Bars are stock full and the beverages corporation outlets have crowds waiting that would put even Thrissur Pooram to shame. I had a chance to experience this first hand yesterday when i went for a bus ride through the city of Thiruvananthapuram. A ride in a KSRTC bus is an exercise in acrobatics when you do not get a seat, with one hand you hang on to the hand rest above as the bus veers in and out of traffic and brakes and accelerates with the manical whims of the drivers…The first spiritual fellas for yesterday were two young guys, probably just out of school and into college.One of them seemed quite incapable of holding what he might just have taken in ( with or without water ) however he was determined to let everyone in the bus have a good time and switched on the music player with loud music blaring out. Feigning deafness i stood near them as they decided on which song to put on next and tried in vain to photograph every thing that remotely resembled a member of the fairer sex. While i was enjoying their antics, there came a push at my ribs from behind and i moved back and there stood another of the spiritual brotherhood, swaying from side to side. This was an even worse case, with glazed eyes and swaying walk he could barely stand. He moved over to the side and sat down near the gearbox with a tranquil face and immediately went to sleep. The juniors of the clan accepted their elder with a look of respect and admiration. After about 2 Kms of travel the guy jolts out of sleep and asks the driver “Anna Kanjirampaara Colony Kazhinja ?? ” ( Loosely translates into : Dude, did we pass Kanjirampaara Colony ?? “). The driver smiles at the guy with a look that says “I know the feeling brother”, our protagonist then sits back with a look of resignation and loss muttering something, i was not close enough to hear if it was profanity !!!. The funny part was that this character had gotten on board from the point where he wanted to get down ( I wonder who put him on the bus in the first place…)
After all these i reach my destination and it is so crowded that walking on the road is a safer option. Roaming around in the city is both a pain and a pleasure in such times for we get to meet so many characters that never see the light of day ( or night ) otherwise. I came across a guy with his shirt buttons open and grinning like an idiot at everyone being escorted out of a shop by two policemen.I saw one of the most comic sights yesterday, a young guy with gaudy clothes on him was standing by the side of the road with a polo cap and sunglasses closely observing girls passing by, what is so comic about this you might ask…well the only funny thing was that it was 9’o clock at night.Rain appeared as a top it all off and i was almost thoroughly drenched, even then it was a fun time yesterday.
To all who chance upon this post I wish you all a very (S)Happy (P)Onam….