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Happy Onam: Revisiting Memories of Onam Celebrations


Everyone’s watch is set to a different time and the earth revolves slowly or fast depending on the state of one’s heart. – Anjum Hassan (Difficult Pleasures)

The scent of Onam brings with it the secrecy of pain and the tumultuous, roller coaster sense of gradually heightening excitement. Looking back, memories flood back into my mind. Like firecrackers that light up the sky in a brilliant display and burn itself out into a shimmering incandescence, these memories stored safely in my mind turn alight. The memories push through the shadowy boundaries of nostalgia and make my heart flip over with a strange, inexplicable sliver of joy and pain.


So many Onams spring to life. Onam with my parents – where my mother would be busy in the kitchen preparing all the items for the sadhya without any one’s help in the kitchen. When she used to fry the banana chips, I would sneak in to steal some from the hot plate because I didn’t have the patience to wait till it cooled. I’d take some to my father who would be busy putting all the traditional decorations that are a part of the Onam celebrations. My sister would also be there and we would squabble every few minutes and get scolded by my mother for creating a racket. Those memories swivel around me now, lingering along with the scent of freshly cut flowers that have been used to decorate the puja room.

Onam in the presence of my beloved Uncle Dathanvalichan still brings tears to my eyes. Without Dathanvalichan, Onam itself lost meaning for me. For many years, I could not bring myself to celebrate Onam without remembering the loss of this one man who was such a hero-like figure to me.  If only He had lived longer, if only I could have expressed my love and adoration back then. No one can take Dathanvalichan’s place in my heart even now.

Then there is Onam in the presence of my beloved ‘Ammukutty,’ my maternal grandmother – who was my pillar of strength and she used to be my best friend through all times, lovingly supporting, advising and guiding me on the path of goodness.

Ammukutty was the one emotional anchor that I had failed to recognize while she lived, and long after she was gone, I realized that my life without her could never be the same again. She had been a light that lit my heart from within, but I never recognized it then. She used to say to me so often, “You are the only proof that a woman called Ammukutty had ever lived on earth because you are her splitting image, even more than her children. Through you, I will live forever.” It made no sense to me then but as the years pass, I have begun to understand what she meant back then. She is, in her own way, living her dreams through me now. 

This Onam and every Onam I miss her and wish so badly that I could see her, lie on her lap like I used to and feel the soft pressure of Ammukutty’s fingers pulling through and gently sorting out the wild tresses that she would so patiently and lovingly tame with oil. Happy Onam, Ammukutty! I love you, truly. But keep watching over me.

Last but never the least, my Bhagawan, my very beloved Baba – how many Onams I spent basking in His electrifying physical presence and divine love! How many times I had the opportunity to have Prasad blessed by Him on Onam or to be there to see a glimpse of His beautiful form as part of the Onam darshan.

Onam spells a magical inner journey comprising of those unforgettable moments we once disclaimed or wanted to escape from at one point of time. But as the years pass by, we return to them with increasing nostalgia and fondness. During Onam, year after year, we revisit our stock of memories and throw light upon their sepia tinted layers. Perhaps we know that the truth of these memories cannot be marveled at in the presence of so many others around us on any other occasion but that of Onam. We see ourselves turn delightfully childlike and enticed by the spell of Onam through each passing year only to return to the repetitive mundane routine that makes sense to us while we are engrossed in living and promoting ourselves socially further and further, not really understanding how far we go are traveling from within ourselves and what truly matters.

Loving Onam wishes to you, my dearest friends. ഹൃദയംനിറഞ്ഞ തിരുവോണാശംസകള്‍...........

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