Most expatriates from Kerala are either skipping or toning down Onam celebrations as the southern Indian state is reeling from the aftermath of severe floods that have devastated many areas.
Some of the expatriates Gulf Times spoke to said that they are either skipping the festival or marking it in a subdued manner.
They cited that they would forego all the celebrations to express solidarity with thousands of fellow Keralites who have lost their belongings and are forced to shift to relief shelters.
Onam, one of the important festivals of Kerala, is celebrated in a big way by all sections of the people irrespective of caste, colour or creed.
The ten-day annual festival culminates into ‘Thiruvonam’ or the most important day of the festival, which falls on Saturday.
The flood that battered the state has not completely subsided and several areas, especially the low-lying parts, are still submerged. About 400 people have lost their lives and more than a million are homeless, living in the government-run relief camps.
State officials have noted it as one of the worst calamities to hit the state and probably the worst in the history of the state.
Former president of Indian Cultural Centre in Doha, Girish Kumar, said that it was not a time to celebrate. “While many of our fellow brothers and sisters have lost all their belongings and are suffering from such a calamity, it is impossible to celebrate Onam this year. Our hearts go out to them and we like to provide all sort of assistance in their hour of need.”
Kumar also exhorted fellow Keralites to contribute in cash and kind to help the people in Kerala. “It is time to contain all the expenses on the festival and contribute to the suffering people. The state needs huge amount of money for rehabilitation and reconstruction. It is our moral obligation to extend all the help possible to Kerala now,” he added.
Venugopal, patron of Vaikom Maithri, a socio-cultural organisation, said that the flood has devastated the state to the maximum and it is not right to celebrate the festival this year.
“In my village, most of the houses are flooded. The water has caused massive destruction and has been through all the places and affected all the sections - both rich and the poor. It is a great tragedy and we stand in solidarity with all the sufferings of the people in my native place, Therefore, no celebrations this year,” he explained.
Another Keralite said that he has marked Onam with great fanfare for the last 21 years and used to be present in his hometown near Ernakulam on Thiruvonam day. “This is the first time I am away from home on this day in such a long time. I am really sad about it and all the more sad about the plight of Kerala. But I am sure that my state will face the challenges and come back with full vigour very soon,” he stated.
Almost all the Keralite socio-cultural organisations – about 100 in Qatar - have cancelled their Onam celebrations which otherwise would last until the end of this year. Most restaurants also have a very subdued Onam meal, known as ‘Onasadhya’.