08 Sep Occasion: Onam; Uniform: mundus; Activity: Eating
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Beginning today evening and into Friday mallus in their mundus will rock!
Their day will begin by praying obeisance to their Godfather Mahabali. Luckily it’s the weekend, else Malabaris (as Malayalis are ignorantly called in the Middle East) would have kept the ancient king waiting at their doorsteps until next Friday.
The difference (if applicable) ends here. Only time zones and mandatory work days can force Malayalis across the world to differ from their brethren in celebrating Onam.
Otherwise subjects of Kerala – the bitter gourd-shaped landscape at the southern-most tip of India – and Malayalam-speaking non-Keralite suspects celebrate the harvest festival alike.
Prayers and divinity begin and end with the scratching of the match on the box and rubbing it on to the wick before drooling over the growling within.
Uniformity being the highlight of Thiruonam, men, women and kids will all adorn off-white outfits as if chicks from the same hatchery. No forgetting the legend of equality prevalent in God’s Own Country once upon a time!
Not just yet, the significant uniformity lies in the treat. Yes, they also gorge and burp alike on similar-looking sumptuous spreads on green banana leaves.
The courses are manifold. If starters are placed at the left-hand corner of the leaf that is placed with its tip facing your left, then you can start eating from the right. But remember to fold the leaf bottom-up after you’ve licked your palms, this time, in the similar direction – from the wrist until the fingertips. Take care not to breathe during the act else the payasam (dessert if you may call it) will drip onto your starched mundu.
What a stain of shame that would be as you will be squatted on the floor with a droplet in the wrong place. Those with pots for bellies and logs for thighs will be pardoned to lower themselves onto dining chairs but the rules of caution remain the same.
More the merrier is yet another commonality. The number of dishes on the leaf (15 and more is the going rate) will declare the prosperity of the subject. It doesn’t matter if the base ingredient is the same – coconut, coconut and more coconut. Be it any vegetable combo, you must bite into coconut – grated, smashed, ground, sliced or garnished after it is cooked and fried in – yes, pure coconut oil.
However, a strictly non-vegetarian feast until recent past has become a carnivorous affair for some today. Palates have changed, say defectors of uniformity who love to tom-tom the I-don’t-know-Malayalam-culture phrase. Now, the common factor here is the pseudo-Malayali sect will be clad in jeans – mom and daughter and son and father alike – the length inversely proportionate to age or directly proportionate on the degree of pseudoism.
They will identify the dishes by their colours and makes than names. They will suck in rice from between their five finger tips and give scornful looks to those around who make rice balls peppered with pappad crumbles and toss it into their mouths. They will drink payasam with spoons than scoop it with bare hands off banana leaves.
Pseudo or natural, Keralites or stateless, mallus worldwide will ensure they eschew the routine lunch on Onam day. Mahabali’s progeny adheres to uniformity at least on savouries!