Monday, September 15, 2014

Elephants & Butterflies: Our Onam Recap

Onam pookalam at Cochin Airport

I love celebrations and parties, and all the work that goes into making them successful. It can get a bit stressful at times, but it is also bunches of fun. These days, I find myself enjoying the process more because Kris is allowed to be more involved. Though it is sometimes irritating when your child wants to "help", on the whole, I love it when Kris participates. Viewing the world through her eyes is both entertaining and enlightening. She brings in ideas and opinions that never cease to amuse and amaze. So I'm incredibly grateful to God for the past few weeks and all the experiences we've had.

Exactly six years ago, I blogged about my first Onam in Kerala. How time flies, and how it changes! This Onam was not only the first we've celebrated since Kris was born, we were also back in Kerala for another all-out celebration with my in-laws.

The day before Onam, we visited a nearby temple to view some of the festivities. It also happened to be a beautiful, moonlit evening. In addition to the visual treat, there is also traditional music that is played. Kris was initially overwhelmed, as it is unlike anything she's seen (or heard!) before.

She was most keen on seeing the elephants, but once there, she didn't want to get too close to them. So we watched the mahouts standing on the backs of the elephants and go through elaborate rituals of displaying and changing the umbrellas they're holding. A new word we both learned from my husband is "nettipattam" - the golden headdress all the elephants are wearing. She's now so fascinated with them, she wanted to buy a nettipattam when we spotted one at an airport shop!

Making a butterfly pookalam

Here we are on Onam morning, making the pookalam (floral floor decoration) at the entrance to our home. This was one of the things I was most excited about sharing with Kris. I had showed her pictures of different pookalam patterns before we left for Kerala so she'd have some idea of what it involved. I left the choice of design up to her, and she decided on a butterfly. A very apt choice for my in-laws home, as my mother-in-law runs a beauty parlour called Butterflies :)

Butterfly pookalam

This time, it was just my husband, Kris & myself who worked on the pookalam, as the rest of the family were getting ready to gather at my sister-in-law's home, where the Onam sadya (banquet) was to be held. I think this was a great learning experience for Kris as you need considerable patience to complete a pookalam, right from plucking the petals to filling in the design and then tidying up.

The sadya is the traditional feast eaten on Onam and other important occasions in Kerala. It consists of a variety of pure vegetarian dishes served with rice. (Please excuse the poor quality, the pics were all hurriedly clicked on our phones). The most interesting feature of course, is that it's eaten off a banana leaf. It is also customary to sit cross-legged on the floor, but comfort and convenience came first for us, so we served the meal at the dining table :) When I was growing up, my mother and maternal grandmother always got together to prepare the usual Onam fare, and the big thrill for my sister and me was to eat from the banana leaf. So I'm really happy that Kris got a chance to experience this as well.

Then post-lunch came the photo session. Most of the photos were clicked around the pookalam my niece made. All the women had dressed up in Kerala's signature sari - white/cream with the traditional golden border called kasavu. For me, this was one of the best parts of our trip, getting all dressed up in Indian finery! Kris too loved her pavada, a blouse and full-length skirt. While her cousin sisters sported different colours, I got Kris a set in the typical Kerala kasavu style that she's now looking forward to taking to school. That's yet another thing I'm grateful for, that my daughter shares my love for dressing up! I'm signing off this post with a photo that my little girl took of me and her aunts (I'm on the left). Nope, I didn't crop too much off this; it was a headless shot to begin with, as in her words, she was trying to get the pookalam in the shot as well :)