Another Vishu is here, along with a flush of plastic and fibreglass and lots of wacky wishes

This happens almost every year.The konna (Cassia Fistula) blossoms and glows weeks before Vishu, weighing down the trees by its bright yellow flowers, like a golden promise. But then, a sudden change in weather, perhaps a few days of rain, and these flowers, so integral to the Vishukani, disappear. A mad rush for the konna follows—paying any price the street seller demands, even if the bunch contains more stem than flowers.

Now, however, there is a Chinese solution to this. Markets are flushed with a fresh bloom of plastic konna, which are close to the original, a perfect replacement for the real flower. kanikonna. While the original flower is sold at Rs 10 to Rs. 20 a bunch, the plastic ones cost somewhere between Rs. 60 and Rs. 80. These Chinese flowers have a lot of takers, simply because they serve the purpose and can be reused. Also finding a place on the Vishu platter are artificial vegetables and fruits that make up the kani.

The Chinese invasion does not end there. Crackers that rouse Malayalis out of their slumber on Vishu day are from China. Siju John of M.J. Traders, explains the reason for their popularity. “They are cheaper than the ones made in India and are value for money. A single big box contains plenty of crackers, which are good enough for a fun celebration,” he says. ‘Bubble Party’ is one such cracker box, which contains ‘30 multicolour shots’. They cost between Rs. 150 and Rs. 240. Among the others popular varieties are whistling and crackling crackers, flower pots, ground chakras. The names have become wackier, too—‘Flying Crack Jack’, Gurusethra and Wonder Tree. Though they are considerably cheaper, Siju declares they are safe. “They are of good quality.”

Another integral part of the kani, the Krishna idol, is the next most coveted buy this season. Shops stock a whole range of Krishna statues, some of them even set up temporary stalls and engage extra staff to meet the rush. The idols have also undergone a makeover.

From the usual clay and paper pulp varieties, there are the ‘very durable’ fibre glass ones, beautifully decked up. The paper pulp idols are made and transported from Palakkad, Coimbatore and Kanchipuram, while the fibre ones are mainly from Bangalore.

“The paper pulp idols come in varying sizes and prices range from Rs. 100 to Rs. 2,300. The fibre ones are more costly, they too come in different sizes and are priced between Rs. 700 and Rs. 5,000,” informs Shivan, of Sree Balaji Stores, Tripuntihura, that sells these idols across the year. “We witness a huge rush during the Vishu season,” adds Shivan, who has been in this business for more than a decade now.

The poly marble ones, like those made in Thiruvizha, near Alappuzha, cost anything between Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 35,000 depending on the size and the work on it.