Small-time retailers report disappointing sales; Onam celebrations held at Mobility Hub, contests held

The heart of Kochi’s retails sales — Broadway, Durbar Hall and MG Roads, began to fill with Onam shoppers only after mid-day as frequent bouts of heavy showers kept shoppers indoors most part of the morning on Uthradom day, the eve of Thiruvonam, when the buying spree reaches a heady climax.

On Uthradom, when the last-minute shopping is done and things are put together for the feast on Thiruvonam day, shopping activities reach a feverish pitch, traditionally described as Uthradappaachil.

Wayside retailers, who take advantage of the week-long festivities, are a disappointed lot this year with heavy rain and a downturn in economic activities combining to push down sales. It is one of the worst years for nearly a decade, said a retailer on Durbar Hall Road.

Hailing from Vadakkencherry in Palakkad, he was selling jeans and trousers at heavy discounts from Monday evening, when rains allowed only about an hour of sales.

Nasser, who had unfailingly taken his place along the pavement of DH Ground for the last 17 years to reap dividends from Malayalis’ penchant for shopping spree during Onam, was a disappointed man. Despite selling a t-shirt for adults at a price of Rs. 120 and a combo of two t-shirts for children at the same price, the customer base for this seller from Palakkad who takes his stock from Chennai, had fallen way below expectations.

“There was a good hour’s sale on Sunday but then the rain came and the crowd just disappeared. We are small-timers and get some meaningful returns only if we are able to sell out our full stock. The only relief is that Chennai supplier will take back the unsold stocks,” Nasser said during a break between the sales.

Selvan who had come with his stock of shirts and jeans from Coimbatore had a similar tale to tell.

He was offering two shirts for Rs. 150 and a jeans for Rs. 100 in the hope of making good the sale that rain had taken away during the previous days.

There was concern on his face as his eyes cast skywards even as he hollered out his sales offer at the top of his voice. Next to him was another vendor from Chennai selling bright coloured blouse pieces for just Rs. 40. He was too downcast to even comment on his sales.

Despite the diminished enthusiasm among the shoppers, vendors had turned the city’s footpaths into makeshift outlets, using polythene sheets to keep out the rains as well as brief spells of hot sun.

MG Road was a little more busy than on usual days but Broadway and Durbar Hall Road was milling with people late into the afternoon on Tuesday, in sharp contrast to the previous day when an overcast sky and frequent downpours left the vendors high and dry.

The northern end of Broadway was almost unapproachable with the swelling crowd, hand-pulled carts, autorickshaws and even motor cars trying to make their way.

Vegetable prices

Vegetable prices, which appeared to be on a leash till Monday, flared up briefly on Tuesday as buying started to peak.

The last-minute buyers for the traditional Onasadya had thus a surprise in store with vendors selling bitter gourd for Rs. 60 a kg and carrots for Rs. 36 a kg against Monday’s prices of Rs. 36 and Rs. 24 a kg respectively.

Flower prices had, however, climbed down, towards the close of the shopping day with half-kg kits of marigold selling for less than Rs. 30 apiece. The figures of Onathappan in bright red were selling at more than Rs. 50 a piece.

Major roads in the city were clogged though the presence of a large number of policemen at the junctions turned the vehicular flow more smooth.

There was also not much shopping crowd in nearby Tripunithura, which generally sees streets packed with people buying garments, vegetables and other things. This gave ample opportunity for people to check out public spaces and venues in the city where cultural programmes are being organised.

Roads illuminated

“Aimed at extending the festive look throughout the city hub, we decided to illuminate the M G Road and DH Road too, apart from the Park Avenue Road which is illuminated on festive occasions,” said T. N. Jayasankar, the secretary of Ernakulam District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC).

This is the first time that the Council has organised a theatre festival, at Durbar Hall Ground. This and the cultural programmes at Marine Drive will be on till August 31.

Rashmi Menon, will perform Mohiniyattom at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at the Marine Drive Ground. She is a disciple of Kalamandalam Kshemavathy.

Mobility Hub

Onam celebrations organised jointly by the Traffic Police, Motor Vehicles Department and the Vyttila Mobility Hub Society at the Vyttila hub were held on Tuesday. Commuters, crew members of buses and autorickshaws, cleaning and security personnel participated.

The prize for best-decorated bus was given to Sree Nandanam, while the pookkalam prepared by drivers of the pre-paid autorickshaw counter at the hub won the first prize.

Based on a survey carried out among passengers, Manikutty bus that plies in the Eroor-Elamakkara-Puthukalavattom route won the prize earmarked for model bus service.

The prizes will be handed over at a function that will be held on September 4.

Passengers were given payasam and chips. The presence of a Mahabali and chendamelam artists added gaiety to the event.

Contests

Many residents associations organised ‘pookalam’ contests on the day, while some hosted ‘uriyadi’ contests too.

The Santa Cruz Ground in Fort Kochi turned into a venue for Onam revelry, courtesy Antony Kureethara, the councillor of the Kochi Corporation’s division one. Apart from pookkalam contest, there was tug of war and Onam games too. All under the watchful eye of a person dressed as King Mahabali. “On Tuesday, we had ‘naadan pattu’, while Wednesday will see the youth from Janaseva Sisubhavan presenting a mimics parade,” Mr. Kureethara said.

Tourism stakeholders too are hosting events to celebrate Onam. The Fort Kochi Home Stay Owners’ Association organised a programme in which a total of 60 guests from Europe joined in laying a pookkalam. “We guided the guests on its design. It also happened to be the association’s sixth anniversary. A mohiniyattom dance too was staged,” said Santosh Tom, the body’s president.

Tourists visiting the State are overwhelmed by Onam’s secular appeal and this is a plus point for the sector, said Rajesh P. R., travel guide. He spoke of how tourists are interested in making the pookkalam, with many showing interest in dressing the traditional Kerala way.

“Onam events in Thrikkakara too must be highlighted, since the temple there is linked with the Onam legend. Tourists must be provided with more information on the temple and its relevance. The boat races held in the district during Onam time too must be highlighted better,” he said.

The grameena vayanasala in Gothuruth (located in North Paravur) is the centre stage of Onam celebrations in the village.

“A film fest, ‘kaviyarang’ and cultural events are part of the celebrations. This apart, Onam provides small family circles an opportunity to meet up,” Mr. Rajesh said.

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