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Onam celebrations go virtual due to the pandemic

Ranjith Pillai, project manager at UVJ Technologies in Kochi will be making pachadi for Onam this year. As part of his office celebrations, he is participating in an online contest for traditional sadya dishes. He plans to record the process and post it online.

COVID 19 has moved Onam celebrations for both families and corporates to the virtual space. Onam is the highlight of the festive calendars of many Kerala-based companies, which are now rethinking ways of celebrating to keep morale high and impart a sense of normalcy.

“Our employee engagement team has orchestrated a series of virtual events and competitions. While the safety of our people during COVID-19 times is paramount, it is equally important that we strengthen the feeling of harmony and fraternity during these festive times,” says Sunil Balakrishnan, Chief Values Officer and Global Head for Development Center Operations, UST Global.

NATANA, the cultural community of Kerala’s IT parks comprising a few thousand employees, is calling its Onam celebrations ‘Aarppo Irro Online 2020’.

Eustine Thomas, president NATANA says, “Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram, with 60,000 - 80,000 plus employees, has a history of celebrating Onam with competitions such as pookkalam. This year our celebrations will be online, with competitions. The present mindset is sad: that everybody is missing out on Onam fun. It doesn’t have to be, most of us are with our families and we want to celebrate time spent with them,” The contests which include interesting themes such as Thaadi Onam (for those who have beards and wearing it in interesting ways) and Mask Onam (masks designed using Onam themes and motifs). Results will be declared on August 31, with a half-hour online finale.

“Onam in the time of COVID-19 is not going to be a dull affair. We are set to connect Malayalis from across the globe to celebrate the festival virtually under one Maveli Umbrella,” says Martin Emmanuel, MD, Razzmataazz Events which is organising a 10-day virtual ‘Ente Onam’ kicked off on Atham day, August 22. Over 80 Malayali associations from around the world are part of the event. “This is the time to engage virtually since we don’t get to meet each other,” says Ranjith who is a regular at Onam celebrations at office, where he gets involved with making the pookalam.

Onam celebrations go virtual due to the pandemic

Meera Abraham, human resource manager of the same company adds, “Last year for instance, there was sadya, dance and singing. This year we decided to go online, opening up a ‘virtual floor’ for the celebrations – so we are going to have all that and more. Since most of our staff is working from home, families are also invited to be part of the programmes.” The response has been enthusiastic. The winners will be announced in the first week of September, after the Onam break.

The Malayali Manka Kerala Sreeman personality contest, which has been a highlight of Onam celebrations, for the past two years, organised by Technopark Trivandrum, a Thiruvananthapuram-based collective for IT professionals,will be held virtually, says Renjith Ramachandran of Technopark Today. A grand affair with pageantry and ramp walks the event is now open to “anyone anywhere in the world working in the IT sector who can speak Malayalam.” The finale with the final five participants will be conducted as a common Zoom session where they come face to face with the adjudicators.

Sisters Neethu M and Priti Jacob try to make it to Thiruvananthapuram for their father’s birthday every year. Neethu lives in New Carolina, while Jacob in Bengaluru and another sister in New York. This year Thiruvonam coincides with his 83rd birthday, August 31. The sisters will join the double celebrations virtually via a Zoom call. “The sadya will be earlier in the day there; we will be ‘present’ when Acha cuts the cake at 6 pm IST,” says Neethu.

For Vazhakkulam-based designer Jebin Johny a virtual Onam is nothing new. Like every year, this time too the pookkalam and sadya will be ‘with’ his sister and family based in Christchurch (New Zealand). The designer says, “This is how it is for us — Onam, Christmas or Vishu. This way the family gets to celebrate together albeit on a video call.” The focus this year, as always, has not shifted: it is about celebrating.


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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 7:59:05 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/onam-goes-virtual-this-year/article32455967.ece

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