After several years, Raaji and I were in Kerala during the Onam season. Memories of Onam celebrations about 50 years ago at Mannar (my father’s ancient family home) are still afresh in my memory. The “Kaduva Kali” (Tiger dance) of those years are too good to be forgotten. In this form of village entertainment, one will paint himself as a tiger and another dressed himself as a hunter with a gun. They go from house to house and dance to the rhythm of the drum beats for a couple of minutes until the tiger is shot down. Nowadays I do not see such dances anywhere, but hear instead, of tigers coming out of forests and visiting people in different parts of Kerala.
Gone are the many customs and traditions of the Onam celebrations of yester years. Massive measures are taken to ensure the pomp and splendor of Onam celebrations to make it an international Malayalee festival, fostering love and care for one another irrespective of cast and creed as in the times of Mahabali. But today, the poor man would have ran away in shock and despair after seeing the revenge, rivalry, and bloodshed amongst our people.
Leaving all this aside, what makes Onam truly special to every Malayalee household is the luxurious food they prepare for Onam. The one tradition that has continued even today is the ancient principle of Onam “Kaanam vittum Onam unnanam”, which means that one should have good food at Onam even if it requires selling one’s possessions. So I told Raaji that I wanted her to prepare a real Onam Sadya as I am expecting a couple of friends. She bears the brunt of the cooking with no one to help, as I am very helpful only with my tongue to taste and give suggestions when she brings the important dishes to me before the final serving. So Raaji started cooking right from the morning, bringing out all her culinary skills, and by 1pm she managed to make half-a-dozen dishes along with Ada Prathaman and Semiya Payasam. She was a bit upset that the guests had not arrived, so I finally told her that they would not come but I have to go to them. Raaji understood what I meant and together we made Ona Sadya Packets.
I set out to meet my guests, deciding to take lunch only after giving these packets to some poor ones on the way side. My driver, Arun, expressed his doubts about finding someone in need because it was Onam. I told him the Lord would show us the needy ones. As we drove around, I met a poor old man lying on the roadside. I went to him, gave him the packet and told him that it is Ona Sadya. He stood up with folded hands… I cannot forget the toothless smile on his face… Arun captured that great moment – thanks to the mobile phones cameras. As we went forward we met a couple of women. They did not speak my language but hunger is a universal language of the have nots. The glee on their faces when they understood it was food is too good to be forgotten.
We had our Onam Sadya at about 3pm with a heart full of happiness, praise and gratitude to our Heavenly Father who made it possible to have this delicious Onam Sadya and make Onam true for at least some who never had an opportunity to even have one dish of the Ona Sadya.
I am posting a couple of photographs to show you the real joy on the faces of these poor ones.
When you bring such a smile to a poor human being, remember Jesus will be telling His Father “(your name) gave me something to eat.” And that made it the happiest Onam of our lives!!!!
“You gave me something to eat”