Onam keeps them busy!

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Sunitha Nair (on the right end) with Kaikottikali team of Galaxy Silver Stars

Onam, the harvest festival, the joyous celebration forms an inveterate part of existence of every Malayalee. By time bound traditions it is the welcoming and honouring of the annual visit of the just mythical King Mahabali of Kerala who was unjustly pushed to the Netherlands and who surfaces annually to confirm for himself that his subjects are happy.

The very mention of the word Onam, springs to mind the sumptuous Onasadhya (feast) Pookalam (floral mat or floral carpet), Kaikottikali (graceful folk dance) among others which form an essential part of the festivities.

All this keeps the Malayalee ladies busy and how busy?

Interestingly Ms Geeta Balagangadharan has taken Onasadya to a wider reach out. She with her five friends started a kind of ‘Open House Concept’ for Onasadhya about 6 years back.

Onasadhya at Geeta's residence

“We cook the sadya amongst us and we extend the invite to our respective extended families and friends who may be a Malayalee and not celebrating it for various reasons or non-Malayalee who love South Indian food as well as enjoy a good meal. It is typically served on the banana leaf with seating on the floor with guests in Kerala attire and Pookalam decorations spread at the entrance of the house. Our efforts are to ensure that everyone has an experience of celebrating Onam.”

“The sadya is planned either for lunch or dinner depending on whether it is a weekday or weekend. It is held on the day of Onam.”

The work is voluntary, shared among her five friends. Logistics and planning start two weeks ahead keeping in view a rough estimate of the number of attendees. Each one of the friends Crisy Vasan, Sunitha Nambiar, Latha Vinod, Ashwini Nambiar and Bina Varma volunteers and decides what they are cooking. Each person who cooks has their guest list. Attendees too can volunteer if interested.” 

This year as every time the sadhya is to be held at her residence in Meyer Road on the 7th of September along with a kaikotikalli. Geeta works with the American Express and in addition to cooking she is fond of arts and theatre, acting in plays.

 

Many groups are actively engaged in doing the Pookalams and the Kaikottikali. Catching up with three such groups!

Pookalams by Indu Lekha (third from the left) and friends

Mrs Indu lekha ably supported by her mother in law Mrs Jannana Unnithan and her friends numbering to ten including Sneha Bryan, Indu Suresh, Priya Vinoth, Pia Kumar, Bindu Subash, Mini Padmakumar, Mini Ajayan , Misha Chandralal, Latha Sreedhara Kurup,Vijhna Vinod  are much sought after for the laying out the beautiful Pookalams for functions and more so during Onam.

It started off as an interest but now she and her friends regularly volunteer doing Pookalams at functions in Community Centres (CC) and other venues.

“We select the designs from the internet. Based on the design we select the flowers. We order for the flowers two weeks ahead. Based on the availability of the flowers we decide on the colour combinations. Leaves are used too. Separating the petals, separating leaves from stems are done mostly on the previous day. We do simple as well as intricate designs. A few times we have also participated in Pookalam competitions organised under the aegis of Woodlands CC and Singapore Malayalee Association winning prizes.

Indu lekha a civil engineer also enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.

The other beautiful and active feature of Onam, the graceful folk dance Kaikottikali is danced by the young and the old. This is known for its graceful movements and clapping of hands. Mrs Sunitha Nair and her friends Nima Manaf, Sheeba Stephen, Indu Nair, Aiswarya Nair, Renjini Pradeep, Sajitha Anil, Lekshmi Bhanu, Vidyarani .K, Swapna Devlal, Vijayalekshmi, Anisha .C.K and Deepa  form the group, Galaxy SilverStars Ladies. They perform Kaikottikali and other Indian dances too. Sunitha and her group have performed at various functions at various venues.

“The choreography is done by me and my friends in the group. We perform for the same song a few times before moving on to another. All of us are married with children so though hectic we learn the dance in four to five sessions. We usually have dance practise once a week and twice a week closer to the program. We get the similar looking costumes, the Kerala sarees and accessories for the dances either from Kerala or Singapore itself.”

Sunitha is a dentist with a passion for arts.

Chinese dance the Kaikottikali!

Pic of the Chinese ladies who performed Kaikottikali

Mrs Jayalakshmi Shaji Maroli went a step further and taught her Chinese friends to dance Kaikottikali. When her neighbourhood Chinese friends (to name some of them Kui Hwa,You Yun, Gui Xiang, Chiu Lan, Zi Zhen, Ah May, Lusi, Zhuo) evinced interest after watching a Kaikottikali performance at their CC event she took it upon herself to teach them the dance.

 “I choreographed the dance, my previous performance of Kaikottikali with some minor simplification of the steps. I trained fourteen interested ladies for two months. Though they found it difficult to follow the style they were keen learners. And eight of them performed.”

 “They performed for the Multi-Racial Celebration in June and National Day Celebration in August this year at the Ayer Rajah CC. Their performance was well received and they are happy to perform again!”

Jayalakshmi is a design engineer at Sopanam Infotech with an interest in arts.

With feasting and gatherings high on the agenda and with most of the CCs gearing up to celebrate Onam with Onasadya and cultural events the Malayalee Community is kept busy and busier.

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