It is Thiruvonam today; an auspicious day for any Malayali, no matter what his/her religion is. A time to rejoice despite any distress you may have. A time to bond with family whichever corner of the world you may be in, otherwise. And here I am, sitting in the department computer lab, seething in emotional pain, to put it in the least dramatic way as possible!
I have not even taken bath; forget having had a sadya with payasam. On the day when a vegan feast with diverse delicacies should have graced my palate for lunch, I gobbled up a KFC Zinger burger with vengeance. Either a sadya, or nothing close to it at all, I thought. This year, I angrily put aside my own rule of ten day vegetarianism during the Atham-Thiruvonam period.
I still remember my first Onam away from home. It was in 2006, soon after I joined Google. Having joined just in May, August came too soon and with all the training that was happening, it seemed rational not to take leaves. I did not give much thought to it as it seemed natural to miss a festival or two. I was officially 'out of home' and 'on my own,' right?
WRONG! The day dawned and I started off with a marathon on the telephone all smiles and ended up weeping like a lost child. I wished most of my realtives in the process and vouched to each of them that it was terrible to be doing so over telephone. Having heard stories of an Onasadya that had happened in the previous year at Google office, I expected the lunch of the day to wipe off my copious tears. To my utter dismay, the caterers had changed and the new guys did not know about the festival! I ate rice and porial and tried to satiate myself in vain. I still cannot manage to put together the pieces of a broken me of that day. I hadn't realised until then that I was so emotionally dependent on my family and promised myself that another Onam shall not pass by this way, without them being beside me.
I kept that promise and dutifully went home in the two subsequent years. First, while I was still with Google, and the second, after I joined UoH. I hate bunking classes normally; but Onam was a good enough reason to do so for a week. But this year, since a plan was on to celebrate Achan's shashtipoorthi in the last week of September, I had to make a compromise. Missing two weeks of classes in the same month could cause some trouble while registering for the end semester examinations. Thus, at the altar of educational insurgency, I sacrificed my need to be home.
I was thinking a while ago that it is just another day in Hyderabad. It is a regular working day, with not much buzz about Onam apart from the mad rush at Kairali restaurant situated at about 2km distance. Still, the day is so different for me. In the heart of heart, I keep reminded that everyone is celebrating back home and making merry. It is scary to think whether they are missing me or not. What if they are not? What if I am not that indispensable?
Worse still, unlike in 2006, I cannot even make a promise to myself that I would be home next year for Onam. I just don't know what I'd be doing next year, around this time!
It is funny how Onam is no more just a festival for me. With an assorted collection of memories that include tidbits of sleepless shoots during my Kairali TV days and impromptu trips with cousins and elders to touristy locations associated with it, Onam has become a habitual indulgence for me. One that makes me sulk, if I don't abide to it. Sad that I did not indulge this time; but only to reinvent my ties with my roots..
Happy Onam to all of you!