DUBAI // Onam festivities among Indian expatriates in the Emirates have been toned down because of Ramadan, with many postponing their plans to the coming weekend, or until after the Eid al Fitr holiday. The harvest festival of the south Indian state of Kerala is widely celebrated in the UAE because of its large Keralite population. Activities on the day typically include homemade floral designs, traditional dances and a grand luncheon feast for family and friends.
The holiday, which was marked yesterday, is celebrated among all Keralites without regard to religion. However, there was little festivity in the air as most people were at work and feasting was avoided out of respect for the holy month and its observance of daily fasting. "Durig the past two years we have been getting Onam during Ramadan and on a working day," said P K Kutty, 47, an accountant based in Dubai for more than a decade. "I just considered today as a regular day, but it's difficult as my family is celebrating in India and everyone has been calling."
A spokesman for the Kerala Social Centre in Abu Dhabi said they had postponed Onam celebrations until after Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan. The centre had to do the same last year. Most Indian associations in Dubai also postponed plans until the weekend. The highlight of Onam is the traditional feast called Sadhya, which is served on a plantain leaf. Typically, the lunch consists of about a dozen varieties of specially prepared curries that use local seasonal ingredients. However, the key ingredient of the meal is rice as the harvest festival celebrates the cultivation of the essential grain.
Despite the low-key occasion, those looking to catch a quick feast during lunch hour were not disappointed as many restaurants and hotels arranged special Onam takeaway parcels. For less that Dh50, a sumptuous Sadhya packed with plantain leaves was being offered out at several Indian food outlets. "The response has been fantastic and we had no packages remaining within a few hours," said Santosh Kumar of the Aryan Restaurant in Sharjah. "People are keen to have a Onam Sadhya and they were even willing to pay extra for it."
Some hotels which had special permissions for serving Onam meals were fully booked a day before. Meanwhile, some families organised private lunches and dinners at home for groups of friends and family members to mark the occasion. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org * with additional reporting by Suryatapa Bhattacharya