Responsible Thiruvonam

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It was Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who came up with the idea of plastic-free Onam this year.

Participants of a ‘Maveli’ competition in front of the Edappally St. George Forane Church in Kochi (Photo: Sunoj ninan mathew)

The biggest annual festival of Kerala,celebrated in grandeur and fun, took a huge turn when the people were asked to be responsible citizens while welcoming the mythical king Mahabali to his kingdom. And here’s how Onam can be
celebrated responsibly.

Go plastic-free

It was Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who came up with the idea of plastic-free Onam this year. As a first step, flex hoardings were replaced by cloth banners this festival season. Not just that, many traders, restaurateurs and textile owners refrained from using plastic containers, disposable plates and carry bags.    

Use cloth bags for shopping. Pluck flowers in the traditional weaved baskets. Replace paper leaves and disposable cups with steel and glass utensils to relish the delectable feast. For decorating homes and offices, use leaves and flowers instead of paper, plastic and rubber balloons.

The annual Onam procession by the state government will see floats which use minimum or nil plastic this time. Surely, Kerala leads the way in not just show of strength, but in practising responsible celebrations as well.

Avoid food wastage

Avoiding wastage of resources is one idea to make this Thiruvonam special. The sadya, a feast that has 24 to 64 dishes, is the most ostentatious part of Onam festivities. Considering the calorie-heaviness of the feast and digestive capacity of an average person, a sadya, undoubtedly, is a resource-wasting celebration in the name of tradition.

Preparing what’s just enough is the best way to avoid wastage. Avoid more number of desserts in the course. Try limiting the dishes and spending the money to serve a nutritious meal to the destitute who are forgotten after the celebrations. Most of all, remember not to waste any food. It’s still a country where 22 per cent of the population is still living below poverty line.

Use public transport

Onam shopping and visiting the relatives are another part of the season. This time, leave behind your car or bike and board the bus, train or metro while going for shopping or family get-togethers. Not only does it help save money, but it reduces air-noise pollution and increases fuel efficiency too. Imagine honking the car stuck in serpentine traffic congestion? With one decision to use a public transport, you keep congestion lower, reduce pollution, save time and as an extra bonus, relives stress in the drivers. It’s not just the driver’s health, but your health too benefits from the act. Linked to healthy lifestyle, those who use public transportation is believed to get more than three times of physical activity than those who don’t as they walk (often run) more.

Stay offline for one day

For one day, stay away from the online buzz. Posting photos in traditional attire and visuals of pookkalam and feast can wait for one day. Bunk the whole-day TV time too.

Try celebrating this Thiruvonam the old way by engaging in games with friends, cousins and elders. Have a great time with group activities like uriyadi, sundariykk pottu thodal, pillow fight, bun bites and fun games.

If not for these, just try preparing the feast together as a family and serve it to the women first. Who doesn’t love a change? After the day’s fun, just gather together and talk to each other – stories, anecdotes, anything works. In these technology-obsessed times, what lacks is real conversation. Do you little bit and contribute towards the Onam nostalgia is a special way.

Be environment-sensitive

It was the second consecutive year of natural calamity in Kerala and it is high time people learned to be ecologically conscious. Along with adopting plastic-free practices, Malayalis should learn to manage the waste properly and maintain hygiene in their surroundings too.  

Fireworks, which have been essential part of celebrations for long, could be avoided. By staying away from bursting crackers, let’s not contribute to toxic air and hazardously high-decibel noise.

Instead of plucking flowers, try growing one by planting a tree. This year, students of Global Public School, Kochi, prepared an interesting pookkalam using used clothes. For a difference, try gifting your ‘Onam friend’ a plant and spread the green message of love!

Practise austerity

Being a year that has seen more losses than gains and an economic slowdown being witnessed, there’s no perfect time than a festival season to chuck unnecessary and extravaganza out of daily matters. Try spending less on clothes and celebrations. Instead, go for a low-budget celebration and a simpler feast.

After all, Onam is about celebrating richness. What more richness than taking an inspiring step! If not the change, be the agent of change. Happy Onam, all!