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The morning of 13th August began with anticipation flooding the air. As Keralites and those from outside the state streamed into TMA Pai Hall 3 to celebrate the yearly Malayalee festival of Onam, the excitement for the festivities was evident in the way their faces were lit up with wide smiles. 

Everyone was greeted at the entrance by a grand flower carpet or a ‘Pookkalam‘, as it is called in Malayalam. Adorned with fresh flowers in the shades of red, orange, yellow, white and green, it made for a truly beautiful sight with its elaborate symmetrical patterns. While women wore traditional white sarees with golden borders and beautiful blouses, men roamed the hall wearing the Mundu, with it being the first time several of those outside the state had donned such clothes.

Finally, with the arrival of the faculty advisor, Dr. Suresh Pillai, it was time to begin. The true festivities kicked off to a loud start with the Shingari Melam, a mesmerizing variety of a traditional Kerala orchestra that plays an integral part in several Malayalee festivals. Its percussional beats and the infectious enthusiasm of those playing the instruments had everyone rocking to the thumps of the rhythm.

With a sweet introduction presented by the MCs of the event, Ann Maria Dominic and Amina Haneen, and a prayer song beautifully sung by Dr. Soumya S., one of the respected faculty of the Department of Ophthalmology, soon followed by the lighting of the lamp, the event began. Dr. Suresh Pillai then gave a short speech on the origins of Onam and commended the organizing team for the excellent job they’d done.

This was followed by the talented artists from earlier playing their drums to announce the arrival of Maveli, the central figure around whom the story of Onam is centred. Paraded by lovely dancers, Maveli, played by Joel Jack, an intern, left everyone in awe with his golden ornaments, grand entry and kind words.

The time for the events that all the Malayalees had worked hard to put together had finally arrived as the students from different years of medical study worked together to create performances that were truly magical.

Starting with the hypnotic swaying movements of the Thiruvathira dance, traditionally performed by a group of women in a circle to celebrate special occasions, the scheduled programmes were received with great enthusiasm from the audience.

Gauri and Aparna, two of the Malayalee first years, then danced and set the stage on fire with their inspiring moves and energy. Cadenza put together a group song that left the audience mesmerised while the game that followed left very one cheering for the volunteers who had to attempt to eat as many bananas as possible in a limited time span. After an intense round and a tiebreaker that resulted in yet another tiebreaker, 3 participants were declared tied for first place. Sahil Goel, Melvin Mathew and Roshith Krishna did an amazing job and showed great sportsmanship.

The duet sung by Melvin Mathew and Adwaith Sarma to the beautiful strumming of the guitar by Adwaith and the melodic notes of the piano by Vrishika Nair rightly received a round of applause that rivalled the volume of the Shingari Melam.

Ann and Gowri from the third year then proceeded to show off some breathtaking semi-classical moves to a medley of songs that left the crowd awe-struck. Group dances performances by all the batches had the hall erupting in cheers and hoots. Rakshak Raman sang to the talented strumming of the guitar by Shaurya Rathi and their soothing melodies echoed through the large auditorium.

A second game featured balloons as volunteers who went on stage were given a balloon each and were asked to burst everyone’s balloons while protecting their own. Pavan Krishnan emerged the sole victor of what proved to be a fun game to both play and watch.

The programmes ended on a high note as the Malayalee faculty from several departments, led by Dr. Neethu Mary Mathew and Dr. Jithin Abraham Jacob, put together a mind-blowing performance that the crowd went crazy for. After a lovely vote of thanks offered by Theres Mary George, it was finally time for perhaps the most awaited event of the day—the sadhya.

The sadhya, a traditional meal served on a banana leaf in Kerala, comprises several delectable vegetarian dishes that has everyone asking for seconds and thirds. Meant to satisfy every one of your taste buds by having an array of textures and tastes that spans form sweet and spicy to sour and salty, it was an incredible meal that left everyone with full stomachs and happy smiles.

As the members of the Malayalee Committee served the dishes to all those seated, those who were having a sadhya for the first time truly enjoyed every aspect of the new experience. With two cups of payasam, the end of the hearty lunch concluded the event.

Ethikk-Onam proved to be a great success organized by the third years of KMC, Manipal from Kerala. With a well-scheduled agenda for the day and lively events, not to mention the scrumptious lunch, it was no surprise that the 250 or so attendees left the hall vowing to attend the event next year as well.

Photography: Hasmita Ganesuni, Pranav Venugopal The Editorial Board, KMC
Writing: Rohita Mahesh The Editorial Board, KMC
Coverage: Sourabh Singh The Editorial Board, KMC