Onam is the anamnesis that exposes and subverts the horrors of caste system which pervade the social fabric of India. To celebrate Onam is to validate the narratives, voices and experiences of the systemically oppressed; it is to honour the underside of history and express our solidarity with the subalterns in their pursuit of freedom and dignity. It is also to convict the dominant meta-narratives and epistemological categories that devise ways to legitimize oppression and discrimination while ennobling impunity on the privileged elites. So Onam is fundamentally a festival of protest.
Ironically today Onam has digressed from its original purpose and has become a malleable tool in the hands of the very empire it has always intended to overthrow. Marked by its gruesome ostentatiousness and splurge of wealth on food and clothes, Onam festivity has not only created a fecund ground for the capitalist market economy to thrive but also aggravated the prevelant socio-economic inequality. Extravagance has become the norm of celebration.
The hallmark of Onam festival is it’s sumptuous meal with dishes ranging from 24 to 64. What follows this lavish meal is piles of waste. Ecological scientists have observed that when food decays, it produces methyl which emits 23% more heat in comparison to carbon dioxide. Moreover India is a country which comes in the serious category of the Global Hunger Index with over 195 million people starving (thanks to the greed of the wealthy that know no bounds). So do we really need to feast so luxuriously when many of our fellow brothers and sisters can’t afford a square meal a day because they are ruthlessly impoverished?
This Onam, rather than falling prey to the baits of corporate overlords who perpetuate the false axiom – “to have more is to be more” – let’s pledge to share our resources with those in need instead of accumulating more for ourselves. If we think of having a food fellowship let’s make sure that our tables are wide and inclusive. Let’s go beyond the conventional boundaries of family and friends. May we be determined to not waste food and show the prudence of Christ who gathered the leftovers in 12 and 7 baskets.
May our Onam celebration be judicious, sensible, creative, minimal but most importantly disruptive.
𝘖𝘯𝘢𝘮 𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 !
~ 𝐃𝐚𝐲𝐫𝐨𝐲𝐨 𝐅𝐫. 𝐁𝐚𝐬𝐢𝐥
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