Onam is the anamnesis that exposes and subverts the horrors of caste system that pervade the social fabric of India. To celebrate Onam is to validate the narratives, voices and experiences of the downtrodden; it is to honour the underside of history and express our solidarity with the oppression of the subalterns. It is also to convict the dominant hermeneutical system that devise ways to legitimize oppression and discrimination while enjoying impunity itself. So Onam is essentially 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. So do we really need to feast so luxuriously when our fellow brothers and sisters can’t afford a square meal a day?
This Onam, rather than being lured by the advertisements which disguise our wants as our needs, let’s pledge to share our resources with those in need instead of accumulating more for ourselves. Let’s 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, minimal and most importantly creative.
Dayroyo Fr. Basil
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