Onam 2020: Via Digi (Maha) Bali lenses
Onam. The annual festival that is celebrated with passion and enthusiasm across Kerala, and by Malayalees across the world. A festival where the spirit of humanity overrides everything else. A festival where all artificially created human strata, barriers and geographical separations are forgotten and the unanimity and magnanimity of the Malayalee comes out in true colour and spirit. A festival where the Malayalee exuberantly spends; kids and adults spend generously buying new attire and joyously await the arrival of Mahabali, the exemplary, ideal ruler in the history of Kerala, during whose era peace prevailed for ever, people never locked their homes, and where truth was above everything else!
This year, Mahabali is a little sad. For he has decided to stay Digital as suggested by his Chief Brand Ambassador, who hooked him to Reliance Jio network and provided him with a high-speed broadband connection to Earth. Remember Jio is everywhere, and Mahabali was not that far off.
As Mahabali sets up his laptop, zoom connection, and remote camera monitoring system, to check what is happening with his Prajas (citizens), memories of past came flooding by.
The festivities of previous years started at least a week earlier; the planning for Pookkalam (Floral decoration) contests, cultural activities, the friendly contest among teams, the Onam songs, and the laying of the Grand Onam Pookkalam. Each day was exciting and all that came to a conclusion via a sumptuous Onam Sadya(feast), one that has innumerable dishes and tastes exotic, especially when served by warm, caring hands on fresh banana leaves! Memories of which linger with fragrance, for many more days, past Onam. Mahabali could smell those sumptuous dishes and was looking forward to it, in 2020. In addition, since people would go on massive shopping sprees, shops of all kinds were in glitter, throughout the Onam season!
He did wonder at times if things were a little overboard. His Economic Advisor had told him that about 80% of consumer spending happens in the month of Onam. New attire, appliances, cars, home audio and video, you name it. But he also enjoyed the joy his Prajas were getting from such strays and was sort of confused!
The loud chime on his laptop from his WhatsApp message shook him from his dreams! It was his remote camera team on Earth that had sent double thumbs up. Everything was set to go.
He knew Onam 2020 is different. Corona had ensured that mobility is severely restricted and group activities are nearly impossible. Most organisations were working remotely, they call it WFH (Work from Home). Restaurant are still not open full steam, and Sadya’s must be confined to cooking at individual homes or catered at homes. Adding to that was the economic challenges at his current place, and the fact that he did not want the company of sixty-five and older people at his part of the world (which was getting a little overcrowded these days), given that Corona was sending a whole lot of free spirits that side. The Air Conditioning there was unable to take all that extra load, and given the state of economy, adding more was not possible.
He started thinking: What can we do to still not lose the spirit of celebration? How can the spirit of Malayalee as a community that comes together during these times, to forget and celebrate it all, still happen?
The Digital World has many limitations but also is an interesting avenue and a new channel. Mahabali has been Googling to get answers and insights. Can we do digital pookkalam? Can Cultural go Digital? Can we pool and share and help the needy so that the Sadya of our homes gets extended virtually to the ones who are now facing economic challenges. Can we open our wardrobe and pick those good, unused clothing and share that with the needy? Can we spread the message of unity and brotherhood virtually? Can we use the opportunity to create those good old days of his times?
The creativity of the human mind is best in a crisis. The challenges that it creates can spark new and unexplored ways and unique ones. If we all team up, a truly community driven lifestyle, that was the hallmark of Mahabali’s era, can be created again!
He knew: That is then, the opportunity for Onam 2020. The human mind transcends physical barriers, and has done that always, via visual and print media. The human mind can create solutions, especially when brilliant ones come together for a purpose.
Mahabali is now working with his Brand Ambassador to promote serious messages via visual and print media. He is planning to use the budget he had earmarked for his annual travel to earth to do so. His representatives on earth are working on a strong campaign.
Let 2020 and the Corona related constraints, create that purpose. Let new ways of celebrations emerge. Let Onam be frugal but still be satiating, mentally.
For Mahabali, knows it well. And for the first time, when he decides not to come to earth, given his age and the warning to stay at home, he will be a happy ruler, watching virtually, the never ending spirit of the Malayalee, and the beauty of the gifted place that is called, God’s own country, on Earth!