Mr.Unnikrishnan works as a software design engineer in Techno Park. He has taken leave from work for an entire week. He claimed to spend a week with his family for the festive season of Onam. Kerala state witnessed thousands of professionals like Unnikrishnan, who became non-productive for an entire week. Such exodus from work may not impact the Gross Domestic Product of the country. Is the economist justified in the warning against holidays?
Day one of the holidays had Unnikrishnan and family choose to walk through the malls and market. Interestingly they had saved up a lot of money so as to expend in the market, during period of Onam. All the malls had tens of thousands of customers. There were long queues of people awaiting their turn to make payment to the cashier. Shopping malls with a hundred thousand square feet of shopping space, became filled with shoppers. Supermarkets that sold grocery and vegetables had to replenish their shelves at frequent intervals. Onam season certainly brought back the hustle and bustle of a good market.
Unnikrishnan and family had many relatives and friends at their house. Over thirty people were at their house for each meal. Over seven days, much was cooked for these visitors and tourists at their house. Many meals of Sadhya could be done only with total understanding of measurements, calculation of cooking time, other quantity calculations and hunger estimates. The host family, all seemed to have to go back to their learning of arithmetic and mathematics of cooking. Even the learning of storing food and timely service. Sterile area of dish washing and hygienic waste disposal was given its importance. In all, the meal called Sadhya seemed to have its own academics and curriculum. The Onathappan, also called Thrikkakara-appan had its own, fan club. They had another day of festivities. Most temples of Thikkakara town fed Sadhya to nearly ten thousand people. A major turnover in the vegetables and grocery market brought much needed relief to the shopkeepers. Many peripheral and small scale businesses that sprung up around the festive temples, gave a new meaning to the unorganized sector.
These small time businesses may not make its way into surveys, statistics and reviews. But yet such people involved in exchange of goods and services are integral contributors to employment, entrepreneurship and economy.
Unnikrishnan and family travelled in the buses. Their destination was a river bank. Over forty thousand people had gathered on the banks of the river. This day of Onam week was dedicated to Vanchie/Vallaam kalie, also called “the boat race”. All Keralites have heard about the snake boat. A long wooden boat with about 60 rowers with oars. Each boat can cost up to INR Twenty lacs. The boat owners are passionate about victory of their boats in this race. Some advertisers of products use this opportunity to expose their brand names to the on lookers. These races have all the makings for good athletes. Much competitiveness is generated as the boats race each other for the first place, to the finish line. Any misappropriation of timing or ambiguous judgment can spark confrontation among the teams.
The referees, safety personnel, judges, boat owners, and spectators are all at high alert status. Number of policemen walk amongst the crowd to ensure enforcement of rules and regulations. The police vigil assures, the spectators of protection.
The spectators are then free to express their cheer for their favorite team with all their heart. The trophy is visible to all. Even the commentator has mastered all the data, the history of tournament and other pertaining details. The commentator, who speaks in the microphone, encourages, spectators to cheer.
Returning from the boat race, children had a hearty time looking at a group of people in green, leafy and grassy costumes. These are masked people who move in groups with song and dance during Onam, and are called Kummattie. The children were excited and could not take their eyes off these Kummattie. Kummattie convey greeting and best wishes to all, in rural areas of Kerala. Certainly, Kummattie have to keep up their fun and frolic throughout the day.
Therefore their stamina and strength must have been built over many months of exercises, correct eating and other workout and fitness plans.
All the television channels had purchased hoarding spaces in the city. All the promotionary tools and advertising agencies are put to extra hours of work to promote the television programmes for Onam season. Onam specific programmes are scripted, lyricized, choreographed and produced earnestly. The entertainment fraternity is like busy bees and has no rest in Onam season. Road shows, exhibitions and circuses punctuate the activities, those that ornate the townscape. All the people who are linked to the Onam festival, who works to entertain, receive much income and bonuses. Certainly the holiday season is more productive, in market place. The number of transactions is quadrupled. The diversity of interactions and exchange of currency is increased multifold.
Onam season is also popular as a good time for weddings. Many Muhurtams are set, so that the wedding takes place in Onam week. Mehandi, Sangeeth, bachelor parties, family feasts, intense jewelry shopping and expensive wedding clothes, all spike the turnover of wealth. This peak in revenue generation is a phenomenon by itself. The Onam week seems to be an unending roller coaster of commercial activity, resource build and transactions. A good economist will think that these holidays seemed to be of much commercial value. The villages and towns were all engaged in travel, tours and social activities.
Unnikrishnan and wife had forty eight hours, before they had to report to work on Monday. It was time to reflect on the severe indulgences in Onam festivities. Their routines had been mutated. Their wardrobe was in chaos. Over eating and least exercise had brought about laziness in body and in mental attitude. Almost unending shopping had brought some drain on their finances. But nobody seemed to be complaining. They all felt that this disruption of their work, job and even domain expertise is not a waste. The revellers have now to take stock of the situation and tie up loose ends. Celebrations, festivities and expenditures on purchases must not become converted to voyeurisms.
Unnikrishnan and family had to be cautioned of the next day. This night the roads were all lit up extra-ordinarily. Every two kilometers had a pandhal on the roadside. Young men were busy constructing framework for the tableaus. Next morning, these tableaus would be paraded on the roads. They will have hundreds of youths drowned in body paints. Bodies will all be painted as stripes and spots. This is the day of Pulie-kalie. These people are representing the wild tigers that used to roam the forests. They will dance to a specific pulie-kalie thaalam. This is the last day and the culmination of Onam week.
The economists are happy. The district collector has ensured that all the folklore and traditions were rendered peacefully. The police are happy for absence of any outward incidents. The business class has again endorsed such cultural events. The industry flourishes and thrives when the people are happy and spending.
Even the rains did not dampen the spirit of Onam in year 2015. All award functions and reward ceremonies can now make the assessment for this year too. There is one who deserves the crowning glory. It is the people’s ‘festival of pookalaam’. It is from the heart of people of Kerala that Onam festival has once again deserved the highest honor and award.