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In pictures: Kerala expats gear up for safe Onam in UAE

Text: Dhanusha Gokulan | Photos: Juidin Bernarrd, Ryan Lim and Shihab

Published on August 30, 2020 at 00.01

The festival will be largely 'muted' this year, according to expatriates.

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Thousands of Malayalees living in the UAE are gearing up to celebrate Onam, the harvest festival, in a 'grand and safe' manner. Even though community gatherings and large families coming together form a huge part of the celebrations, the festival will be largely 'muted' this year, according to expatriates.
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However, major retail outlets, restaurants and flower shops in the UAE have launched festive offers on Onam-related paraphernalia, foodstuffs and fashion essentials.
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1,000 tonnes of fruits, vegetables in market

V Nandakumar, director - marketing and communications of LuLu Group, said the retailer has geared up for the annual harvest festival of Kerala with great offers on a wide range of cooking, feasting and fashion essentials for the week-long celebration.
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He told Khaleej Times: "A big trend during the pandemic has been people indulging in cooking and baking activities at home. In that sense, we are expecting a lot of people to celebrate at home by cooking grand Onasadyas (feasts).
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"We have flown in almost 1,000 tonnes of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers to ensure an uninterrupted supply of essentials for this season," he added. Nandukumar said Lulu Onam vegetables are priced at Dh47.50 (approx. 7kg), Onam grocery kits are priced at Dh70, Onasadya (traditional vegetarian feast) is priced at Dh24.50, including 23 varieties of dishes, and 12 variants of payasam (sweet pudding), priced at Dh19.90 each.
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"We have also introduced an 'easy-cook' box for our customers. These pre-packed boxes have everything required - cut vegetables, spices, marination and curry pastes for preparing your favourite Onam dishes at home," he added.
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Restaurants gear up for a 'socially-distanced sady

Satheesh Kumar, managing director, Calicut Notebook Restaurant, said: "We have planned the Onasadya for three days, starting August 30, 31 and September 1. Food will be served in all our outlets across the UAE. We are serving 27 items this year, which includes the banana leaf.
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"However, we are advising people to book the 'sadya' in advance to avoid crowding at the restaurants," he added. All tables will have a two-metre safety distance. "In-restaurant dining will be at 60 to 70 per cent capacity only. However, we are expecting more take-away this time, especially since a lot of families were not able to travel to Kerala this time," said Kumar.
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He added: "Strict safety measures have been adopted across the board - from cooking to serving and packaging. On Thursday, we had 475 sadya takeaways. We are expecting a busy Onam weekend."
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Sudalaimuthu Perumal, owner of Perumal Stores and Flowers, told Khaleej Times that he has imported 20 tonnes of fresh flowers for the occasion. "Since regular flights are not plying, we are using chartered flights. It is the same amount I usually order every year during Onam. I am expecting families and companies to make large orders this year."
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Online flower decoration competition

A huge part of the Onam celebrations is the 'Onappookkalam', where families place a decorative flower bed in their homes. Simimol Raijo, a teacher at Raffles International School, said: "For Onam, we usually take part in a lot of community events. However, this year, a lot of our celebrations will go online. We are doing an online pookkalam competition."
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She added: "Even if there is Covid-19, we will not compromise on Onasadya. We will be celebrating at home in a big way, because it is a tradition that we need to teach our children so they can keep it alive. I've already begun shopping for the festival. We respect the laws of the land and do not intend on having large home gatherings. Instead, we will wish our relatives virtually." dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com 
 
 
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