From time immemorial, come rain or sunshine I have been visiting Kerala every year without fail.
Suppose I happen to miss a single visit; utter chaos would prevail. The Government will declare “No Mahabali, No Onam and No Bonus”. My effigy would be burnt left and right, in every nook and corner of Kerala. Curses would be flung at me especially for depriving them of their Onam bonus, a luxury all Malayalis look forward to. But curses are not something new to me.
Remember it was after all a mighty curse which had landed me in this predicament.
So I feel it is my divine duty to meet and greet all Keralites on the D Day. They in turn vie with one another to welcome me with large colourful floral decoration with exquisite designs. But of late the large floral decorations have diminished in size.
The reason being the soaring prices of flowers almost competing with the price of gold. So often fresh flowers are replaced by artificial items painted in fancy colours. Real of artificial my subjects know that I love all things bright and beautiful and all humans great and small.
Next what awaits me is the sumptuous feast - a lavish spread of all mouth-watering items. I have a sweet tooth, I love payasams, the brown ones, the white ones and even the latest purple ones (read beetroot payasam).
Centuries of gulping down all this delicious syrupy liquids has made me a diabetic. I make it a point to carry an insulin pen with me on all my visits - after all health is wealth and I cannot compromise on that.
Anyway I appeal to all my well-wishers and devotees to serve me in future only sugar-free payasams so that I can gulp down the whole lot without feeling guilty.
My woes do not end here. Come rain or sunshine I have to eternally hold my palm leaf umbrella, which is as big as a dish antenna. Can you picture Gandhi without his walking stick or Nehru without his famous red rose tucked in his shirt pocket?
In the same way, my palm leaf umbrella which resembles the modern beach umbrella happens to be the trade mark of a Mahabali. To add to my woes this parasol is unfoldable and remains in the ‘open sesame’ style. Are you listening Ali Baba? On my next visit I am hoping my devotees will gift me a fancy light weight umbrella, the size of a Tom Thumb which can be tucked into my pocket and opened only when the occasion demands it.
Dear Malayalees, my next woe is regarding my heavy, outdated, outlandish, weird costume in red and gold. To add to my misery I have to wear a heavy weight golden crown which often gives me a severe headache.
If I lift my crown, my white fluffy unruly mop of hair would be revealed and along with the red and gold costume I could easily be mistaken for Santa Claus. So on my next visit, you can look forward to a brand new Mahabali from a heavy weight Mahabali to a light weight one.
And before I bid adieu, once again I wish you all a happy, healthy plastic free onam,. One more request, how about offering me a non-veg onam treat in buffet style in a five star swank hotel in keeping with my new avatar!
-Padma Surendran (The author teaches English to the visually impaired college students who stay at University Hostel for Women, Thiruvananthapuram)