Stirring up a stream of wistful memories in Malayali minds comes Vishu in all its traditional glory. Between the rich aroma of sandalwood Malayali wakes up to the opulent scene arranged with utmost care on this auspicious day. Drinking in the marveling sight of Lord Krishna thronging with a gleaming bunch of kanikkonna (cassia fistula), gold jewellery, a metallic cauldron, gold/silver coins, neriyathu (fresh traditional cloth), paddy seeds, halved jack fruits and coconuts, green mangoes, yam, cucumber, valkkannadi (an oval shaped mirror) and an open holy book (either Ramayana or Bhagavatha) Malayali ensures he and his family have a perfect year ahead. This Hindu religious festival is as important to Keralites as its state festival ‘Onam’. But there are many staunch Malayalis who miss out the fun and frenzy of Vishu as they are either working on the day or staying far away from the state.
“My Vishu celebrations at home are cherished memories. ‘Vishukkani’ and ‘Kaineetam’ (money offered to the children from elders) were the best deals that came with the festival. This is my fourth year I am celebrating Vishu away from home. Since there’s no Vishu here I’ll be spending it at my office,” says Arun, a media professional who works in New Delhi.
Vishu being the only occasion when their parents willingly spoil them with fresh coins and firecrackers, children eagerly wait for this day which falls on their summer vacations. And many non residential Malayalis have beautiful childhood memories to recollect about this festival.
“My fond memories as a child involve waking up to see the auspicious vishu kani at early morning and being handed with the much awaited Vishu Kaineetum. I miss those days when our elders were drenching us with love and their blessings. The families getting together to have a large sumptuous Kerala style sadya specially made for vishu is another Vishu treat. Just by talking about it makes me want to come home,” says Binu B Nair, who works in Australia. According to Binu, who is spending a cold day miles away from her hometown, Vishu brings back the pleasant memories of a stunning spring season she spent in the warmth of her friends and family.
For the IT crowd, whose off days mostly fall on American holidays, Vishu is just like any other day. “We can take three public holidays in a year and if we take an off on Onam, Vishu is off-limits. So most people opt to take leave on Onam. 50% of the Hindu believers prefer to spend their Vishu at office. The company also offers an overtime pay on the public holidays to lure them to work. I will be working on Vishu as I need an off on Onam,” says Vinitha, an IT professional, who works at Technopark, here.
But Manju, who used to work in a similar IT company finds the company’s policies unfair. “We are Malayalis and for us American Holidays and Christmas may not be as important as others. I firmly believe that whether it’s Vishu, Onam or Independence Day we need to celebrate them just like they celebrate their festivals.”
However, it is not only the IT employees who have to bear the brunt of duty, but also government employees like Police officials and Railway staff. For them Vishu or Onam does not make a difference in their daily humdrum.
“Who says it’s the techies who do not get to celebrate the festivals. My uncle who works with the Indian Police has to work even on Public holidays,” says Anoop, a government official, who is all set to celebrate Vishu.
“I have vague memories of my grandmother setting up the Vishukkani. There is a certain nostalgia that comes with Vishu. Next year I am planning to arrange a Vishu kani at my home here in Delhi,” says Haripriya K M, an engineer, who is settled in New Delhi.
Jathin, an engineer with the Merchant Navy posted in Pune, is the quintessential new age dude. He says it is Facebook or Whatsapp that reminds him about Vishu. But Anu N, who works as an HR official in Mumbai sees it in an entirely different light. “Wherever we are let’s take our traditions and beliefs with us. Even when I am not in Kerala, on Vishu day I see to it that we celebrate Vishu with a ‘kani’ and ‘sadya’. It is very important that we keep our traditions and values alive for the generations to come,” she says.