Kerala is all set to celebrate its biggest festival on Monday, even as concerns over price rise and shortage of domestic LPG have taken some sheen off the preparations. On the eve of Thiruvonam, people were busy purchasing clothes and groceries for the festival, but it was hard to miss apprehensions some of them raised over how Onam was harder on the wallet this year.
Madhavan K, who drives an auto rickshaw in Thiruvananthapuram, said purchases this Onam had cost him almost thrice what he had spent last year. “There’s always a marginal rise in costs every year, but this time it has hit me harder. Still, that can’t keep me away from shopping for the family. These are special occasions,” he said while purchasing vegetables near the busy Chalai market on Sunday.
The Kerala State Cooperative Consumers Federation has, like in earlier years, opened stores to meet demands, but there is reported shortage of subsidised items. There has been criticism that the state government was not making adequate market interventions to counter price rise.
With restaurants making a splash with offers on onasadya (the traditional full meal that’s one of the festival’s big draws), kitchens have been getting quieter over the years. Maya George, a high-school teacher in Kochi, is one of the many women opting for takeaway lunches for their families this Thiruvonam. She said the arrangement saves her time to plan and pack for her family’s holidays.
A strike by employees of the Indian Oil Corporation plant in Kollam has already hit supply of domestic LPG in the southern districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta. The strike was called off late on Saturday, but the impact is likely to stay through the Onam season.
“There’s a risk of running out of LPG because we are hosting our extended family for almost a week,” said Shyma Ravi, a housewife in Kollam. Going by Met department predictions, rain is also threatening to dampen the festivities this year.
Northern and central districts recorded rain on Sunday.
The biggest festival of the year, however, is being looked forward to for reviving cheer in the state that’s still feeling the heat of political scandals and controversies. Politics spilled onto the celebrations on Saturday when black-clad CPM activists threatened to agitate against Oommen Chandy ahead of the official launch of the government’s Onam celebrations.
Thiruvananthapuram-based IT professional Sreejith Chandran looks at Onam as an occasion to recharge his spirits and look ahead in hope. “There’s perhaps no festival with greater relevance in these times. This year, Onam comes as a happy distraction after a series of political scams and rain-related disasters. It’s always great to have festivals that bring together people with one common reason to celebrate,” he said.