Pookkalam, thalappoli, kasavu mundus, sadya and of course, Maveli. All the customary touches from God's Own Country were in full display as New England Malayalee Association (NEMA) celebrated Onam 2013 at Lexington High School, Mass, on Saturday, Sept. 14.
The daylong Onam festivities began at 11.30 am, with the Onam sadya, a traditional lunch complete with all the fixings served on an American version of the banana leaf. It did not take long for people to line the hallways of the school as they waited for their turn to be seated for lunch, which lasted a few hours, given the large numbers. "We got way many more people than expected," said emcee Sabari Nair, as he addressed the audience during the entertainment segment in the afternoon. According to NEMA, a record 550 people attended the Onam celebrations this year.
A ceremonial procession that symbolized Maveli's homecoming, complete with live music, launched the afternoon's entertainment programs. The numerous music and dance performances that followed offered ample evidence of local talent. Although technical difficulties slowed down the initial part of the afternoon programs, the team of performers, including toddlers, soldiered on despite the issues. It was also heartening to see most of the audience stay put to encourage the performers as volunteers worked to resolve the technical difficulties. It was smooth sailing when members from Nashua Ladies took to the stage to present "Neram Poyi," a folk dance that stood out for its choreography. Duets by the Muhaseen team as well as by Sunil Nambiar and Reshma Nair recaptured some of the magic of hit songs from Malayalam movies.
With years of celebrations under its belt, NEMA has brought marquee names for its evening entertainment for Onam. This year, it was musician Franco and violinist Manoj George who delivered music performances, including an appropriately moving violin rendition of "Chethi Mandaram Thulasi." The events of the day culminated with a Kathakali performance by artists from Kerala Kalamandalam, retelling the story of "Damayanthi and the Woodsman," from Nalacharitam. It was a long wait indeed for this pièce de résistance of the day, but well worth it for the community that had gathered for the celebrations.