Dubai: As Keralites in the UAE brace for a low-key celebration of their harvest festival Vishu on Tuesday, a community initiative will ensure 1,000 people in Dubai receive the traditional vegetarian feast called sadhya.
Kits carrying the free sadhya can be taken away by those in need from Uppum Mulakum restaurant in Karama from 1pm to 3pm, the owner of the restaurant Shanavas Mohammed told Gulf News. “Though it is a Hindu festival, we Malayalis celebrate Vishu, just like we celebrate Onam irrespective of our religion. During this difficult time, we don’t want anyone to miss the Vishu sadhya. Keralites or not, any one who is in need can come and collect the kit.”
He said the free meal is not just his individual initiative. “It is a community initiative. In this case, I am mainly providing our infrastructure and the service of my staff. I really appreciate companies like Golden Dunes Trading Company, Jaleel Trading and Kwality Icecreams and individuals, some of whom I had never seen before, who came forward to support this initiative.”
While the first two companies provided ingredients, the ice cream company has sponsored one ice cream with each kit. Individuals and some community groups also came forward to sponsor some kits.
Shanavas said the kindhearted people came forward for the initiative as they were aware that his restaurant was providing free meals every day for the past three weeks, apart from supporting those who were quarantined in different areas in Dubai.
The restaurant has served more than 4,000 meals through the free lunch initiative it started during the sterilisation drive in Dubai, said Shanavas who also now runs the Golden Fork restaurant chain.
Vishu without Konna
Sandhya Santhosh, a housewife in Dubai, said many Malayalis like her will be missing the Vishukkani a spread of everything auspicious including the Konna flower (Golden Shower Tree flower) that they see first thing on Vishu morning.
“Everyone is home. But nobody is in a mood to celebrate. We will not even keep the Vishukkani. I don’t even know if Konna flowers are available in shops now.”
It is only during the run-up to the Vishu that Konna, the state flower of Kerala, the scientific name of which is Cassia fistula, comes to the UAE.”
Flower stores and hypermarkets catering to the community usually import several tonnes of these yellow summer flowers.
Perumal Flower Stores in Bur Dubai, which imported two tonnes of the flower last year, said there were hardly any flowers to sell this year. “Only one of our stores is open now. There are no daily flights bringing flowers like earlier. Yesterday, we managed to get some flowers,” a representative said.
However, Lulu Group said it has managed to procure some Konna flowers “to ensure the minimum availability in the market”.
“These came along with most of the vegetables used in preparing the Kani and Vishu sadhya and the banana leaves on which the feast is served. All these came on the six aircrafts we chartered to import vegetables from Kerala in the past two days,” V. Nandakumar, chief communications officer, Lulu Group, told Gulf News.
“The footfall of people shopping for Vishu items is less under the current circumstances. However, considering the requirement of those who are unable to cook, especially bachelors, we are also selling Vishu sadhya kits and different items in the sadhya, including eight varieties of payasam (dessert) through our hot food counters.”