Dubai: From conference rooms and office canteens to school corridors and workers’ accommodations, there were many places in the UAE where residents of various nationalities joined Keralites to celebrate their harvest festival Onam and spread the spirit of unity on Wednesday.
Hundreds of thousands of UAE residents sat down to enjoy a vegetarian feast as part of the grand celebrations organised by Malayalis.
Jayanthi Nadaraja from Sri Lanka, an operations coordinator with DHL, said her colleagues from different countries joined in the Onam celebrations at their office in Dubai World Central.
Nadaraja, who took the initiative of making a pookkalam (floral designs laid on the floor), said: “I had never made a pookkalam. I Googled to get an idea and made a plan. With the help of my team members of various nationalities, we made a nice pookkalam.”
She said male colleagues from different countries wore mundu (traditional attire for men) and women wore saris. “We sat down to have Onasadhya [vegetarian feast] together. We celebrated Onam nicely. It brought out a spirit of unity, which is very important at workplaces.”
A grand procession featuring the mythical King Mahabali, whose homecoming is celebrated during the festival of unity and prosperity, and traditional art forms of Kerala, were the highlights of the celebrations at the housing complex of workers at Dubai Drydocks.
At the Air India office in Sharjah, employees from different states of India wore traditional Kerala attire to join the celebrations. Employees formed a pookkalam and savoured a sumptuous Onasadhya.
While most of the office-goers ordered sadhya from restaurants, several families made the effort to cook sadhya at home as well.
Abu Dhabi resident Biju Kottarathil said his family made some items of the sadhya and had them with friend Nishen Roy’s family, as Roy’s mother is on a visit to the UAE.
“They made the rest of the dishes at their villa. Onam this time is special for us because of the presence of his mother,” Kottarathil said.
Celebrations were held in some Indian schools as well. GEMS Our Own Indian School in Al Quoz observed a mufti day to celebrate Onam.
“We celebrate all the festivals to make children learn different cultures and values and also build up their happiness levels,” said Lalitha Suresh, the principal.
“To share the spirit of Onam, we had allowed students to come in colour clothes. Most children wore traditional clothes. They made pookkalam, lit lamps and exchanged sweets. There was a festive atmosphere. There was also a tug of war for boys. It was very sweet to see young KG boys wearing mundu.”