Penang Onam celebration

It is not Onam season now! But getting close to a year in Penang, I am reminded of our first Mallu get together in Penang.

No it was not Onam celebration. It was in fact the Expats Mallu group's Vishu celebration. A nice gentleman, Shajil chettan, introduced himself to us at Sunshine supermarket and told us about the Expats group and invited us for the celebrations. It was a first-of-its-kind for us. No membership fees, no "pirivu", no charges for self and invitees for organizing such an event!

The venue was a Chinese school, near the Penang airport. It was pretty close to our place and we were there pretty much on time. As crowd trickled in, we walked around meeting new faces, exchanging pleasantries, knowing about their backgrounds. We found that there were folks who were in Penang for the past 35 years! And this was not the real Kerala Samajam. The North Malaysia Malayalee Samajam is a registered organization with members who are actually Malaysians - born and brought up here, decendents of third and fourth generation Malayalees.

Our expat group mostly consists of people coming onsite to Penang for few years - either returning to India or  drifting to other parts of the world. This is mostly a bachelor crowd or many young families. Nevertheless, this celebration turned out to be a gala event with quarter of a thousand folks enjoying sumptuous Vishu sadya.

And that is the interesting part.

The sadya was really a huge pot luck party by the volunteers. Each item on the sadya was picked up by 2-4 families. The items arrived well on time and mixed together. Believe it or not, all of it was so delicious as if it was prepared by a super chef.

The hall was reasonably big, with a nice stage and sound system for cultural programs. There were a couple of small speeches as gap fillers in between the wonderful dance and song performances by little ones and elders. It indeed reminded me of the Onams we had at IIT Delhi by the mallu group.

At the end of it each of the little ones got a vishu kai-neettam too!!

Varsha was super excited to go on stage seeing so many kids holding the mic. We managed to get her a slot to recite aswathi-bharani - names of all 27 stars in the right order. A kid less than 3 yr old impressed the elders, some of them couldnt really knew whether she is right or wrong :-)

Coming to the fund raising part. There was lucky draw tickets available for sale. RM 2 per ticket and people generously bought in fives and tens to finish up a total of thousand tickets in no time. That is really the contributing factor as the prizes for the lucky draw were all sponsored by famous and rich businesses in Penang, mostly from Malayalee Samajam.

Oh! Didnt I start the blog post as Penang Onam Celebration?
Ya. This was a precursor to the bigger one which took us by a bigger surprise.

Onam celebration was organized by the prestigious NMMS. It is always held on the Independence day of Malaysia, August 31st for the past 53 years, right from the first year after Independence in 1963. Indeed it was a posh setup with many dignitaries, including the Deputy Chief Minister of Penang as the chief guest. The venue was a grand AC hall that could accommodate a thousand people. The sadya was prepared by 3 chefs who came from India just for this function. No doubt the sadya was excellent. With pride I would say, the Vishu sadya - a collab effort - was nothing short too

The cultural programs were more professional including a dance drama about Mahabali and Onam. Apart from the pomp and show, I would say the event was a little too long and prompted many of our friends to leave early. We didnt miss the chance of hearing lot of Malayalam and sat through the whole show till 8 PM.

Once again, lucky draw was the fund raising part. Unfortunately as usual, we didnt win any of the prizes.

The active members of the exapts group had a strong representation in the organizing committee and were well appreciated. So there was no separate Onam celebration unlike in 2015 where there were two sadyas served in consecutive weekends.

So this year's Vishu program is around the corner and our little one has already started practicing the recent famous song from Poomaram movie.

Eagerly awaiting for the event details to be posted on the whatsapp group!!

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