COVID-19 pookkalams with native flowers


The sun-coloured jamanthis (marigold) are being changed by crimson chethi (ixora); the little purple globes of vadamalli (gomphrena) are making manner for the combined hues of kongini poo (lantana). With kattumulla (wild jasmine), tulsi (basil), chemparathy (hibiscus) and kolambi poo (golden trumpet vine) making a comeback, pookkalams this Onam are going native.

The pandemic-imposed restrictions have prompted Malayalis to show to their backyards for a inventive pookkalam this yr.

Made with PPE scrap

  • Social entrepreneur Lakshmi Menon has made a pookkalam utilizing PPE scrap. “We cut the PPE scrap into shreds and dyed it in fabric paint. Even the Onathappan is made with scarp,” she says including that the recycled pookkalam is reusable and can be utilized subsequent yr too. The pookkalams of 2020 will go down in historical past as essentially the most inventive ones,” she says.

Over the previous three many years, the season has come to be marked by flowers from neighbouring States. As Pookkalam competitions turned the norm, workplaces and establishments purchased flowers in bulk. Even the common-or-garden house pookkalams started to be stuffed with oleanders, asters, marigolds and bachelor’s buttons that got here from Tamil Nadu and Bangalore.

However, there was a time when the wild flowers that carpeted waysides and hills have been the harbinger of Onam in Kerala. Poet-lyricist Jayageetha reminisces her childhood in Kollam: “Dew drops glistened on the flowers as we plucked them from branches or picked them from earth nonetheless moist from the rain. The pookkalam needed to be made earlier than we rushed to highschool. So gathering the flowers was performed as quickly because it was dawn,” she recollects.

Back to the fundamentals

This yr, it’s a probability to return to the fundamentals, says businessman Balram Menon, who found quite a lot of wild flowers on his biking observe in Kanjiramattom, Kochi. Along with his seven-year-old son Ram, he began plucking them. “We really feel it’s safer to utilize the native flowers for the pookkalam this time,” says Balram.

Parvathy Vinod from Thiruvananthapuram too can have a totally native floral carpet this yr. “My cousins and sisters live close by and so my kids will gather the flowers from everyone’s garden,” she says.

The flower markets subsequently put on a depressing air. An common store in Chala in Thiruvananthapuram, one of many greatest home markets for flowers in Kerala, bought flowers value ₹6 to ₹7 lakh final yr. During the 10 days of Onam, gross sales went up from 25 kg to almost 200-250 kg on the penultimate day of Onam.

“This year, we have ordered lesser quantities of flowers. With social distancing in force and all festivities cancelled, the demand for flowers is bound to be much less,” says Sashidharan Nair, secretary of the Flower Merchants’ Association in Chala.

Flowers at Chala often arrive from Thovalai, Dindigul, Rayakottai and Madurai in Tamil Nadu; Hosur and Bengaluru in Karnataka.

Thumba story

  • Legend has it that the flowers of Thumba (Leucas aspera) have been the favorite of King Mahabali. So no pookalam can do with out these flowers. “In many households in Palakkad, on the day of Thiruvonam, the flowers of Thumba are used to make pooada. Ada is made from rice flour and it’s stuffed with the flowers of Thumba and slices of nendran banana,” says writer-director Kalidas Puthumana.

“Corporate and academic establishments have migrated to digital pookkalam contests,” says Surendran KG of Gopi’s Flower Mart in Paravur. “So, there is very little expectation,” he provides.

Business has lowered to 20% of the same old, says Radhakrishnan, proprietor of Atham Flowers, a flower store at Patturaikkal, Thrissur. The solely flowers which are being bought, although few in quantity, are marigold and bur flower, he provides, as they’re used to make garlands. The pandemic has not affected the price of the flowers, a kilo of marigold prices Rs 60, says one other flower vendor in Thrissur.

Pookkalam made with PPE scrap  

The month of Chingam can be a time for weddings. “With COVID-19 protocols in place, we have got very few orders,” says N S Prakash, who has been working a flower stall in Ernakulam for the previous 27 years. “With most centres of worship still closed to devotees, business has come crashing down for vendors like me,” he says.

In pre-COVID occasions, he bought 5,000 lotus flowers a day. Now, the sale has come right down to 100 flowers a day. While the lotuses got here from Nagercoil in ten sacks, containing 500 flowers every, day-after-day, the ixora and tulsi got here from Tiruchi and Madurai. “Now, since the demand has dropped, I don’t get the flowers,” says Prakash.

The flower trade has been struggling because the 2018 flood, says Joy Alexander, managing director of Flower Depot on TD Road, Kochi, which has been within the enterprise for the previous 35 years. “The pandemic has just sounded the death knell for an already ailing industry. Kerala had a market for ₹5 crore, which has now come down to a ₹5 lakh,” he says.

Old regular

For those that grew up within the seventies and eighties, nonetheless, that is how their Onams have been. Flowers have been sourced from family gardens or the commons in villages.

Native pookkalam

Native pookkalam  

“Buying flowers was unheard of in those days,” says blogger Manjusha Pisharody, a resident of Mumbai who hails from Palakkad. She provides, “It did not really matter where you picked them from. Since the harvest would be over by the time of Onam, fields and waysides would be covered with small blooms.”

(Inputs: Saraswathy Nagarajan, Priyadershini S)

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