As Kerala grapples with its worst deluge in years, which has claimed hundreds of lives, most Kerala associations in the city have called off Onam celebrations.
This year, Onam began on August 15 and many organisations in the city had organised celebrations in the first week of September for members of the community. An estimated 4 to 4.5 lakh Keralites live in Pune.
Madhu Nair, president of the Pune Keraleeya Samajam at Rasta Peth, said, “We had a major celebration scheduled on September 2, for which we have already organised two pre-events in earlier weeks. However, given the situation in Kerala, we no longer wish to hold celebrations and we have cancelled it. Instead, we have pledged to raise at least Rs 5 lakh, which we will donate to the Kerala relief fund”.
P V Radhakrishnan, the president of Kondhwa Malyalee Seva Sangham, which has over 450 members from the community, said the organisation has cancelled its celebrations, which were scheduled to be held on September 8 at Jambhulkar Garden. “We have just circulated the message about cancellation of celebrations and are now in the process of collecting funds… we are hoping to raise Rs 5 lakh,” he said.
On August 20, all Kerala associations in the city are going to come together to decide on their further course of action, said M V Parmeshwaran, president of the Kairali Charitable Foundation. “A message has been circulated on all our WhatsApp groups about Onam celebrations being cancelled. We have called for a meeting at 6 pm on Monday at the YMCA Quarter Gate, where people from Kerala who live in the city, irrespective of organisations, will collectively decide how we will help people in our home state,” he said.
Several individuals have also launched their own efforts to mobilise funds and material to help those affected by the floods.
One such effort is being led by Anish Gopinath, who runs the Alleppees Kerala Restaurant near Balaji Law College in Tathawade. “We have contacted the NGO Goonj. After collecting relief material, we will hand it over to their Pune collection centre, and they will send it across. We are mainly focussing on collecting items for children and women, such as sanitary napkins, diapers, grains and dry food items, milk powder, blankets, bedsheets and so on. We will collect the items till Sunday evening and hand them over,” said Gopinath.