Forgetting for a day the harrowing memories of the flood that turned their lives upside down and threw them into uncertainty overnight, 250 inmates of a relief camp at Kalamassery near here celebrated Onam with traditional enthusiasm Saturday.
A sumptuous dinner, games and other festivities marked the day-long celebrations at the camp at the Government Vocational Higher Secondary School, where elders were given onakkodi (new clothes presented on the festival).
Xavier E A, 59, a daily-wage worker at nearby Glass Colony, said he had lost everything in the flood. “But here today, I experienced the love of people, many of whom were unknown to me until now.”
Xavier said all inmates of the camp were treated as guests, as volunteers, members of the local club, councillors of Kalamassery municipality, and government officials prepared the dinner. “Others in the vicinity have abandoned their own Onam celebrations to join us at the camp. We are leaving the camp tomorrow, with a kit comprising all essential items needed for a week,” Xavier said.
Kalamassery municipal councillor N Raveendran, who is in charge of the camp, said every effort had been made to ensure the 250-odd inmates did not collapse in grief over the losses in the flood. “We got 600 people to participate in the dinner. All councillors of the municipality, local priests, nuns, members of various local residents’ associations, left their own festival celebrations to come over to the camp and join the festivities here. We did everything to console and encourage the affected people,” he said.
Ashla Maju, 26, a housewife, said the festivities at the camp helped them to forget their worries for a day. “We are all concerned about the future. The government, local clubs and various religious organisations have pledged support for us,” she said.
Rejina A B, 29, another housewife, said the celebration of the festival has given them a hope that society would stand with them. “All our grief and worries have gone for a day. There are enough festivities here a day before we leave for our homes. The school has to be opened on Wednesday. The government has allowed us to stay until the rehabilitation is over, but how long can we stay in the camp?” said Rejina.
Onam celebrations were witnessed at some 2,000-odd relief camps across Kerala. Film celebrities such as Mammootty and political leaders thronged the camps for the Onam dinner and to pledge support to the affected people.