Despite inflation, Gulf Malayalis plan Onam celebrations

September 11th, 2008 - 8:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Dubai, Sep 11 (IANS) Despite skyrocketing inflation, millions of Malayalis across the Gulf prepared to celebrate Onam, the traditional harvest festival, that falls Friday.Shops and supermarkets were filled with customers buying traditional items like plantain leaves, vegetables, sweets, dry fruits, jewellery, and decorative items.

“We have managed to procure vegetables that people seek during Oman,” manager at a branch of the City Supermarket chain here told IANS.

“People are buying vegetables like velar, paravalam and siniguard from our shelves,” he added.

But, rice has been a problem, he added.

“Because of the Indian government’s ban on the export of non-basmati rice, we have not been able to get ponya rice which is so much in demand during Onam,” he said.

Similarly, the supply of matta or parboiled rice from India has been severely hit in Qatar this year.

Malayalis in that Gulf nation complained that they have not been able to procure this variety of rice and what was available was way too expensive.

Local media reports put the price of matta, which was 5.50 Qatari riyals (Rs.69) a kg last month at QR11 (Rs.137) a kg now.

“This is because of the unaffordable and unreasonable price of Indian parboiled rice varieties,” a shopkeeper in Doha told the Gulf Times.

In such circumstances, people are being compelled to buy Thai varieties of parboiled rice, which are priced between QR29 (Rs.362) and QR40 (Rs.500) for a bag of five kilos.

Restaurants and airline operators are also making special arrangements to mark the harvest festival of Kerala.

Oman’s national carrier Oman Airways is laying out a special Onam menu to be served on board all its flights to Kerala in the course of the festival.

The airline will serve Onam Sadhya (Onam feast) on board its flights from Muscat to Trivandrum, Calicut and Kochi.

“The passengers will be served breakfast, which apart from the usual assorted juices as starters, will include fried banana with coconut and jaggery, ethakka upperi (banana chips) and sarkkara vartti (fried plantain in jaggery),” the airline’s senior manager for sales, Abdulrazaq bin Juma Al Raisi, said in a statement.

The main course, he said, would comprise steamed coconut appam, vegetable stew and sujian and coconut chutney, followed by ada pradhaman.

Restaurants too are laying out elaborate packages though on a limited scale.

A vast majority of the over 4.8-million expatriate Indians in the six Gulf nations of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hail from Kerala.

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