Nostalgia is too light a term to signify, in all its intensity, its meaning. All those folktales and songs associated with Onam, the floral decorations and the spirit enshrined in the concept of Onam… all those are irrelevant when viewing the world outside from the glassy confines of my software company. I wear spotlessly cleaned and ironed formal attire to office everyday so that my clients are impressed, but that hides the financial pauperism I am undergoing. The company pays me when it feels, and when it feels is a question of probability tilted heavily against employees like me trapped somewhere in the bottom rungs of the hierarchical pyramid. I had asked my manager for an advance payment of the month’s salary because I wanted to gift something to my parents for Onam, but his ominous visage told me to mind my own business than to keep refreshing my bank statement online.
And today, of all days, a series of meeting got scheduled to discuss some project proposals with my client. My manager being a Keralite, I expected him to find a way to schedule the meetings at an alternate date so that we could have a lighter business day today, the day of Onam. Instead, he, the veteran of many more Onams than myself, drilled into my head the fact that Onams might come and go, but the same wasn’t necessarily true with clients. So on this day, which all these previous years used to start with a temple visit followed by a nice breakfast made by a loving mother, it began in a most dreary way when my alarm didn’t go off and I found myself half awake in my bed half an hour before I was supposed to report for my meeting at office, cursing anyone and everyone who had anything to do with computers and software. An auspicious start to a pious day.
Reaching fifteen minutes late for the meeting was probably one of the better moments of the day, for, those fifteen minutes, I was NOT drilled. The entire day, merciless souls took pleasure in butchering me and pointing out flaws with my proposed design. I was supposed to presenting, but the amount of time I spoke paled in comparison with the amount of time my revered guests spent critiquing and tearing apart my design. Just before lunch, my manager approached me and asked me to come up with a fresh design in the next four hours, he was rescheduling a design meeting with clients after that and would like me to present a modified design, taking into consideration the feedback I received.
Onasadhya, the traditional feast is the highlight of Onam day.
I forgot the traditions and heritage of Onam as I sat bleary eyed in front of computer thinking how best to reduce the number rotten eggs I had earned in my portfolio earlier in the day. The clock continued its journey past lunch time, going at its nice leisurely pace. The concept of time had melted away in front of me, I just knew the deadline, nothing else. I kept pecking away at my computer, rest of the world numb and frozen.
The evening meeting seemed to stretch on forever, and it was not much different from the morning sessions. Sometimes I wondered if I were sitting in the Parliament House, the ruckus these people were creating would’ve certainly give the honorable parliamentarians a run for their money. The endless debates and discussions were led to nowhere till they finally decide to succumb to natural forces and conclude for the day, the discussion to be continued next morning.
The clock struck ten. Suddenly I remembered I was hungry, the last meal I had was a bowl of stale cereal before I rushed off to office at seven in the morning. I opened Paint. Drew a couple of flowers with the most elementary drawing skills I had. Typed in Happy Onam. Set it as my desktop background. Shrugging, I wished myself a Happy Onam two hours before my clock moved on to the next date on the calendar.