Mumbai: The Matunga market, located outside Matunga station, is not bustling with the usual activity. It is unusually quiet for Onam, an annual festival celebrated by Keralites. Most Malayalis living in Mumbai go on a shopping spree during this time. But, it seems, the community is in no mood to celebrate.
Most shop-owners in Matunga said that many resident families had been affected by the floods. Malayali shopkeepers, too, are less regretful about losing business but more worried about the fact that their friends and families back home are suffering. “During Onam, there is no place to even stand in the marketplace. Generally, we do not have time to even catch up with our breath. But today the business is almost negligible,” said a seller, who is originally from Kozhikode.
Some traders were trying to organise their stock from Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala, which were unaffected by floods. “But the reality is that there is no need for keeping an inventory as there is no demand,” said Venu who sells banana chips and other fried food items. Devrajan, who sells bananas and its leaves, said, “We have not got any fresh stock for over a week now. We are using whatever inventory we had with us.” These small shops in Mumbai generally stock-up on a weekly basis.
Talking about one of the favourite eatable roots, Tapioca, Sasi Nair, a shop-owner, said, “We have some stock but we do not expect any fresh Tapioca from Kerala. We used to get it generally from Thrissur (specifically Chalakudy) but the farms there have been destroyed. Anto, a trader from Chalakudy, said, “For about 10 months, Tapioca will not be produced in Chalakudy. The top soil has eroded and there is no way it can recover quickly from this impact.” Looking at the sentiment, many associations or groups of Keralites living in Mumbai have decided to call off the Onam celebrations and are ensuring that the money is instead sent for relief work.
Pavithran, who holds key positions in various associations, said, “We have decided to go to different places across the city holding banners on Onam and asking everyone to donate. When we were collecting food items and other essentials for people in relief camps, we got everyone’s support. We are expecting people from other communities too to come forward this time.”