For non-resident Malayalees here, Onam offers a chance to reconnect with Kerala, which is currently celebrating the 10-day harvest festival that also marks the homecoming of the mythical king Mahabali.
With colourful 'pookolams' (floral rangolis), various associations of Malayalees in Delhi and NCR have already kickstarted the celebrations, which present a replica of the community life and the rich culture of the southern state.
During the period of the festival, which began on August 29, entrances of homes are decorated with intricate patterns of floral carpets, similar to a 'rangoli.'
"The floral carpets are made to welcome their king who is believed to visit them on these days. Displayed at the center of these patterns are clay figurines of deities - thrikkakkara appan - decorated with designs from rice paste," says Smitha, a Malayalee living here.
This art of making floral patterns has become a popular form of competition during Onam.
"We started the celebrations of Onam last Sunday by conducting Pookalam competition," says P K Mohandas, President of Jansanskriti, a socio-cultural organisation here.
The traditional 'Ona-Sadhya' (feast) compising a lavish lunch spread out on a plantain leaf is a highlight of the festival. It includes vegetarian food with almost twenty side dishes and payasams (puddings). Typical recipies include Aviyal, Thoran, Olan, pickles, papad, sambar, dal, rice, payasam and buttermilk.
The Kerala House and various other Malayalee associations are scheduled to organise feasts at various parts of the city like Gole Market, the Jawarlal Nehru Stadium etc over the next one month or so.
While food is one aspect of the festival, another is to help the needy and spread joy.
"We already had a round of Onam celebration at the NGO, Nirmal Jyoti, in Vasant Kunj in August, where we organised magic and puppet shows and some dance items for the inmates and also provided them with Onakkodi (traditional dress)and other goodies," says Geo Jacob, Vice-President, Vasant Kunj Malayalee Association.
The Ayappa Seva Sangham also has similar plans for Onam.
"We will organize community kitchen for poor and distribute clothes among them on Sunday," says M G Krishnan, secretary of Ayappa Seva Sangham.
People usually dress up in traditional dresses for the festival.
"The main day of the festival falls this Sunday and is called Thiru Onam. Women wear cotton off white sarees and men off-white dhotis both with zari," says Smitha.
Omcheri M M Pillai, who is associated