If there is one event that unites every Kerala household in a festivity it is the Onam harvest festival and if there's any dampener, it's the skyrocketing prices of essential items.This time, the Onam festival week begins Saturday with the traditional 'Atham festival' followed by First Onam on September 15, Thiru Onam the next day and ends two days later on September 18.Irrespective of caste or creed, each and every Keralite, irrespective of where one is, celebrates Onam with real vigour. This time around, it could be particularly difficult even as the Kerala government has been making market interventions to ensure state organisations ensure adequate supply of vegetables and other food items."We have already sanctioned funds to the state agencies which do the procurement and we have given them whatever they have asked for. Thirteen items, including pulses, basic food items and vegetables will be under the controlled price mechanism and hence, we are certain that people need not to worry about prices," Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said.The Onam sadhya (lunch) has to be served on a banana leaf and in some places it's eaten squatting on the floor, like in the olden days."Every item is very expensive compared to last year's Onam. The government appears to be saying every now and then for the past one week that prices will be controlled, but every day when I go to shop, it's only shooting up," lamented Remani Nair, a retired schoolteacher here.A comparison with the previous year's prices is revealing.The Price of red rice last year was Rs.28 a kg and is Rs.38 now, onions have shot up from Rs.16 to Rs.52, coconut oil has risen from Rs.67 to Rs.86, bananas from Rs.32 to Rs.54, tapioca from Rs.13 to Rs.24, shallots from Rs.35 to Rs.64 and ash gourd from Rs. 17 to Rs.25.In the past, a 26-dish lunch was common in many households and it included chips, pappads, various vegetables, a fair number of pickles both sweet and sour, the traditional aviyal, sambar and dal, served along with a small quantity of ghee, rasam, two different kinds of butter milk and a chutney prepared from grated coconut - not to mention a series of mouth-watering payasams eaten either straight or mixed with a small ripe plantain."Oh, this time with prices shooting up like a rocket, the 26-dish lunch would be a luxury for many. We are a family from which there is not a single person who is working abroad. Anyway, we are expecting that the government will ensure uninterrupted supplies through their outlets," said Jasmine Thomas a housewife in Kottayam working hard to see everything is in order on a shoestring budget.But in Thiruvalla, about 120 km from the state capital, things appear a bit different as this is from where there are a good number of Keralites who are working abroad."Honestly, in money terms, even though there is certainly an all-round price rise, we are yet to feel the pinch because the money that my husband remits from the UAE as compared to the last Onam, is higher in rupee terms and am yet to feel pinch in the price rise," said homemaker Mary Stephen.
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