This Friday, the Malayali community will witness two mega Onam programmes organised by two rival college alumni organisations representing thousands of former college students from Kerala.
There are hundreds of community associations, formal and informal, representing various sects, regions, religions and political parties, but the cut-throat competition between the All Kerala Colleges Alumni Federation (Akcaf) and Federation of Kerala Colleges Alumni (Fekca) is keenly watched by the Keralite community, as the latter was formed four years ago by a group of disgruntled Akcaf members.
It is somewhat similar to the proverbial David versus Goliath fight or rather David Thomas versus Sani Mathew competition (names of Fekca and Akcaf presidents respectively). Both are trying to outsmart the other by roping in celebrities, authors, artists and sponsors to organise the best-ever Onam festival for Keralites. Both the programmes, one in the Al Nasr Leisureland and the other in Sheikh Rashid Auditorium, will be inaugurated by Indian Consul General Sanjay Verma.
While the parent organization (Akcaf) has been organising Onam programmes regularly for almost 14 years, the younger Fekca group is just entering its fourth year of Onam celebrations. While Akcaf claims membership exceeding 32,000 alumni representing 57 colleges in various districts of Kerala, the four-year old Fekca does not make tall claims about their numbers but insist that they are as strong as the other organisation. Both the celebrations are in the Oud Metha area of Karama, on the same day and almost at the same time. Even the programmes’ contents are almost similar.
A number of film personalities have been flown in to add colour to the festivities which ‘athapookkalam’ (floral carpet competition), honouring prominent businessmen and sponsors and other typical Onam programmes.
“It is only a coincidence that Fekca and Akcaf Onam programmes fall on the same Friday and in adjacent venues. There is no competition of any sort and we both are working independently to present the best Onam programmes in town. For the past three years we had different dates, but this year we could not fix the programme on any other date,” said David Thomas, Fekca president.
‘Thirumulkazhcha’, as Akcaf’s programme is called, will feature Malayalam poet Sachidananthan as the keynote speaker for the 14th edition of Onam celebrations. They are also projecting Malayalam film actor Suresh Gopi, young upcoming actress Bhama and Renjith, a movie director, according to Advocate Backer Ali, general secretary, Akcaf.
“We are inviting only selectively because if all our members come for the Onam programme, we may need a big football ground. Each of the college alumni is given a quota and they will also participate in the Onam procession with several cultural programmes,” said Anoop Anil Devan, general convener of Akcaf’s ‘Thirumulkazhcha’.
Fekca is bringing yet another different Onam show by bringing together great talents from Kerala including renowned film director Hariharan who has completed 40 years in Malayalam film industry.
“Other film celebrities participating in our Onam 2012 are actors Narain and Indrajith, upcoming actress Remya Nambeeshan, actress from the UAE Asha Sharath, violinist C S Anuroop, actor and comedian Ramesh Pisharady, Sajan Palluruthy and singer Sreenath,” said R Vijaya Kumar, general secretary of Fekca.
Fekca’s Onam convener Manoj Moolamkunnu has been very active despite his partial physical disability. “We are only four years old but our Onam will be better than Akcaf’s,” he says.
Both the Onam programmes will serve a feast for several thousands members and non-member invitees. Both groups are claiming special Onam menus of 20 plus items.
About a week ago, the Onam programmes started with a floral carpets competition in which several teams representing various alumni and associations participated. “We had entries for ‘athapookalam’ from all colleges. The other group did not have enough colleges to compete. Their competition was open for other community associations,” claimed an Akcaf member.
“We are only a four-year old association but our programmes are colourful as theirs. They have been around from 1999, we are ten years younger to them. However, our programmes are better than theirs,” claimed a Fekca official.
Fekca is making its presence felt in the field of charity too. Last year, the organisation built a house for a poor Keralite and they are planning something similar this year too.