Food, friends and 'Vishu' for Keralites in UAE

The Keralite expatriate community in the UAE is all set to welcome their annual harvest festival of ‘Vishu’ which falls on Wednesday April 15, 2015. (Supplied)

The Keralite expatriate community in the UAE is all set to welcome their annual harvest festival of ‘Vishu’ which falls on Wednesday April 15, 2015.

Vishu is a celebration of the once-prosperous agrarian economy of Kerala. Wearing new clothes and giving monetary gifts to family members is also part of Vishu celebrations.

The festival is an occasion to remember the Kerala’s prosperous agriculture in the past which has all but disappeared, resulting in the state’s dependence on imports of foodstuffs like rice and vegetables from neighbouring states, despite the fact imported farm produce are produced using higher levels of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

“Many farmers in Kerala are facing serious economic problems. We need to encourage agriculture and non-resident Keralites who have money should help revive Kerala’s agrarian economy,” said Jaleel Pattambi, editor of the Malayalam newspaper ‘Middle East Chandrika’ published from Dubai, which has brought out a special Vishu supplement.

“Expatriates are lucky because many vegetables and fruits not available in Kerala are available here. Not only vegetables from India, we get all sorts of farm produce from other countries including America and Europe.

"The restaurants here are offering 20 to 30 dishes, some of which I doubt are served in Kerala. I wish it is Vishu every day but being a working day, our office has arranged special Vishu celebrations,” said Nandu Kavalam, an Asianet Radio RJ, who is airing special Vishu programmes.

“Many Keralite office-goers get their take-away Vishu meals or arrange special feasts in offices. All the seven Malayalam radio stations in UAE, newspapers and TV channels have special Vishu programmes,” he added.

“Agricultural land is lying idle or is being used for construction. The festival of Vishu underlines the need to agriculture in Kerala. We must do agriculture, not for making profit, but for making us self-sufficient at least in vegetables,” he added.

“Keralites should change their mind set and encourage cultivation, at least they can use terraces of their concrete houses to grow some vegetables. Without doing this, celebrating Vishu is meaningless,” he added.

Restaurants and supermarkets in the UAE are bullish about Vishu and many of them are vying with each other by offering the best Vishu meal deal, ostensibly prepared by special chefs flown in from Kerala for the occasion.

“We have been getting many bookings for the Vishu feast on Wednesday, which will be prepared under the supervision of chef Surothaman Namboodiri who has come to Dubai for a week.

"Last year, we could sold more than 2,000 Vishu parcels for families and bachelors, who do not have time to prepare their own meals,” said Biju Koshy, managing director, Tharavadu Restaurant, Al Qusais.

Taking into account the demand for Vishu meals and other products related to this festival, Lulu Supermarkets have created special Vishu counters and is also selling Vishu meals at Dh 24.50.

“We started selling Onam meals last year and we have lot of bookings for Vishu meals packets which is the cheapest in town,” said Nanda Kumar, marketing manager of Emke Group.

Jewellery chains are also running a campaign to promote gold sales on Vishu which coincides with Akshaya Trithiya, considered an auspicious occasion to buy gold. 

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