Onam in a Nightie | By Anjana Menon
Book Review |Quarantine Memoir
Onam in a Nightie is a refreshing experience than what I usually read. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction and this is a memoir. I had my apprehensions, but I still picked up the book. First, because I read it soon after I celebrated Onam. And then, I have lived in Noida, Delhi and Thrissur. All the places that are mentioned in the book. It was out of sheer curiosity that I picked it up and it didn’t disappoint.
Surely, there are several elements that differ from my quarantine experiences. Especially the way the author describes the vast fields and trees around her house. That is quite an upper-middle-class experience. Not all Keralites have trees around their house and have people coming in and out to tend to them. With a high population density, many of us live in tight quarters and share a wall with the neighbours or struggle to park our own cars. Even as I say that I can see how some people can see that as a privilege. Anyway, the point is beyond those details. The book somehow made a connection with me.
This is mainly because I am quite familiar with the areas mentioned in it. The Swaraj round, Vadakunnathan temple, Elite bakery (now apparently a supermarket), Bharat hotel are all the staples of the town and even though it’s been more than a decade since I left the town, knowing that they’re all still pretty much the face of the town brings a warm smile to my face coloured with nostalgia.
The author dedicated an entire chapter to Poonkunnam station, and I was passing through the station while reading the book. I took a peek and found many things she mentioned come to life there. It is always fascinating for a reader to see the words come to life, even if for a fleeting moment. So, I am thankful to Anjana Menon for sharing this experience with us.
Onam in a Nightie covers all the topics that were relevant in a typical 2020 Malayalee household. The bewilderment at being stuck at home all of a sudden. The way you saw people coming together at the time of crisis. We might not be privileged enough to create a toilet paper shortage, but we broke the quarantine when a plane crash-landed at an airport and people needed blood. There were people offering free food on the road since the hotels were closed and then, there were cops who took care of us, not just by policing us to stay at home. Their job included buying groceries and medicines for the elderly.
I was an essential worker during the pandemic. I was out and about to witness all this firsthand. I had a quarantine experience myself in the early days, where I had to isolate myself on a separate floor for fourteen days. This book made me revisit all those memories in a surprisingly fond way. Many of you might not want to go back to those memories. Many of you might have lost people during those times. But if you’re like me, who is somewhat privileged to have a roof over your head and a steady income and a loving family to keep you company during the lockdown era, give it a go.