Twice a year, my friend S. Anwar invites me over for lunch at his home in Royapettah. Both calls come on the eve of festivals. And rarely do I skip these dates.
Sonight, Anwar called to invite me over on the occasion of Ramzan.
There are two reasons why I try not to miss this invitation.
One, we get to feast on some wonderful biryani that is prepared by traditional cooks specially for the occasion. And served on the ‘elai’, are at least two traditional side-dishes which are unique to this part of the country.
Also, the lunch is an occasion to make new friends and say hello to those whom we seem to meet only at Anwar’s dining table! Advocates, journalists,
activists, photographers, artistes . . . .we meet all kinds of people and let the lazy lunch end in long conversations.
A professional photographer and a historian who has given much time to documenting the life and times of his community in Tamil Nadu, Anwar makes sure that friends gather around the table at festival time.
Vimala Padmaraj is a longtime resident of Leith Castle area in San Thome, She is an active member of the Saint Thomas Cathedral community and also likes to connect with families in her neighbourhood.
Vimala said that she and her daughter had begun preparing to make biryani on the occasion of Ramzan and would have lunch along with a few close friends.
That took our conversation to a different plane - had the practice of sharing the joys of a festival with our neighbours become a thing of the past?
Vimala told me of times when she would pack pieces of cake, kul-kuls and rose cookies and send them to her neighbours on Christmas morning. And that she would pick up little toys in George Town to be given as Christmas gifts to the kids who lived down the street.
And of times when, the nieghbours would send her a box of sweets at Deepavali time or a plate of hot and spicy mutton biryani for Bakrid.
We seem to have forgotten some simple and warm gestures we made to families in our neighbourhood.
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