In January,  no one can miss the colourful decorations in Little India for Pongal Festival. Just last year, Pongal celebrations in Little India went on till the end of the month. This festival corresponds to the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of the Tamil month Thai. Renuka recollects her days celebrating the Tamil Harvest Festival with her neighbours.

When I was young, my family and myself celebrated the Pongal Festival also known as the Tamil Harvest Festival differently. I remember my mum putting a small stove outside the house and cooking Pongal (Sweet Rice) for us. We cooked outside the house using charcoal. My neighbours consisted of Chinese, Malay and Christian families. My friends would gather outside my house and pour the milk for us in the stove to make the sweet rice. I remember we would all face the Sun and pay respect together regardless of race and religion. I still remember my neighbours names. They were Chen Zi, Royzan, Murni, Ivan and Siti Rasidah. They all came to my house for the festival and we drew the kolam in the corridors.

Kolams also known as Raangolee can be drawn by using rice flour/chalk/chalk powder/white rock powder

It was fun drawing and playing together. Even for Deepavali, they would come to my house for lunch. We would all eat on Banana leaves. Chen Zi loved appalam a lot (Indian Cracker). My friend, Siti Rasidah, and I would share food and drinks, regardless of the differences we only knew friendship. Now due to hygiene purposes we cannot share food, but those were the times where we ate food from the same banana leaf.

Indian goodies such as murukku is a common sight at such festive events. Photo credit: Anna B/Flickr

My neighbours were also involve in doing the Murukku for Deepavali. During Deepavali, I would give sweets and murukku to all my neighbours. They would give me Ang Bao in return. We had beautiful bonds with our neighbours during those days. If my parents were not home, my brother and I would stay in my neighbours’ house till our parents returned and vice versa. Today, times have changed. All my neighbours have moved houses. We were the pioneers in my block. Many people change houses often today. Thus, it is difficult to create the same kind of bond with our neighbours as in the 90s. But I always cherish my childhood time with my neighbours.

Renuka d/o Nyanasageran’s story first appeared here on the Singapore Memory Project portal.
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