Lunch for the Sumathy family yesterday was an elaborate yet intimate affair.
Some 25 immediate and extended family members tucked into a 13-course meal that was lovingly prepared over a hot stove for two hours by Madam Mohan Sumathy and her sister.
They had the luxury of cooking the special meal for the family to celebrate the Tamil New Year because the occasion fell on the Good Friday public holiday this year.
Said Madam Sumathy, 46: "Last year, we had to go to school or work so we just had a simple dinner when we came back."
Yesterday, the 13-course menu featured dishes such as mango chutney, potato masala, fried banana, tauhu sambal, vadai (fried savoury doughnuts), sambar (lentil- based vegetable stew) and payasam (rice pudding).
The mango chutney is a must- have among her dishes of family favourites because it is "both sweet and sour", hence suited to be a metaphor for life itself.
NEW YEAR WISH
I wish that every Tamil New Year will fall on a public holiday.
MADAM MOHAN SUMATHY, on how a public holiday would give her family more time to celebrate the new year properly.
Yesterday marked the start of a new year and the time of the traditional spring harvest for over 10 ethnic groups in Singapore, including Tamils who celebrate it as Puthandu; Sikhs, who call it Vaisakhi; and Malayalees, who call it Vishu.
In Tamil homes, it is typically celebrated with a feast, gathering of relatives and family members, and visits to the temples.
Women in the household wake up early to thoroughly wash and clean the entrances to their homes, which they decorate elaborately, sometimes with colourfully drawn kolam patterns on the floor using rice powder. This is believed to usher in good luck.
Madam Sumathy's family rose early at 6am yesterday. Her sister used rice powder to make a white flower-shaped kolam at the door entrance.
Madam Sumathy hung mango leaves on the doorways and the family proceeded for prayers, which started with the lighting of traditional lamps and dedicating sugar rice to the gods.
The Indian community has stayed constant as a percentage but grown significantly in numbers.
In 1824, the Indian community accounted for 756 people out of a total population of 10,683, or about 7 per cent.
Nearly two centuries later, the Indian citizen population stands at 253,000, or about 7.4 per cent of the citizen population, according to the Singapore Statistics Department.The community is linguistically, culturally and religiously diverse.
The Sumathy family ended their day on a fiery note, watching a bright display of fireworks, which kicked off new year celebrations in Campbell Lane last night.
Crowds thronged the area, drawn to a Tamil festival organised by the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association.
Renowned artists were flown in from India to perform and sing for the audience.
Madam Sumathy said: "I wish that every Tamil New Year will fall on a public holiday."