This light is for everyone
IT WAS not difficult at all for Adeline Cheng to adapt when she married her husband Manoharan Muthusamy. She has always been fascinated by Indian culture; from favouring Indian food to watching Tamil movies as a child.
Cheng and Manoharan have three daughters, and Deepavali has always been celebrated with much merriment in their home for the past 20 years.
“I find Deepavali fascinating. The Festival of Lights should be celebrated by everyone. I believe this light is for everyone, not just Indians,” says the 48-year-old dance instructor who wears a pottu every day. Cheng will be making thosai for Deepavali, a family tradition her children love.
“Mum makes thosai during festive seasons, and she would prepare it a day earlier so the batter can rise. We also love her chicken curry, rasam and sodhi, “says Cheng’s youngest daughter, 19-year-old Kashmeraa.
“We usually eat more of Indian food, as our father really likes spicy food, and mum is more than happy to go along with this, as we are too,” says daughter Tanusya, 22, a flight attendant. “Even when my mum cooks Chinese food, she puts some spice into it.”
Cheng learnt to cook Indian food from her mother-in-law.
“When our mum first got married, she actually didn’t know how to cook Indian food. So whenever my paternal grandmother, who is based in Nilai, came for Deepavali, she’d take over the kitchen and mum would become the ardent observer. She picked everything up from my grandmother. Mum has been cooking Indian food for 20 years,” adds Chong’s eldest daughter, Prishanthini, 24, a customer engagement executive.
“My family and friends love and enjoy my Indian cooking. My Chinese relatives also look forward to the festival every year because it offers them something quite different,” says Cheng.
Apart from the festive cooking, Cheng also enjoys decorating her house, including putting flowers and lamps on “my beautiful altar”.
“Deepavali is a very colourful celebration that makes us feel bright and vibrant. It is a time when we can experience and share in the love, joy and peace that are part and parcel of the festivities,” says Cheng. Kashmeraa adds, “During festive seasons such as Deepavali and Chinese New Year, we try to celebrate with both sides of the family. The whole family would go to the respective temples for both religious and cultural events.”
The family also celebrates Christmas, as one of Manoharan’s cousins is a Christian.
“We never felt out of place celebrating all the different festivities. We feel like we truly belong,” says Manoharan.
The three girls say their fondest memory of Deepavali is the oil bath ritual. “When we were kids, our father would carry us, then prop us up on the kitchen table and rub the oil onto our heads. That experience has never left us,” says Prishanthini, laughing. “We would also have these huge open-houses,” adds Tanusya.
This multiracial family observes Deepavali rituals, including offering prayers at their family altar.