Digital Deepavali

After putting it off for some days now, with the benefit of having some prior engagements rescheduled at the last moment, my wife and I finally dropped by a Deepavali bazaar, last Friday. We just wanted to take a look at what was on offer at a nearby bazaar. With the times being what it is, we decided to go with a strict budget, one of the low-budget type. This was to be a reconnaissance only trip. Yes, strictly window shopping only. At least, that was the plan.

Source: Pexels

So there we were, moving from one stall to the other. Looking at clothes of all shapes and sizes. Clothes in all shades of colour, all sorts of texture, decorated with simple to intricate patterns and designed for adults and children, as well as for men and women. There were stalls that offered all the mouth-watering delicacies that one can’t help indulge in, never mind what the doctor says. Delicacies ranging from the sinfully sweet candies to the ever so crunchy murukku.

Source: Pexels

Then there were the stalls offering an array of accessories for the women to match with their beautiful and vibrant outfits. The accessories ranged from bangles made out of metal and glass to ear-rings of all sizes and designs. There were stalls displaying incense stick-like sparkles, boxes of the noisy pop pops and some packets of firework. There were also stalls that sold decorations to spruce up the house for the upcoming festivities.

Having walked among the stalls from one end to the other, taking in all the sights, while trying to speak with each other over the cacophony of various songs blaring out of the speakers, my wife asked me a question. She asked, if I noticed something or more accurately said, if I noticed the absence of something. She mentioned that she did not notice any greeting cards displayed for sale at any of the stalls we passed by and asked if I noticed any.

Source: Adapted from Pixabay

Now, I am not sure about other bazaars as we have only been to one thus far but I was quite certain that there were no greeting cards being sold at the bazaar that we were at. In fact, I was not even looking for it as I had not planned to send one nor have I sent out a Deepavali greeting card in years. It took me a while to recall when I last gave someone or mailed out a physical Deepavali card. I think it was some time in the 00s, that I gave or posted a Deepavali greeting card.

That’s when it struck me, how technology has in some ways, changed the way we celebrate festivals with our loved ones and friends. At the turn of the century, with increasing access to the internet and emails, greeting cards were slowly replaced by electronic cards or better known as e-cards. E-cards, made up of a mix of colourful texts and images to short animated clips, conveyed the same greetings, albeit electronically, replacing the need for physical greeting cards. Sending e-cards was also faster and cost almost close to nothing.

Source: Pixabay

This expanded further to the usage of MMS as a form of greeting during festive season. Then, as the usage of smart phone and with it, messengers like Whatsapp, became widespread, usage of e-cards themselves dwindled. They made way for even more creative messages, sent out via messengers in the form of text, images or even short animations. These could easily be edited with personal messages or simply be reused and sent out immediately to others in the contact list. These messages can be sent out in an instant, to a large number of people, all within a few clicks and best of all, from the comfort of one’s own home instead of a trip to the post office.

With lesser greeting cards being sent around one other aspect of the festivities also changed. Back in the days of the physical greeting cards, it was quite common for the cards themselves to be part of the festive decorations. The colourful physical cards of all sorts of design, would be placed on the tables and adorn the walls during the festive season. These days, there are less or zero cards being used as decorations. Besides, I don’t recall seeing anyone having printed versions of MMS, e-cards or messages from messengers, used as festive decorations, at least.

Source: Pixabay

Technology, to an extent has changed the way we celebrate and share the festive joy with our loved ones and friends. It has made it easier and faster, to send greetings and wishes to others during the festive season. It has even saved us the embarrassing realisation of not having sent out a card to someone who took the trouble to buy, write and send out a greeting card to us. Besides, it may have helped us in some ways, to be environmentally friendly during the festive season.

As my wife and I drove back after our visit to the bazaar, I wondered how much more would technology change the way we celebrate festivals. With online shopping and the availability of everything and anything on it, I did wonder if festive bazaars like the one that I just left, would survive in the current form or change in any way to be relevant with the current times. In case you are wondering, our plan of a reconnaissance only trip to the Deepavali bazaar, it failed miserably. I suppose one can’t do “window” shopping at a bazaar, among stalls that lacked windows. No, the change in plan was not affected by technology. It was simply a battle than the mind lost, over matter.

P.S.: The image of the vilakku was sourced from Pixabay.

P.P.S.: Yes, I am hoping to post more regularly, instead of one every few months. Hope that the next one will be up around Deepavali.

Great friends and wonderful memories

Image sourced from Pixabay

17th of May 1998, is a date etched in my memory, for life. It happens to be the day I stepped foot in the hallowed grounds of University of Malaya. On that day, I started off on a journey of three years, marking a colourful new chapter in my life. It brought me the qualification that I needed, to secure my first job, upon graduation. More importantly, I was acquainted with interesting and wonderful people, both at the residential college that I stayed at and the faculty that I studied at.

Today’s story is about a motley crew of people that I had the pleasure to study and mature with at the university. They came in all shapes and sizes, some of which has grown with time. This diverse bunch of people that I am proud to call friends, shaped a huge part of my life in those three years. Since that day twenty years ago, they have been an important and cherished presence in my life and that of my wife. Thanks to Whatsapp, it feels as if I “meet” them everyday, just as if we were still bantering at the “foyer” of the faculty, a space that we made “home” during our time there.

Image sourced from Pexel

It wasn’t always like this in the beginning. For a start, this diverse group of people hailed from various parts of Malaysia, from the northern town of Kulim to the southern city of Johore Bahru and places in between like Ipoh, Sunway, Klang and Kuala Lumpur. There wasn’t much that all of us had in common, or so we thought. Some of us did have the benefit of knowing each other from back in school but that just meant we stayed together with those that we already knew well enough.

So, in the beginning, it was simply just “Hi”, “Bye” and perhaps nervous smiles among us. It then progressed to, “Can I borrow that?”, “Have you done this?”, “Can you help me with that?” and such. The faculty-wide orientation activities that were ongoing may have played a role towards this progress. Anyway, from there on, it morphed into having tea-breaks and lunch and then on to dinner as well as supper together. With God’s grace, we did not look back since then.

Image source from Pexels

As engineering students, the numerous assignments and lab reports meant that there was a lot of cooperation among us, ensuring that we completed and submitted them on time. When faced with difficult questions, some would try sourcing for solutions from elsewhere while others worked at solving it. In the end, a few of us would put our heads together and solve the problem based on all the information that we had. We would then ensure that the everyone else were on the same page as us.

There were also the late nights when we bunkered down in someone’s room, printing pages and pages of reports for each other. Then there were the visits to lecturers’ rooms, to slip in under the door, just-completed assignments before the lecturer arrived for the day, therefore submitting assignments on time.

Image sourced from Pexels

Back in an era before Uber or Grab, we already had our own fleet of bikers within the group. Between them, we were assured of safe and timely passage to and fro from the faculty or somewhere nearby when needed. There was also that little “Baasha Van” (named after the movie Baasha) which was able to load just about anyone and everyone and the occasional Proton Saga.

We also had the penchant towards eating. Come to think about it, who doesn’t? Anyway, we had our own Food Panda service back then. Someone was usually available to go out and pack meals for the hungry ones. Somewhere along the way we uncovered the affordable yet delicious, slices of marble cake at the nearby 7-Eleven and nasi briyani at a little mamak stall within a Chinese coffee shop.

Image sourced from Pexels

We discovered the joys of SMS together. Yes, it was an era, where there was neither Whatsapp nor smart phone. When Digi initially introduced SMS as a free service, it was all the rage as we sent messages back and forth. I still remember one of my friends coming in late one night into my room and sharing with me and my roommate the magic of SMS. Besides SMS, time not spent studying or eating would be spent with “Snake” on someone’s Nokia. More than getting a high score, it was all about breaking the existing record on somebody’s phone.

We also used codes to communicate with each other with the mobile phone, to keep costs at zero. No, we didn’t use Morse code. It was based on missed calls, though I can’t recall if it was the number of rings before the caller hung up or the number of missed calls itself. Suffice to say, there was a code to say, “I am on my way.”, “I am already here.” and much more. There was also the interesting case of 37 or so missed calls, in a futile attempt to wake up someone who was fast asleep.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Listening to music together while studying was something almost all of us enjoyed. As this was during an era where neither Spotify nor smartphone existed, we achieved it with the Walkman. I do recall that at the very beginning we did listen to music with a radio under a huge tree but that didn’t last long. Anyway, since some of us didn’t own a Walkman, we shared the earpiece or took turns listening to music as we studied. Sometimes though, we didn’t need access to a Walkman, as one or more of the ladies sang out aloud.

Besides that, there was also a lot of treasure hunting. There were the times when we would go high and low around the faculty looking for someone’s misplaced motorcycle keys, only to eventually find it embedded safely within the helmet or the ignition of the motorcycle.

Image sourced from Pixabay

Then of course, there were the exams. Afterall, that was the reason we went into the university, to graduate with a degree and gain employment succesfully thereafter. That meant exams had to be passed. So study hard we did, during an intense period of just days before the exam. Oh, we planned it quite well alright, from what, where and when we were going to study to when we were going to break for meals or sleep.

These pre-exam study sessions held many fond memories. One that stands out was the  unique way that each of us studied, such as the one who studied while walking around the “foyer” area in an elliptic manner, akin to how planets orbited around the sun. Then there were the numerous times we would all walk single file to the exam halls in the morning after studying through the night, only to repeat the cycle for the next paper, on the next day. There was also the interesting incident, where one opted to go back early in the morning to sleep but ended up coming in late for the exam because her dear roommate unknowingly turned off the alarm.

Image sourced from Pexels

Through it all, this disparate group of people shared both happy and sad moments together. There was always someone around to cheer and lift up the spirits of the other. There was always someone around to speak to, about our troubles. There was always someone around to provide sage yet timely advise. We even had someone who could provide us with basic medical advice or helped get us that advice when it was needed.

There was always someone around in the “foyer” to talk to or simply sit down with. There was always a shoulder to cry on. There was always support when one was needed. In short, we helped each other out through the trials and tribulations of not just studying but also through the journey from teenagers to adults. We had our disagreements, arguments and crises but these were eventually navigated gracefully and patiently.

Image sourced from Pexels

As we graduated, we agreed to keep in touch and meet up often. We did go on annual holidays together and met up as often as it was possible. However, as work commitment crept in, as some moved away for work, as some married and started their own families, as some went away to live overseas, the frequency of holidays and meet-ups dropped. Yet, through it all, we managed to stay together and be there for each other. Weddings, birthdays, birth of a child and the passing away of loved ones, just to name a few.

The events that brought kept together in those three years, kept us together through time. The shared memories and experiences held us in good stead through the years. With Whatsapp, we have managed to stay in touch more frequently and be together  through the day and even night, regardless of where we were. I am truly blessed and grateful to God, for having set me, down that path on 17th of May 1998, where I met this motley crew of people, who even today are an important part of my life.

Pongal Oh Pongal


Happy Pongal to all my dear visitors of Duasenku who are celebrating Thai Pongal and as for those of you who aren’t, well, have a great and blessed day.

For those of you wondering what Thai Ponggal is, it is a thanks giving festival celebrated by Tamils around the world. I can’t think of a simpler way of describing it than to share the following, which is part of a “Happy Pongal” message forwarded to me on WhatsApp by a relative of mine. As I don’t know who initially penned or more accurately typed this message, I shall leave the source as “Anonymous via WhatsApp”.

Happy Thai Ponngal to all Tamils, wherever you may be celebrating. Thai Ponggal may have its origins as thanks giving by the farmers of South India. Every farming community of this world had and still have their own versions of thanks giving. The most commonly recognised being the North American Thanks Giving. The Koreans celebrate Chuseok, the Japanese version is Tsukimi, Gawai in Sarawak, Sukkot by the Jews and the list goes on.The central purpose of these festivals, whatever they might be called was to say thank you for the good and bountiful yield. This central theme is not lost even in this modern era. We may not be an agrarian society anymore. But we are still bestowed with plenty. We are surrounded by loving family and friends. We are free from major health issues. We have not missed three meals a day. The list could go on. We are thankful for all these. Thai Ponggal and all other such festival is a good opportunity for us to thank everyone who had touched us in our life in the past year.
Pongal-oh-ponggal” – Source: Anonymous via WhatsApp

Thai Pongal, falls on the first day of the month of Thai according to the Tamil calendar, which more or less falls on the 14th of January (on some occassions it has fallen a day or two earlier or later than the 14th of Januar). On this day, at the break of dawn just before sunrise or during any of the auspicious period of time throughout the day, we would start off by boiling milk in a pot.

20180114_074045Traditionally, this was done on a stove fueled by wood or coal, with gas stoves being increasingly in use for this purpose due to the practicality of doing it in high-rises or in the city. Again, traditionally, the pot used to boil the milk would be an earthen pot but these days we also use pots made out metal or more accurately, stainless steel.



Anyway, going back to the boiling pot of milk on the stove, someone would stand guard and monitor the boiling pot of milk, ensuring that the stove, if it is coal or wood powered, has sufficient fuel to successfully boil the milk in the pot. As the milk is almost at the boiling point, we would all be summoned by the guardian of the pot of milk, to gather around it, at a safe distance of course. When the milk eventually boils over, out of the pot, everyone present would shout out in joy, “Pongal Oh Pongal”.


Once the euphoria of the milk boiling over comes done, we would put rice into the pot. The rice will be cooked in the boiled milk, with brown sugar, raisins, cashew nuts and some spices for additional taste. Once cooked, the result would be sweet rice, which in Tamil is called Pongal. A portion of the Pongal, is first served to God as an offering of gratitude for the bountiful harvset, before the Pongal is served out to all those present. Interestingly, in Tamil, the word Pongal also means boil.

Now, I would love to talk more about Thai Pongal but I got to go back for another serving of Pongal before it runs out. Otherwise, I would have to wait another year for more. So, if you are interested to know more about this festival, a good place to start would be Wikipedia[1] or a simple search on Google for “Thai Pongal”. Till my next post, have a great day.


1. I was just kidding about having to wait for another year for more Pongal. One can always get it after prayers at most Hindu temples on most if not all festive days.

2. The featured image is an image sourced from Wikipedia courtesy of Thiagupillai.

3. All images in this post (except for that mentioned in 2 above) are courtesy of