18th January Pongal feast of Hussain Bhai at Al Majmaah, Saudi Arabia
Long before the arrival of the COVID-19 & social distancing happened outside China, this took place in the days when back home witnessed nationwide protest on the newly introduced act, Citizenship amendment act.
It was around twenty-five years before Sayed Hussian came to Saudi Arabia in search of Job as a mechanic. Finally, his destiny took him to Al-Majmmah, an oasis town located two hundred kilometers North-West of Saudi capital city, Riyadh. Hailed from Pudukkottai, aka Pudhugai (coastal district of Tamil Nadu in India), he work here as a supervisor of the automobile service center.
In the early days, Hussian & his family members missed Tamil culture & festivities. Pongal, a three days harvest festival of Tamils is one of the foremost that has been celebrated all across the globe among the Tamil diaspora. The name itself is derived from the ritual sweet dish prepared on this day with boiled rice, milk & jaggery.
Though it’s a Hindu festival, for Hussian bhai, it’s an integral part of his culture. From the early days, he arranged a feast for his friends among Indian expatriates on the last day of the festival. In the previous ten years, the working city of Hussain also witnessed substantial growth with the establishment of a University. Many multi-ethnic professionals that included doctors, engineers, & doctorates from diverse specialties from different countries joined University. The representation of the South India community was also increased. By the time, the size of Hussain Bhai home arranged Pongal feast also swelled. On 18th January, this year also a feast was arranged by him. The guest belonged to the diverse faith & regions of India. You can find a North Indian, & South Indian guests coming from the diverse regions & religions (Muslims & Hindus). This was the diverse mosaic sitting on the oriental dining sheet (Dastarkhwan) spread inside the Arabic style Khyma (tent).
In a traditional south Indian attire, the host was attired in a white shirt & white lungi. The Banana leaves were not available far away from their country, but thanks to the cosmetic Banana shaped leaves that were used for serving the food. The guests were served with Rasam, Sambar, & traditional dessert “Pongal.” The Hussain’s story is the strength, solace, harmony that existed in the deep roots of Indian culture. It is the strength of this syncretic culture that always stood over the work done by the hate mongers to divide the social fabric on the lines of caste, creed, gender & religion.
Documenting heritage, culture & food.