Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published March 25th 2014
Chat and Curry
They say you learn something new every day. Last Monday I learnt about a whole new culture - or rather a very very old culture. I had never heard of Tamil until I saw the Tamil Ladies Social Club advertised at South Mitcham Community Centre, and the other day I was asked by one of the members to come and take photos because it was someone's ninetieth birthday.
I decided to read up on the Tamil people before going, and learnt about a fascinating culture. Although they have no existing nation of their own, there are seventy-seven million speakers of this ancient language Tamil people spread across the glob, making it the largest stateless nation in the world.
The people originate from a region in India called Tamil Nadu, and have three ancient empires dating from 600 – 1300 CE. These were called Chera, Chola, and Pandya. From the fourteenth century onwards, invasions brought diaspora. Today the three countries most heavily populated are India, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia. After that, the UK comes fourth, with about a population of three hundred thousand. This is mainly due to India having been part of the British Empire.
As a multicultural area, Mitcham is home to many Tamils, which is why they organised a social group at their local community centre. The group meets up every Monday between 10am - 1pm to cook, exercise, socialise, and share lunch.
Although there are no age restrictions, most of the ladies are over sixty. Their oldest member has just turned ninety, and although they were hoping to celebrate her birthday last Monday, she unfortunately wasn't feeling well on the day.
The cooking is done by students from Lambeth College, who as part of their course are required to do ten weeks volunteer work. That means every few months, they meet a new group of students who get trained to cook the meals by one of the Tamil members. On the day I went, the health inspector was there, and they passed with flying colours. After asking if there was anything they could improve upon, the health inspector said 'no'.
The volunteers start preparations at ten o'clock, and at 10:30am, members start arriving for an hour's exercise class called Get Up and Go for the Over 55s. People who are not members of the social club, but go to the exercise class, can pop in, say hello, and buy some of their food. The smell of curry emanating through hall is very tempting, and last week my Mum brought home some spicy savoury pancakes that were very morish.
At half eleven, they all gather in the dining room to chat and say prayers. Then at around twelve, food starts to be served. The ladies kindly invited me to join them, and although I politely declined, I must say, once I saw all the food on table, I was reconsidering.
In a few weeks time, there will be another birthday to celebrate, and I have been asked to go back to take more pics. Hopefully everyone will be in the best of health, and can enjoy a morning of social chit chat.
If you are part of the Tamil culture, and have yet to join, then just popover on Monday morning. It is completely free, and they would be happy to have you. If you are not Tamil, pop in anyway, and buy some tasty food.