Period.

It’s so interesting that I come from a cultural group that celebrates a woman starting her period, through a ‘puberty ceremony’. Men and women in the girl’s family come together for this celebration, with no form of shyness, embarrassment or awkwardness.

Nonetheless, why is it that the generation in our culture which so religiously celebrates starting a menstrual period, then feels shy and embarrassed to talk about it after. There are many men, especially in my parents generation, who feel awkward and shy to talk about it, yet spend ounces of money on a puberty ceremony which serves no purpose whatsoever than to show off one’s financial status (especially in this modern-western civilization). How many of those fathers, brothers and uncles then openly talk to their daughters about her once monthly period? I have not yet seen it.

Did you know that in Tamil, the most civilized way to say that I’m on my period is this: ‘sugam illai’ which directly translates as ‘I’m not well’. Are you joking me?! Being on my menstrual period does not mean ‘I am not well’. The woman’s body goes through this process naturally. Why is it then so stigmatized/medicalised?

I am fully aware that we cannot change the ideals, values or behaviours of those in the generation above me, in my tamil community…sadly it is too late. I just hope both men and women alike can openly talk about a period in my generation and the generations to come. We need to socially and culturally normalize a normal biological function, rather than masking it in all our non-sense values. Period.

Advertisements

Western Thirumanam Song Selections

Hey all,

Hope you are well.

I am just about recovering from being quite ill for the past few days, but I have not forgotten the promise I made you all.

Many praised my track selections for the Western Thirumanam fashion show, for which I choreographed. I promised to give you the list of the tracks so here goes. All the tracks (a couple of which were selected by the Western Thirumanam team) are in no particular order. I have attached the youtube links as well.

Hope you find it useful.

• VGo Silsila Yeh Chahat – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvocbGud808
• Kadhal Yogi – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_wqHsSIyKg
• VGo Albela Sajan – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoA56k2k1Wo
• Yevvana – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bt8V7WlJnHg
• GrooveDEV Chaiya Chaiya – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWrQD8Tf4ZA
• Dr Srimix Mere Samne Yaarumilla – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xqj6ri9Ll0Q
• VGo Aayat – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxm439etfDk
• Shadow Entertainment Mudhalvane – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Csay8HzFk9I
• Dr Srimix Ancient Indian Summer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9R8zIbgnAw
• Mental Manathil (female) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nx_OQUkjsHM
• Uyire – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dE5SLY5tKEc
• Kaal Mulaitha Poove – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcdbM-lgTOs
• Dr Srimix All the way up – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wq0DtYDg_c
• Sketch Theme (Promo) song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiMUX8_Qbks
• Pothai Nirathai Thaa – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMxTPmNaFqM
• Zack Knight Bom Diggy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEgTtQFMjWw
• Lovely – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HT7g_9eNnYk
• VGo En Veetu Broccoli – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H65nitaREbY
• Vidya Vox Tamil Born Killa – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prpFIbl2ZQo
• Ladio – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrZ0rZjtm-4
• Anbil Avan – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5uSwo-gwok
• Ammaye Sannaga – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHGISypQnYQ
• Benny Dayal Tamil Fever – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVYQOW2CIDw
• Bairavaa BGM – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5BuFUIohHM

Enjoy listening and dancing away folks!!

Medical School, Dance and everything else

‘Praveena, how do you manage Medical school, dance, blogging and everything else you do?!’

I am not going to give you the cliched ‘Time management’, ‘organisation’, ‘commitment’ talk. That is given in life regardless of what you want to pursue.

I am going to tell you how much I struggled. Honestly it was tough. Society prefers me to do one or the other, but not everything. This is because society does not believe that I can do all of it well.

I wanted to prove society wrong. I think it is completely okay to have a passion for multiple things. I think it is also okay to pursue it simultaneously with the right mindset.

Being a medical student (now doctor!), dancer/choreographer, having a small wedding choreo business and blogging sounds glamorous but it involved a lot of sacrifices at different stages of my life.

To pursue my medical studies, there were moments in my life that I had to stop dancing. To pursue dancing, there were moments when I had to put dance over medicine. When I wanted to establish my business, I had to sacrifice my health and well being and travel more between cities (driving two hours from Birmingham to London and back doesn’t sound as strenuous but imagine doing that nearly every weekend for the past year!). To blog, I had to invest so much more time into reading.

To pursue it all at the same time, I had to sacrifice my social life big time…and I still do. I couldn’t go out as much because I would have to be awake early the next day to drive back to London/Birmingham. I stopped watching TV shows for a whole year, because I genuinely did not have the time. The big reminder is, this is the CHOICE I made. Others may not be like that and that’s completely fine. Just remember to make a choice that is true to what you want.

During each stage of this process there were failures and disappointments I experienced. As a result I was constantly being judged for my choices. By several people, but I put that all to the side because I knew exactly what I was doing. It may have not been the way others may have done it, but that’s okay because I am slowly getting through it.

Sometimes the balance has tipped and I have made mistakes. It was not all as smooth as it looks. My health, my education, my dance career, business, blogging have all suffered at some point or another. Nonetheless, finding the drive to get through and find the light at the end of the tunnel was key.

Moral of the story – be ready to sacrifice. Be ready to commit. Be ready for criticism. Make the choices to pursue what you love. You do not need anyone’s permission except your own to do good. So just do it!

The journey has only just begun. Being a student did make it a lot easier to pursue everything I wanted to and establish a strong foundation for my passions. I will start working in a month and a half. Therefore, work life is going to present to me a whole new set of challenges, so I do not know what is going to happen and how difficult it is going be. That’s the perks of life though right…ready to take on the next set of challenges to further establish my profession, passion and everything else.

How I deal with my mistakes and failures

I took part at The Bhangra Showdown 2018 on Saturday 3rd February 2018, which took place at the Genting Arena, NEC, in Birmingham. This explains why I have been so quiet on all social media platforms; having to balance studies and full time Bhangra training is extremely tough.

Now those who follow me closely, will be probably remember that Kings of Gaana 2017 was meant to be my last official university dance competition. This is partly right. I was very much done with the university dance competitions. However, over the Christmas holidays, I got a phone call from my ex-jodi/captain who explained to me how they have had one female dancer dropout and would love to have me join the team from mid-January onwards. Something made me say yes straightaway. I have always known how strenuous Bhangra training is, yet I do love it so I said yes.

I had around 2 weeks to learn the routine, formations and get my stamina up to a performance level. Challenge accepted.

Some may be thinking, why would I go into the Bhangra competition scene again after having such a successful year in 2017 at The Bhangra Showdown. Well, my success should not be measured by my achievements. Instead my success should be measured by my journey and experiences, which ultimately contribute to my growth. I did not want my ego to take over. Every year I do Bhangra, I learn something new technically or culturally. Why would I want to stop that process of learning merely because of two trophies myself and the team received last year?

Looking back at the past 2 weeks, they have been the most stimulating, challenging and demanding two weeks, physically and mentally. However, I could not have asked for a better opportunity to grow, learn about myself and meet genuine life-long friends.

Our university has had an extremely successful year for the past 6/7 years – either placing 1st or 2nd. This year was definitely not one of them. We did not win, but most upsetting was that we did not even place. Our team not placing did not hurt me as much to be honest, because I always tell myself everything happens for a reason. However, what was bugging me for some time was whether I was responsible for it. The captain, co-captain and I were responsible for setting up markers on stage for the performance. Long story short, we messed up. The stage dimensions we had set up were a lot bigger than those that we had practiced on. This meant that throughout the performance we were travelling a lot further across stage which ultimately had a knock on effect on our energy levels.

The old me would have cried and sulked about this and I would have held myself responsible for the rest of my life. Such a way of dealing with mistakes and failure is not the right way at all.

I am now wiser. Therefore, my approach to this situation was a whole lot different. I told myself the following:

• These things happen on stage and it is unavoidable. I tried my best there and then to rectify the situation to the best of my ability.

• I am a performer, the number of competitions and performances I have done; the number of mistakes I have made – none of this stopped me from recognising my potential as a dancer, so why should this isolated situation do that?

• We practiced stage set-up numerous times and nothing of the sort happened before, so it happening on the night of our performance was just a bit of a shock to the system but it made me realise that this is what performing is all about.

• The reality of performing really hit me. Therefore, next time I do perform I will make sure to fight back stronger and trust me any mistakes I have made will never happen again. This is a promise I make to myself.

• The mistake, our failure as a team, does not make me or my team bad dancers at all. In fact, looking back at how much this team has gone through, I do not think the UK has seen an emotionally or physically stronger team before, and trust me on that because it is my 7th university dance competition team I have been part of.

What have a learnt about myself?

1. I have grown mentally and physically. My perspective of my mistakes and failures is more positive. I see the opportunity and potential for growth in each of these events. This is an ultimate reflection of my spiritual growth. I love it, and I feel so much more awakened.

2. People may be judging me – ‘Praveena is a perfectionist and performer, so how could she make such mistakes?’ Well, believe it or not folks, I am human which means I am allowed to make mistakes as any other human is. I have no need to judge myself based on others’ judgments. I used to be a perfectionist, but I realised that perfectionism is not good for my well-being and it restricted me from opening my mind to the realities of life.

3. My mistakes do not define me. How I deal with and grow from my mistakes is what defines me. I promise myself that I will not make, or let anyone make such a mistake like this ever again.

4. I have the mental and physical strength to learnt strenuous routines in such a short space of time. I never thought I could get on stage with very little training time, but I realised that I actually could – this achievement is more precious to me than any win, trophy or accolade.

I am a strong human being. The competition is done now, so I can fully focus on dedicating my passion for dance to myself, all of you and most importantly to God.

What does marriage mean for me?

I have written a lot about marriage and the certain rituals of a Tamil Hindu Wedding which I have found very interesting.

This piece however was inspired by when I was sat waiting for the lecturer to begin the lecture. A girl in our year walked in; she got engaged over summer and I was extremely happy for her. I have spoken to her a few times, but do not know much about her otherwise. Basically a random girl is getting married soon and I am happy for her. Sounds like the very emotional me indeed!

I was sat in the lecture theatre for the next few minutes thinking hard about marriage and what it means for me. So yes, with minutes to spare for the lecture to begin, I started writing what you are reading right now.

I have seen and taken an active part in several weddings over the past few years; I have been a bridesmaid a few times as well. I have then had the pleasure to see how that marriage has progressed from starting off a grand wedding ceremony, to a real epitome of love. And so I begin…this is what marriage means for me:

1) Marriage should come out of real love and not convenience. What do I mean by this? Well I have come across several ‘marriages’ which have had to happen because of what society is apparently making of two individuals in a relationship. Families of the couple believe that it is ‘safer’ to get their children married off to avoid people talking badly about them.

We are living in the 21st century for heaven’s sake! If one is happily accepting and bragging about 21st century fashion and technology, why then can one not change their basic ideals of relationships and marriage?

2) I believe in myself a lot. I know myself very well as well. I am not going to get married for convenience. I am not going to get married just because I am a girl and apparently girls need to get married sooner. I am not going to get married to prove to anyone anything.

I am going to get married when I am ready – emotionally and financially – I am not saying that that will ever be the case to be honest, but I have vision about where I want to be in life before I even think about marriage and that is what I mean. So for all those aunties and uncles who keep asking me, when am I going to get married, here is your answer: NOT ANYTIME SOON (which means not for the next 3-4 years at least – unless some miracle happens in my life and I have gained all the stability I need), so please do not ask me anymore. Thanks.

3) I believe that marriages involve two families. I do not believe in running away from family to get married. That is absolutely cheap and totally crap! One has to earn to show respect to them first. It may take some time to convince parents but (now the soppy stuff is going to start), if there is real love then I’m sure it will be worth fighting for! (Meh, so emotionally soppy I cannot even deal with how it came out of my mouth but hey-ho it did).

Do not be a coward and hurt those who raised you. Be a fighter and stand up for what you believe in. If it is the right thing for you, it will work out perfectly…eventually.

Ultimately, marriage is a symbol of love, respect, trust and the ambition to work together and establish a life together – job, money, house, stability before marriage (there are so many perks to working your boyfriend/girlfriend/fiancé/spouse to create a life together than to just settle in with someone who has everything that the other has financially dreamt of – I guess it is a matter of opinion and intention so I shall leave it at that). If that means a girl is going to be a few years older than what society deems the acceptable age for a girl to get married – well sorry, I do me! I will wait and no one has any rights to question it, (except my parents – but I know they wouldn’t ask!).

‘You are so pretty, you can become an actress’

Recently on Instagram, whilst I was browsing through my explore page, I came across a beautiful picture of a girl. Honestly, she was breath-taking and in my opinion drop dead gorgeous. What, however, concerned me massively and drove me to write this blog was one of the comments which were left on this photo – ‘you can become an actress’. For you information, the girl in the picture is not an actress and has no background in the field of drama.

I do not have much experience in the field of drama however I did complete a GCSE in Drama, and of the 13 GCSEs I sat, Drama was the one which challenged me the most. My two assessed pieces tested me in different ways. One was a play in which I had to play a 30 year old who was playing an 8 year old; basically it was a play within a play, so I had two folds of characterisations that I had to master. The second was where I had to play a teenage girl with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and how this condition escalated to psychosis which ultimately tipped her off the edge.

In addition to my own drama experience, one of my friends is a final year drama student at university and her aim is to eventually become a professional actress. I thought it would be useful for you to see how much it takes to build an acting career, whether it be part-time or full-time. She described to me how competitive the industry is and her plans for the next few years is to go to a drama school or do a Masters in Acting or get an internship somewhere, but go to acting classes on the side to hone her acting skills. She is not even sure whether she will definitely get into drama school, and on top of that she needs to get signed by an agency. It is then through her agent that she can get actual auditions and castings. This is just a summary of what she needs to achieve in the next few years in order to get one step closer to becoming an actress.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well because acting is extremely hard. Calling oneself an actor/actress is not something which happens overnight, it happens with years of training and hard work, just as with any performance art like dance or music.

Now if I talk more specifically about the South Asian film Industry, acting has become so much about girls in particular being eye-candy. This explains why the general public are also of the opinion that the Indian film industry requires good looks more than good acting skills. I personally feel it is absolutely disgusting that women are objectified to such an extent.

There are so many people at fault for the state of the Indian Film Industry, and I am not here to discuss these wider issues. All I want to say is that it is such a shame that so many individuals in westernised cultures are also falling victim to this objectification of actors and actresses (more so actresses of course).

I wanted to leave every girl and guy who aspires to be an actress or actor with one challenge. The day you strip of all your make up and style, and convince an audience that you can play characters ranging from 8 year olds all the way to 80 year olds, is when you really start showcasing your potential to act. 80% of your ability to pull off a character comes from your ability to act. The remaining 20% comes from additional factors such as: make-up, lighting, set design, camera angles, etc.

Next time you call yourself an actress or actor, really think about whether you are an actress/actor or whether you just have a passion for acting. They are two very different things!

Oh and for the general public, because I think we are all responsible for the state of the Indian film industry objectifying people, we need to stop falling victim to such daft mind-sets which are infecting the generations to come and their perception of an acting career, which I highly respect if done correctly.

Grindstone and Toe Rings – Tamil Hindu Weddings

The more I read about Tamil Hindu weddings, the more I want to read.

Such a drive is furthered by ardent readers of my blog who open up very interesting discussions after having read my posts.

One which really inspired me to write this piece was based on a discussion I had with one of my readers after they had read my ‘Time to Tie the Knot’ blog post, for which I collaborated with London’s Western Jewellers.

The question which they had posed to me was what my knowledge and understanding was of the Ammi Mithithal tradition in Tamil Hindu Weddings. My mum educated me briefly about this over the past few years but this was a mere starting point. I decided to do more reading around the area. The reason for being so keen is because I want to know the significance of it. This is part of my culture and religion, and so I should be willing to learn about it rather than just follow the instructions the priest gives me on the day of wedding (which still remains a myth in my life right now for those inquisitive ones amongst you all!).

What does Ammi Mithithal mean?

This quite literally means placing one’s foot on a grindstone. In a Tamil Hindu wedding ceremony, this takes place during the Saptapathi ritual, where the bride and groom take seven steps around the Agni (central fire) where each step denotes a promise made by both the bride and groom – Sapthapathi will be explored in further depth in my future blogs!

What does Ammi Mithithal involve?

After taking their steps around Agni, the couple reach the grindstone. The groom holds the bride’s right big toe and helps her tread and place her right foot on the grindstone. As the bride mounts the stone, it symbolises how she and the marriage should be rock firm, and undisturbed by difficulties of life.

Interestingly, this particular ritual symbolises numerous other things including the fact that by touching the bride’s feet, the groom acts with more humility and respect for his bride. This I found particularly interesting because many are always made to believe that Tamil Hindu weddings are centred around and dominated by the groom when it comes to the symbolisms. This ritual connotes the complete opposite. It actually shows how women are just as righteous as men in marriage, as is always depicted in the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi.

Straight after the bride mounts the Ammi, a Metti (toe ring), is presented on both her second toes; this is the only visible jewellery worn by the bride after marriage which denotes she is married. (If you followed my previous blog about the Thali, you would remember that the Thali should actually be hidden underneath the woman’s clothing!).

These Mettis are made of silver and not gold, because of the significance gold holds in the Tamil culture and Hindu religion. Therefore there is a common practice that gold should not be worn as a form of accessory for anything below the waist. However, traditions are changing with more gold and diamond based Mettis coming to the fore.

My mum and I have numerous conversations about wedding rituals and the significance behind each stage of the Tamil Hindu Wedding ceremony. Interestingly she told me that historically men were the ones to wore the Metti post-marriage. This was because in ancient society, people walked bare feet and women were supposed to look down and walk, hence when she saw a man’s feet adorned with a Metti per foot, she would know straightaway that he was married. Do you not think it is interesting how things have changed so much now!?

Traditions are continuously changing and who knows what the Tamil Hindu Wedding rituals will look like 100 years down the line? All I know for now is that understanding what we practice and doing so properly is where the real joy and culture lies.

I started off this blog educating myself and hopefully all of you. I will continue doing so because there is no end point to educating oneself about one’s own culture, religion and traditions…so keep supporting folks!

Music has no language

Those who know me will be aware that I am a massive fan of Indian music, whether it be Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam, or Punjabi, to name a few. Those who know me very well will know that AR Rahman is my favourite music director to date.

I was born in a decade when AR Rahman’s music was (and still is to be honest) reigning the Indian music charts – I was born in 1993, if anyone was curious.

Growing up as a toddler listening to songs from Duet, Jeans, Love Birds and Muthu for example, had a massive influence on shaping my taste in music. Growing up being exposed to multiple cultures and languages at school, and appreciating AR Rahman’s top notch work regardless of which state or country he produced for, made me appreciate music from different cultures that much more.

I am saying all of this because the AR Rahman concert which happened in July, in London, caused a lot of tension amongst the audience, and especially the non-Tamil audience, because apparently not enough Hindi songs were played. I was not present at the concert in July because of other commitments, so I am just stating what I heard and saw across social media.

What I wanted to discuss in this blog, however, was the fact that recently AR Rahman announced the dates for his concert in Canada in October. What I found shocking was that he will be hosting two separate concerts, one for Hindi music and another for Hindi music.

We can take this positively. AR Rahman has created so much music in both languages and it can be difficult to cover the best of both in one concert; so this separation might be good. However I see more issues than positives here.
Before you start thinking why I am writing about this, I realised there being an issue when I saw the responses on social media in response to this announcement of two concerts.

The one quality about AR Rahman is that he has been able to create music and touch the hearts of several cultural groups. To have all those cultural groups under one roof in the name of music is what music should be about. Creating a divide between Tamil and Hindi music puts several people in limbo: what about Tamils who enjoy his Hindi music and want to hear that, or vice versa? What about people from other cultural groups who love AR Rahman for both his Tamil and Hindi music and wanted to hear both (and seriously what are the chances that such individuals will buy tickets for both days)? Basically, by getting such individuals to choose between Tamil and Hindi, more of a rift is being created. Is this something that real music-lovers would want?

No one knows the reasons behind why such a decision was taken. If in the slightest, however, AR Rahman’s Netru Indru Naalai concert in London had a role to play in this separation, then we all should be worried. Why? Because we should be working towards breaking down cultural boundaries and inter-cultural barriers. Just when I thought we were taking a step in the right direction, we are taking two steps backwards.

Time To Tie The Knot

Please do not get shocked. I am not getting married and will not be getting married anytime soon! However I am a Tamil girl, which means that in the future I am bound to get married.

Over the past three to four years I have been involved in the wedding industry. Initially I started off helping out with wedding exhibitions and fashion shows but now, as most of you know, I have started my own venture into establishing Wedding Choreography as an entity of its own, combining my passion for dance with that of my love for weddings!

As I have been working with couples and families with regards to their weddings’ or their relatives’ weddings, I have become deeply involved and more interested in the traditions which lie embedded in these weddings. One which is key for all Tamil weddings is the tying of the sacred Thali (described below).

I wanted to find out more about the Thali and its importance. I think knowledge is vital; it may not be useful for the here and now, but one day it will prove to be our biggest weapon and for that reason I let my inquisitive mind wonder. This led to me contacting one of the most popular and one of my favourite Tamil jewellers in London, Western Jewellers – I say favourite because ever since I became aware of the world, they have been the go-to place for my family. Additionally, what inspired me to write this and contact Western Jewellers in particular was the fact that I saw their work online and was stunned by the creative and stunning work in the realm of Thalis. With over 20 years of experience in the field of gold jewellery and Thalis, who else could I have asked to educate me about it. What I revered greatly was how cultural and traditional ideals were always core to their unique pieces.

Therefore, I decided to pose a series of questions to Western Jewellers about the Thali and their experiences of making them. I have learnt so much and I hope you will find this just as educational as I have done.

(For your information, I was not paid by anyone to write this piece. I have done it of my own accord because I love my Tamil culture and tradition; I wanted to know more about it and wanted to be involved in writing something which would educate and inform others as well).

What is a Thali and what is its significance?

“A Thali is a spiritual ornament for marriage that marks love, respect and dignity. It is a bridal pendent presented to the wife by her husband during an auspicious time on their wedding day. Every Thali needs a Kodi, which is woven gold thread that holds the Thali. Together, the ‘Thali Kodi’ makes an auspicious gold thread which holds religious symbolism in Hindu and Christian culture.”

What are the different types of Thali? What do each of these types represent?

“There are numerous types of Thalis available for various communities however the most common Thalis we make are the Kombu, Amman and Christian Thalis.

“The Kombu Thali is made when the Bride and Groom’s astrological charts match. If you notice carefully the Kombu Thali is in the shape of the groom himself. For this reason, during the Ponurukkal (an occasion when the gold used to make the Thali is melted), the groom will be present to sign to the gods that he will love, look after and cherish his bride till the end. Then during the Wedding ceremony, the Bride and Groom unite when the Thali is tied across her neck by the Groom showcasing that he will guard her for the rest of her life.

“The Amman Thali is used by Tamil Hindus in the instance that the Bride and Groom’s astrological charts do not match or have not been looked into. This is particularly seen in, what Tamils call, ‘love marriages. Amman is the symbol which is seen on the Thali.

“The Christian Thali has the same quality as the Kombu and Amman Thali, but differentiate its shape and symbols. Most of the Christian Thalis will have the three precious symbols which are: The Bible, the Holy Dove, the Holy Cross.”

Can you tell me a bit about the ‘Ponnurukkal’ ceremony?

“An auspicious day and time is selected by a family astrologer or priest for a gold melting ceremony otherwise known as the ‘Ponnurukkal’ ceremony or ‘Ponnurukku’. This takes place before the main wedding day. The ‘Ponnurukku’ is conducted by the groom’s family and is witnessed by family and friends at home. The bride-to-be is not present. According to Tamil traditions, the Thali is handcrafted by a gold smith that is happily married with a united family.

“The ‘Ponnurukku’ begins with the breaking of a coconut, followed by a embedding a gold coin in milk. The symbolic moment is when the gold coin is melted. It is thought that the rounder the coin is shaped, the better it is for the couple. The guests are then asked to bless the melted gold. A tree is then planted in the garden of the groom’s home to symbolise the couple’s life together. Vegetarian food is then served to the guests to mark the start of wedding celebrations. From this day, the couple are traditionally not meant to see each other until their wedding day.”

What is the most creative/interesting Thali you have made and why?

“The most creative Thali made at Western Jewellers was a white gold Thali. We were the first to design a white gold Thali in the world. It goes without say that it was challenging to make but was definitely worth it. We had to train Italian gold smiths – the masters of white gold – to make the Thali Kodi to perfection.

“This year at Western Jewellers, we decided to bring ancient traditions of the gold melting ceremony and Thali making from start to finish in the comfort of your own home. This took approximately 6-7 hours of hand craftsmanship but also allowed family and friends to witness the making from start to finish.”

I just wanted to add here that if you have been up-to-date with their recent work, they have created the world’s first rose gold thali a few weeks ago!

How much do the younger generation know about Thalis, if anything? Why is this the case?

“Here at Western Jewellers, we have been handcrafting Thali Kodis for over 20 years therefore have seen the Sri Lankan Tamil community still observing many ancient traditions during their matrimonial ceremonies which are to be followed by the Bride and Groom. The younger generations continually show an active interest to understand the symbolism behind the Thali. We have also found mixed religion marriages are more open to keeping the sacred Thali as a symbolic bridal Gold thread.

“As we live in a westernised society, we have seen many customers modifying their Thali Kodis with diamonds or gems to keep up with current trends. We thoroughly enjoy welcoming the younger generation to explain the ancient traditions followed thousands of years ago by their ancestors but also are intrigued to making more creative Thalis in the years to come.”

What are your thoughts about the ‘Manjal Kayiru’ (a yellow thread) instead of the Thali Kodi (gold chain)?

“The ‘Manjal kayiru’ is more for the south India Community. At Western Jewellers, we have created a similar Thali chain called the South Style.

“The ‘Manjal Kayiru’ was mainly used in the olden days to tie the three knots, whereas in the past 100 years there has been a rise in the screw-based Kodis. The South Indian Community uses the ‘Manjal Kayiru’ for the first year of their marriage after which they will change it into a gold chain.”

So…how interesting was that?! I have learnt so much and I hope you all feel that much more thrilled and informed after having read this.

I personally did some reading before and after reading these responses from Western Jewellers, and also had a chat with mum about what she knew about the Thali. In addition to everything mentioned above, one point which she told me about was how the Thali, when worn, should be tucked inside and should not meet another Thali. There are two reasons for this. The first is the belief that when the gold from the Thali touches the woman’s skin, it is meant to be very beneficial for her health. Secondly, there is a common belief that when one Thali meets another, apparently one has the possibility to cast an evil eye on the other; at the end of the day we are talking about religious jewellery and religious beliefs. To what extent this is correct, I do not know, and I will take more time to find out. For the time being, however, the main learning point for me is that the Thali has to be taken care of all year round and thought has to be put into why and how it is worn.

I believe in making the Thali significant to oneself, but one should never lose sight of the traditions and values which are behind it. It is not a fashion statement; it is a symbol of religion, culture, tradition and love.

Of course, if you want more information about Thalis and are looking for people to make your Thalis, do not hesitate to contact Western Jewellers. I would like obviously like to thank the team for agreeing to be a part of my infinite journey blog and for working with me to get this write up done.

‘Fake’

So I am one of the wider global Tamil fraternity who watches the new Bigg Boss Tamil. There have been mixed reviews about the whole show, but I am not here to provide my review on it. All I am going to say is that I very much enjoy watching the show, and it is another great platform through which I can analyse human behaviour.

This post is about one constantly spoken concept by the participants of the show – being ‘fake’. Everyone seems to claim that everyone is ‘fake’ on the show. This made me think deeper about what ‘fake’ actually means, and when we can actually call one ‘fake’.

There is a general consensus that being ‘fake’ means that one is not being genuine, which I agree with. What I do not agree with is to call someone fake without having real knowledge of how they are in person.

This term is a very negative one which really has the ability to bring one’s confidence down. To therefore constantly use it to describe someone is horrible. However, what I find most shocking is that the participants are so easy to judge another and easily disregard another’s whole personality as being ‘fake’ just because they do not conform with what they believe is right or with the people they are used to interacting with.

I believe that calling someone ‘fake’ is harsh, but it is especially so when you hardly know the person. How can you call someone ‘fake’ when you do not know them well? One needs to accept that individuals act differently with different people. No one person has the same relationship with two people. Therefore I believe it is wrong to completely disregard their personality using one very pathetic word.

No one is perfect, so instead of hammering an individual down for it, help them to the best of your ability to grow and improve themselves rather than impose labels on them.

‘I am not be perfect but at least I am not fake’ – Thought for the day!