What does the Tamil word kuppam mean

Sundays with Sarah (episode 14)

Last day at #ZeroWasteLFL

The week began with the end of "Lit for Life". I gave full throttle again and came especially by bike. We also had “prominent” visitors to our stand: The German consul Karen Stoll, who awarded Nity the German-French Prize for Human Rights, was very enthusiastic about our initiative and that a participant in the weltwärts program was also involved, so that she shared a few pictures on the Twitter profile of the German Consulate. You can find details about the course of the weekend and our campaign in this post.

After the third long day of work and the bike tour back to Besant Nagar, I allowed myself a “feast” in the “Kaaraikudi” restaurant as a reward. On the occasion of the most important of all Tamil holidays, the four-day “Pongal”, there was a Parotha special. I couldn't miss a special that is only dedicated to my favorite South Indian dish!


Pongal is the three-day Tamil harvest festival (for me it was a bit strange to celebrate the fertile harvest in the "dead of winter"). Urur Olcott Kuppam already dressed up again on Sunday, fairy lights were hung up and the three temples in the quarter were festively decorated. The big loudspeakers on every street corner shouldn't be forgotten, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to hear the great music around the clock in my apartment!

However, once I left the neighborhood, it seemed like a day like any other. While all the girls in the traditional fishing district were walking around in their glittering saris and families were busy drawing the colorful Kolams in front of their doorsteps, some residents of Besant Nagar only remembered Pongal because they have the whole week off.

As with other multi-day festivals, each day of Pongal has a different special meaning.

For many, Bhogi, the day before Pongal, is already one of the holidays. The first and most important day of the Pongal festival is Thai Pongal on January 15th. On this day, a big celebratory meal is cooked, where the “sweet pongal” - rice with raisins, nuts and jaggery - is a must. My Tamil teacher, where I was invited to dinner with her family, also explained the meaning of the word pongal to me: The word describes the foamy milk that spilled over the edge of the clay pot when you used to drink milk in traditional clay pots has cooked. The more foam the better, because it is considered a harbinger of prosperity. The milk in the clay pot was also a common motif in the kolams on the street and some houses were decorated with small clay pots from which cotton wool gushed out symbolically.

The big feast is prepared with a lot of effort and leisure - my Tamil teacher had been in the kitchen for eight hours when I got there for lunch at 1 p.m. So that all the work is worth it, the next two holidays will be cooked at the same time.

Thai-Pongal is followed by Maatu-Pongal (January 16), which is dedicated to cows. Cows are the most important livestock in South India, both as a milk and fertilizer supplier and as a workhorse.

Since the food was prepared the day before, many families go on a picnic excursion. Besant Nagar Beach is one of the most popular destinations and was accordingly overcrowded.

A similar picture emerged on the third day, namely Kaanum-Pongal (January 17th). Kaanum means visit and brothers should visit their married and therefore living outside sisters on this day or go on a family outing.

Girls night

After lunch with my Tamil teacher on Tuesday, that is Thai Pongal, I was invited partly as a friend, partly as a “minder” to a sleepover at Madhura, Nity's daughter. She is only 14 years old, but we always got along really well when we met. Since she had no school all week, she invited me to stay the night and that suited her parents very well. Both wanted to go out overnight and were happy not to have to leave their daughter at home alone. So nothing stood in the way of the full program of a girls' evening including face masks, dance inserts in pajamas, a film marathon and a family pack of chocolate bars.

"Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha"

Despite the official holiday, I spent some time in the office on Wednesday to work with two fellow volunteers on the report on the “LFL Zero Waste” campaign. But there was a bit of a festive atmosphere, because that evening a dance event of the “Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha” took place in Urur Olcott Kuppam's “Community Hall”. Translated, this means 'Chennai Art Street Festival'. The idea behind this series of festivals is to bring classical art, dance and music from the high-priced concert halls to the socially disadvantaged communities. Carnatic music and the Bharatanatyam dance are still closely interwoven with the caste system and are therefore largely reserved for the Brahmins, the "highest" caste. The "Chennai Kalai Theru Vizha" wants to break through this stigmatization.

Two young girls in the sumptuous costumes of the Bharatanatyam dancers gave a wonderful performance. Bharatanatyam is actually a mixture of dance and theater, because the ancient myths of Sanskrit scriptures are retold through music and movement.

Visit to the PSBB school

On Friday all traces of the holidays were removed and you could see students in their school uniforms walking around the area again. I also went to school again, because a branch of the PSBB.Schulen south of Chennai invited me to their program "Don't be mean - go when green!" The students presented safety rules in the house, in school or in traffic, danced and sang songs. In order to make the whole program international, German safety and traffic regulations were presented for comparison. Except for a few words at the end of the performance, I had nothing to say or do, and yet all the teachers thanked me several times and gave me a gift and flowers. Not to forget the delicious lunch that the 8th grade students prepared during a cooking project.

Back at home I found a flower pot and a starter set for growing vegetables in my own home, including seeds. I was pretty happy about that and I will start growing my own okra pods right away at the weekend.

Ennore "Toxic Tour"

On Saturday morning we left early to do a “Toxic Tour” to Ennore in the north of Chennai. We - that was Nity, Pooja and a few volunteers from the Zero-Waste LFL team. The area around Ennore is Chennai’s largest industrial area and there are three coal-fired power plants there alone. No wonder the entire area is heavily polluted - you could see, smell and feel it. Pooja, which works closely with the residents and fishing communities in the area, literally opened our eyes at various focal points to see what effects the steadily growing industrial area has on nature and the geography of the landscape.

First we stopped north of Kamarajar Port, Chennai’s industrial port. Artificial barriers protrude into the sea at regular intervals. Their purpose is to stop the erosion of the coast. On the west coast of India, the sand and the earth “migrate” from south to north - this natural process is interrupted by the large port facility. As a result, the Marina Beach - which is now touted as the second largest beach in Asia - has developed south of the port over the decades. And it keeps growing. On the other side of the port a contrasting picture emerges - land is being cleared towards the north, but there is no “replenishment” from the south. 1000 hectares of land have already fallen victim to the sea - land that was settled and used for agriculture. Even if the barricades can stop this process in places, they extend the problem to the north. The government's solution - build more barricades! (Great side effect: since the barricades consist of loose piles of stones and require constant maintenance, they also boost the economy. Mining the rock, transport to Tamil Nadu, filling up the barricades - even more jobs and growth in GDP!)

We made another stop at a fly ash pipeline. This transports the fly ash from one of the coal-fired power plants for storage in a huge ash basin - in the middle of the Ennore Creek wetland. Where there used to be mangrove forests, there is now a repulsively vast ash desert. To make matters worse, the pipelines are hardly maintained and in many places the ash liquefied with water leaks out (note the pun). I was particularly shocked by the plants along this pipeline - there is a grayish veil over everything, because ashes and dust from the nearby toll road collect as thick as a finger on leaves and blades of grass.

I could continue this list of adverse effects on the ecosystem of the wetland for a while and we haven't seen everything on our morning tour.

Muslim wedding or "How was their biriyani?"

I finally got the chance to attend an Indian wedding. But Indian is not always Indian: Of course, it depends on which religion the bride and groom belongs to.

The wedding I was taken to was a Muslim wedding. I write confused because I was neither officially invited nor knew who exactly is getting married. Kavitha had told me during Frisbee training that she was going to a Muslim wedding and spontaneously decided to take me with her.

So spontaneous that I hardly had time to worry about my wardrobe. Fortunately, my landlady lent me a sari, hung me with jewelry and explained to me how to ride a scooter in this monster made of fabric.

I didn't know anything about the course of a Muslim wedding in advance - except that there is always delicious biriyani to eat.

The wedding took place on Sunday noon. In a spacious “Wedding Hall” plastic chairs were lined up in front of a stage. Kavitha and I looked for a place with her colleagues - I had meanwhile found out that the groom was also a colleague of Kavitha. She then explained to me that it was an arranged marriage - the groom was 27 years old and the bride was just 18 years old. After a while the groom and his male family members gathered on the stage and passages from the Koran were read out loud. The audience wasn't particularly attentive, however. Even Kavitha and her colleagues simply got up in the middle of the ceremony with the comment: “Come on, let's go for dinner!” So ​​I followed them into the “dining room” next door, a little irritated. There was a dense crowd and regular mass processing with the highly praised Biriyani. To get to a seat you had to stand behind someone who has just eaten, watch him eat for a quarter of an hour and then immediately push yourself into the chair when the person has got up. You yourself were then of course also watched with eagle eyes and felt rather forced to hurry. In addition, I couldn't eat with Kavitha because she is a vegetarian and a separate part of the room was closed off by a curtain for vegetarians. I wasn't promised too much about the food itself - it was definitely the best Biriyani I've tried so far!

Meanwhile, the groom had signed the marriage contract on stage. We still hadn't seen the bride because she had to stay in her dressing room until the contract was signed. Then they were allowed to come on stage as well. This was followed by a gift delivery and photo session lasting several hours. Otherwise, the guests didn't show much interest in the bride and groom and we also escaped the storm of flashlights pretty quickly to go to the beach (where we then continued to take photos among each other ...).

When I told someone about the wedding, the standard question and apparently only priority was: “How was their Biriyani?” Because this is what Muslim weddings are rightly famous for. However, I waited in vain for a solemn and romantic atmosphere at this wedding - understandable if you consider the practical background of an arranged marriage. Still, it's definitely worth the experience - just to wear a saree again.

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