Sri Lankan woman living in Malaysia eager to celebrate Sinhalese New Year with diverse meals, potluck session

Anne Grace Savitha
·2-min read
Melani (pic) will be preparing milk rice (known as Kiribath) that is usually eaten with onion sambal. — Picture courtesy of Melani Hansika
Melani (pic) will be preparing milk rice (known as Kiribath) that is usually eaten with onion sambal. — Picture courtesy of Melani Hansika

PETALING JAYA, April 14 — When Melani Hansika migrated from Sri Lanka to Malaysia seven years ago, she felt very down and alone, especially on her first Sinhalese New Year here — a special day where other Malaysian Indian communities would usher in their New Year with immediate family members.

Hansika even wondered whether she would be able to grow accustomed to a watered-down celebration here without the usual community and rituals as compared to in her hometown of Colombo.

In Sri Lanka, the new year is a festival where families decorate their homes and perform the oil bath in the morning before indulging in a variety of meals that would have already been cooked a few days before.

Evenings would be spent with the community and neighbours where the young and old would participate in games such as playing the drums, cycling competitions, and even beauty contests.

For Hansika, being in Malaysia has seen her fuse together many cultures when celebrating the New Year, which is on April 14 this year.

“After marrying my husband and staying here, I’ve come to grow fond of dishes such as rasam, payasam, sambar — all which I have never tasted before.

“The Sinhalese community are used to eating food with our own spices so it took me a while to adjust to the palate of food here.

“But now, I can even cook and will be whipping up some of my husband’s favourite vegetarian meals such as fried cabbage, vadai and sambar and some Indian sweets,” she told Malay Mail.

Some of the food that Melani will be cooking for the new year which include vadai, fried cabbage and sambar served on banana leaf. — Picture courtesy of Melani Hansika
Some of the food that Melani will be cooking for the new year which include vadai, fried cabbage and sambar served on banana leaf. — Picture courtesy of Melani Hansika

This year, she will also prepare Sinhalese dishes such as milk rice known as Kribath, and sweets such as sultana cakes, pol cake (coconut cake), and Konda Kavum (deep-fried oil cakes).

Although she is a Catholic, she has no qualms about observing certain rituals such as boiling coconut milk in the morning until the milk overflows — a sign of an abundance of blessings.

“There is an auspicious time that we need to follow to boil the milk and then rice would be added into the milk — resulting in a milk rice dish or known as Kiribath. My family and I will indulge in the meal together in the morning.”

She will also be inviting a few of her Sinhalese friends over for a potluck dinner at home after last year’s session was cancelled due to the movement control order (MCO).

“Over the past few years, my husband’s relatives and my friends have also learnt to mingle, so we are learning Tamil and Sinhala from each other. It’s a nice feeling.”

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