Heritage Month: An Indian woman talks about family traditions that she will always adhere to

Nancy and Gona Iyer.

EVERY culture has unique traits and beliefs but trying to understand them, some remain largely a mystery to those from different backgrounds. For example, to some, it’s a shock to see Indian people eating rice with their hands.

This Heritage Month, Nancy Iyer (44) of South Coast Herald talks about her Indian culture and some of her family traditions.

What does Heritage Day mean to you?

For me, everyday is Heritage Day. I celebrate my culture every day but I’m glad there is a day like Heritage Day because it emphasises the importance of heritage to my children, which is something I’m always trying to teach them.

What specific part of your culture is most often misunderstood?

When people from other cultural backgrounds see us eating rice with our hands, and are shocked that’s understandable. The problem is with the people who think we pray to idols or demons, they’re the ones who need to take time to get to know and understand the Indian culture.

 What are your favourite memories of growing up with your parents?

I miss how they raised my siblings and I. They brought us up in such a cultured way. I’ve never changed my ways ever since. My culture and tradition form a very large part of my everyday life.

What family traditions do you still value and adhere to in your everyday life?

I start the day by lighting a lamp to worship God every morning. I cook traditional Indian food every day and worship God again before the day ends.

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What traditional dish you would all share as a family? 

Monday, Tuesday and Friday are fast days so we eat only vegetables such as dal, rice and green beans curry. We eat mutton curry and fish but not beef or pork, as in the Tamil tradition the cow is sacred. When we don’t have food, the cow provides us with milk so we can’t eat it.

What is the best advice or saying anyone in your family has ever given you and have you passed it on to your children? 

I always tell my children to walk in God’s faith and no one else’s, to always lend a helping hand and never have pride. I also ask them to live by three words – respect, honour and love.

What goodwill message do you have for your fellow South Africans?

Respect other people’s beliefs and traditions. Take time to understand why people do what they do.


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