It's just a few weeks before Deepavali, and Devi Pitchay is busy preparing his family for an Italian feast such as grass, love letters and ash bahuu.
The deviations of the holiday reflect the influence of Malay and Chinese, which her community has compared to the 16th century. She belongs to the Peranakan or Chetti community in the Indian Perish of India.
Devi's ancestors are mainly from the South Indian Coromandel coast. They settled in the Melaka Melaka Sultanate in the 16th century. These Tamil colleagues married Malay, Chinese, and Yavan women, giving birth to a hybrid community known as the Indian Peranakan or Chetti.
Their traditional sauce is similar to that used by the Malays and the more familiar Baba Peranakan. The traditional costume for women is the baju kebaya, which consists of a wide embroidered blouse and batik sarongs.
Chetti men wear Malay and Indian clothing in the form of deaf, scarves and sarongs. The head table, called a tala, is made of batik, completes the traditional wear.
At home Chetties speak Malay, which is their native language, and not Indian languages, such as Tamil and Telegu.
Chetti cuisine also reflects the assimilation of different cultures.
"Our dishes are made using a mixture of Malay herbs and spices. Our favorite food is the box ikan parang surface made from coconut milk, lemongrass and turmeric.
"Another favorite food is samba telur ikan masaki, climbing buluh, a sweet dish of fish eggs, lemongrass and ground chili. My children like to eat dishes such as asam pedas and kangkung masak lemak," says Devi, a 62-year-old five-year-old mother .
Chetti's festive food is a must-have and gentleman whom they serve on special and beneficial occasions.
The Devi family is one of only 20 chetti families who are still living in Chetti village, Kg Tujuh, Jalan Gajah Berang Melayeh. Some live in other parts of Melaka or have moved elsewhere in Malaysia or abroad.
Marriage outside the community has also led to a decrease in Chetti numbers.
Like the Chinese Peranakan, the Peranakan of India has maintained its religion and traditional rituals, even though they have embraced Malay influence on other aspects of everyday and cultural life.
"We have an altar in our home and ask for the Hindu deity. Our faith is reflected in the Santhans Dharma, which means the eternal path of faith and truth," says Devi.
Deepavali is Chetti's most important celebration, and Devi's family has gathered Melawa to prepare for the feast.
"During Deepavali, we serve Indian and Malaysian dishes, including rotisserie, chicken curry, steamed nasi lemak and thosai. Our snacks and cookies include Indian dishes such as marmot, omapodi, athirasam and Malay dishes such as wajik, dodol, biskut semprit and ash bangkit, "says Devi.
Her four daughters, Sharmmila, Kavishalinee, Vilasanee and Kogela, have returned home to help her make biscuits and snacks. They also owned their aunt Devi's sister, Tialamah Pitchay, 67 years old.
"My elder sister and Vila Shanya traveled from Singapore while Kavishaline and Sharmmila left KH at work. The house feels so alive with her whip and laughter," says Devi, who lives in her 100-year-old wooden house with her mother Sakuntala Subramanian.
A widow is waiting for the day leading to Deepavali because her family is together.
Each person has a duty to make various jobs.
Tialamah forms a fragmentary dough made from Uraddhal, rice flour and spices in spirals, and Devi helps babies in shredded golden browns.
Kavishalinee takes responsibility for mixing peanut biscuits, while her brothers and sisters transfer the mixture to perfect round balls.
Each year they cook seven to ten types of biscuits and snacks.
Devi is delighted that her children are returning home to help her with Deepavali preparations, as they can also learn their unique Chetti recipes, just as she learned from her 90-year-old mother.
The most sought after treatment for Deepavali in this Chetti household is what Devi's most proud of – her freshly baked ash bool (ash bahuu), a mild and fluffy madeleine-like cake.
Neighbors will know when she will make her ash bool, thanks to the strong smell that flows through the air.
"People like my home deh bolu. I do it traditionally.
"I'm still dressing eggs, sugar and flour with a hand-spring spike in the earthern pot. I do not mind because of the time spent on ash bool, because it is one of my favorite cakes for my kids.
"Despite the availability of cookie purchased by the store, I'm grateful that they want and are interested in learning how to make these traditional items fresh," says Devi.
True to their traditions
On the eve of Deepaval, Devi's daughters will prepare a dance for their joy. Vivid rice flour is used for motifs like flowers and decorated with dias (clay oil lamps) and kuthu wax (brass oil lamps).
"Traditionally, rice flour is used to develop a dummy. It is believed that flour becomes an antler for food and birds.
"It helps to create a sense of humor and animal's gifts and harmony," says Devi's second daughter, Vilašanane.
The house is sewed with new curtains and cushion covers to embody the Light Festival.
It is believed that a clean house gives good luck to Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and happiness.
Deepawal morning Devi and her family woke up at noon. 6:00 in the oil bath using gingely oil.
"Gingely oil baths help cleanse the mind and body and reduce the body's heat. For hair washing, healing friction is called shikakai powder. We make it the point where we wear new clothes on Deepavali day, which symbolizes prosperity," explains Vila Shana.
Finding blessings from her grandmother, Vila Shana and her family go to the 200 year old prayers of the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.
The temple is one of the three Hindu temples in its village.
"The coconut offerings are being made during the temple (theng archangel). It is for the purification of the soul and fortune.
"The coconut denotes the breaking down of one's ego before the deities," explains Vila Shana, a Singapore Post Administrator.
After their prayers, the family returns home to prepare a luxurious lunch for close friends and family members.
Although it is a busy celebration, Devi is waiting for Deepavali every year. Feast and bust only adds to the feast.
"Deepavali is all about creating a soul, family and soul purification. This also applies to the illumination of the Chitty community's heritage for future generations."
In addition to Deepavali, the Chetti community also watches other Indian festivals, such as the Navarathri (nine festival days), Parchu Bhogi (which took place the day before the Tamil harvest in Ponggal) and Parchu buah-buahan (held in the fruit season in June and July)