By Vanitha Nadaraj
The car stalled in Nilai yesterday, a hot Sunday afternoon. The automatic gear stopped functioning. We were there to get something done and we got stranded – more than 50km from home. The mechanic shop nearby was closed but there was a contact number posted on the door. My husband called the number and the mechanic said he would take a while but he would get there eventually.
The Church of St Theresa was nearby and we thought we ought to spend time with God at the church or the grotto at the least. Just as we entered, we saw a pretty little earthen pot sitting on bricks and the firewood was burning. Surrounding the pot were women in gorgeous sarees and men in jippas and one man was in white veshti.
Standing prominently in his white chasuble and alb there was parish priest Fr Christopher Soosaipillai. He warmly greeted us as we entered. More and more parishioners came and the whole atmosphere was one of excitement. One of the parishioners told us that there was to be a Ponggal session at 4pm, followed by a special Ponggal mass at 5.
At 4pm, Fr Christopher said the opening prayer and as the water and milk heated up, we prayed the rosary in English, Tamil and Malay.
Ponggal is a harvest festival and is celebrated grandly in India. The Hindus give thanks to their gods while the Tamil Catholics give thanks to our God for His outpouring of blessings. This tradition is also practised in our churches here in Malaysia, especially at parishes where there is a strong Tamil community.
The climax of the tradition is when the milk-water solution boils over, signifying an overflow of abundance and blessings. Then rice, sugar and other ingredients are added and the outcome is a sweet pudding which is shared among all.
Midway through, while waiting for our pot to boil, the mechanic was at our car and Devid had to leave. I stayed back.
Shortly later, the pot boiled and there were shouts of “Ponggolo-ponggol”. At that very moment, I got a call from Devid saying the car was ready but we need to leave quickly. The mechanic managed to get it started but the engine cannot be switched off. We had to leave immediately.
I managed to get one last shot of the pot as one of the parishioners was about to pour rice into the pot. Then I dashed off. Within the hour, we were back in PJ and this morning we got our car sorted out. All by God’s grace.
We see God’s blessings in our lives every day. But that afternoon in Nilai, we were truly blessed to be part of the parish Ponggal celebration and to see how He came to our aid.
May God continue to bless us all and may we allow His blessings to overflow to others.