Today, as I headed out as usual for Jumma Biryani Lunch at the Mamak Prata restaurant in the vicinity, the Chettiar chef from Sivaganga said hello, and when I headed out a few minutes later with my tapao packet, he met me outside the door asking whether I eat Pongal, as today is the harvest festival in Tamil Nadu.
We often discuss Biryani styles and his migration trajectories from Sivaganga to Batu Pahang to Clementi. All his brothers are mamak cooks in Singapore and Malaysia. He worked in Johor for over a decade.
I wished him Pongal Vazhuthakkal with folded hands, he was taken aback with surprise and came back with pongal, which is sweet and special.
He said Nandri in a huff as he rushed back during the peak lunch hour crowd, which reminds me of a time earlier to the pandemic.
This sudden generosity was touching and makes me wonder if these are what transnational spaces of solidarity and care are about.