It all started with a simple question on Nextdoor.
Alagarasan Chinnadurai put up a post in the Milpitas area, asking if anyone spoke Tamil, which is one of the oldest languages currently being spoken across the world. It comes from Tamil Nadu, a state located in the southern part of India. 1.06% of the total world population currently speaks Tamil.
When the Nextdoor post went up, dozens of people chimed in, eagerly stating that they spoke the language. Soon after, Tamil-speaking Milpitas residents formed a WhatsApp group and began to communicate regularly there.
Then earlier this month, they held their first gathering at Pinewood Park, where they all came out to speak their unique language, establish new friendships, eat good food, and host their own Diwali celebration. In total, 200 people, all from the state of Tamir Nadu, came to attend.
“A lot of us moved here recently…So we thought, why not host a gathering?” said Lakshmigayathri Sriram, one of the volunteers who helped to plan the event.
Diwali, a festival of lights, is referred to as “Deepavali” in the southern part of India. Known as India’s most important annual holiday, Diwali is a time of celebrating the triumph of the light over darkness.
“The festival happened a few weeks ago, but we’re celebrating it now,” said Akshatha Ravi, another volunteer. “This is a chance to wear new clothes, and make a whole gamut of traditional food.”
Chinnadurai, the event’s Volunteer Organizer, expressed his excitement at having so many guests come together for the first time on such a momentous occasion:
“The idea is to grow together and share our experience and knowledge. It’s like growing together as a community,” said Chinnadurai. “We wanted to plan an event for everyone to be engaged and have a great experience…We are all from the same place but don’t know each other personally. But we’re now setting the space…”
Chinnadurai hopes for volunteers to work together to plan at least three gatherings a year. Among the lead volunteers for this recent event were not only him, but Ravi, Ramana, Sriram, Sudarshan Kandaswamy, Malini Ramakrishnan, Pragadesh Raja, Deepa Thanneermalai, Pavithra Ramakrishnan, Sandhya Rengarajan, Suganya Damodaran, and Varadarajan Aravamudhan.
At present, the group is solely Milpitas-based, driven by finding connections within the space of the community.
“The group is only Milpitas, because all of us have made friends in other cities, but they’re so far away,” said Sangeetha Ramana, who has been a resident of Milpitas for the past 10 years. “This way, our kids are all here in the same schools.”
Although Ramana has lived here for a decade, she never knew how many Tamil-speaking people there were in Milpitas…until now.
“We’re excited because being so far away from home for 20 years, this is something close to us,” said Ramana. “Now that we know each other, we can be there for one another.”