On Monday night, I had the delightful experience of participating in Tamil Feasts – a Melbourne initiative to support asylum seekers over dinner. As well as being delicious and inspiring, it’s such an empowering project. LOVE IT!
When Tamil Feasts was first run five months ago, it was meant to be for two nights. It was a hit.
It is now on every Monday and Tuesday night at CERES in Brunswick East. It is usually a sold out event!
It is an initiative of Dori Ellington and her kindness and compassion is inspiring and heartwarming.
Apart from the delicious Tamil food (no surprises there), it is a space where men, women and children seeking asylum are welcomed and empowered. It is a relief to find and be in a space like that in Australia.
The cruelty of our government towards refugees and asylum seekers is endless. The accounts of rapes and sexual abuse of children on Nauru and Manus because of the Australian government is like a horror film.
When I started following Tamil Feasts on FB many months ago, I saw photos of Tamil annas (elder brothers) with wide smiles preparing Tamil curries and posing for photos with their team. In the smiles of Sri, Nirma, Niro and Nigethan I saw annas who had survived 26 years of war and who were trying to start a new life in a country with a very hostile government. What sadness was behind those brave smiles? How many years did they languish in Australia’s detention prisons. Who have they left behind? What did they lose?
When I arrived at Tamil Feasts, I smiled at the annas, but didn’t want to disturb them. It was a special night – we were being served crab (nandu) curry. I told my dining partners they were in for a treat, remembering how happy my brother and I would be when our ammah’s nandu curry was on the menu. (Tamil Feasts also cater for vegetarians and vegans).
After the main course, I thanked the master chefs. It was nice to be able to speak Tamil in a public space. We exchanged a little bit about our lives. I didn’t ask too many questions – though I had many. I hoped that somewhere amongst their pain there was happiness.
As I walked back to my table, I caught sight of the wonderful Dori and admired her for her vision and conviction. Hats off to the many volunteers who contribute to make the nights a success.
If you are in Melbourne, I hope you will head to Tamil Feasts, and help grow Sri, Nirma, Niro, Nigethan and Dori’s vision of a welcoming Australia. The delish Tamil food is an added bonus!