How does South India give thanks? | Milaap

How does South India give thanks?

Written by Milaap's Fellow, Kurt Herzog who is working closely with our field partner GUARDIAN & GMF in Trichy, Tamil Nadu. 

To begin the six-month fellowship, the five fellows spent a week in Bangalore where we had the opportunity to meet and get to know the other fellows before we all shipped out to our various field locations. While in Bangalore, we met the Milaap team and received training to prepare us for the upcoming field work with our respective community partners.


I am working with Milaap’s first-ever partner, Guardian, as well as the Gramalaya Microfin Foundation (GMF). In addition to the fellowship training, I needed some cultural training as well. The Milaap team and the other fellows introduced me to many delicious Indian foods, both spicy and sweet. My favourite food thus far has been sweet lassi, and once I discovered the yogurt-based drink I made sure to try it at almost every restaurant that we went to.


I also learned about the different Indian states; who knew such diverse cultures, languages, and traditions could exist within one country!

A proud girl stands over her kolam

The first fellow to arrive at my field location (Trichy, Tamil Nadu), I am currently staying at the GMF training center about 45 km outside of Trichy. Unbeknownst to me, I arrived at the start of the harvest festival, called Pongal. To celebrate Pongal, Tamilians draw colorful, intricate designs on the ground outside of their homes known as kolams. The watchman at GMF training center must have noticed my interest in the kolam outside of the training center, because he walked me through the surrounding village to a Hindu temple on the second night of the festival.

Hindu temple decorated for Pongal

On the way to the temple, he introduced me to many families who were celebrating the holiday outside of their houses. I don’t know if the festival was responsible for the upbeat mood of the families or not, but they greeted me warmly and consistently asked me to stay for tea or coffee.

When the watchman and I reached the temple, I noticed that a line of children had followed us down the road. They pulled at my arms and pointed in all directions, each one trying to take me to their house so that I could see their kolam. I saw many elaborate kolams and met some very friendly Tamilians. Unfortunately, Pongal doesn’t happen every day, but I am grateful that neighboring families were so willing to share their holiday, and their homes, with me.


The kolam outside of the Gramalaya training center