“I want to wear the new salwar kameez,” whined my elder daughter. “It is a Pongal celebration and there is going to be a traditional dress contest kanna,” I said. “But salwar kameez is an Indian dress,” she countered. “It is dear, but Pongal is more specific to Tamil Nadu and it is traditional for us to wear pavadi,” I explained. “Will the other children be wearing pavadai at the community center?” She asked not wanting to be the only one wearing it. I reassured her that many will be wearing it. She agreed reluctantly and went to the wardrobe and picked up a lovely arakku (dark brown) pattu pavadai with bottle green blouse. The younger one wore a sandana (sandal) color pattu pavadai with dark pink top. I took great pleasure in putting on their make-up but had to keep my impatience is check when they went: “I want green eye shadow” “That would look so dark!! Choose the pink.” “But it doesn’t go with my dress, can I choose the brown or can we mix it with the red to get the right color?” “Can I have purple blush?” “You will look like Barney!” “No, it will match my top.” “I want dark red lipstick.” “I want the light pink…. no no, I want the dark brown, hmm or should I choose the …….” You get the flow, right? It was sometime before I got them ready and they looked beautiful. I packed them off to the community center (CC) with my husband and gave them their coloring pencils and crayons for the coloring contest. My MIL and I quickly got ready and rushed to the CC also. By the time we reached, the kids were coloring and the parents were asked not to go to the coloring corner. The CC hall was brightly lit and decorated with flowers and kolam (rangoli). An earthen pot decorated with bright colors was placed at the center of the kolam. Fast numbers from latest Tamil movies filled the room with an energetic vibe. Women were brightly dressed in silk sarees and flashy salwar kameez while some men wore the traditional dhoti and shirts, and few wore sherwani. Many men were dressed in casuals and the kids were all dressed in colorful traditional dresses like pattu pavadi, ghagra choli, chidhidhars, sherwani etc. The mood was festive and everyone was smiling and talking excitedly. I found few of my neighbors and friends and started chatting with them. Once the coloring contest was over, the children started paying, and the organizers announced the commencement of programs for the evening. They began with “oru thangaradhathil” one of my favorite songs by Malaysia Vasudhevan as a tribute to the legend and then moved on to many nice Tamil cine songs, a good mix of old and new. The singers were talented and the children had fun going up on stage to dance for fast paced songs. There was a sudden hustle and everyone turned to look at what the commotion was all about to find the great Legend Sivaji Ganesan clad in a farmer’s attire carrying a bundle of hay walking towards the crowd with his trademark walk and smile. Of course, it was a Sivaji impersonator who goes by the name Singapore Sivaji. Beside him was Singapore Saroja Devi. They danced all the way up to the stage and performed for the evergreen song “mannapara maadu katti.” This was followed by a dance performance by the Sirpi Group for the fast number “hey vetri vela.” The guest of honor was our MP and he was invited on stage to give a few words. Then, the children participating in the traditional dress contest were marched up the stage one by one. All the kids looked adorable. One was dressed as Lord Ganesha, another as a gypsy, one as a barathanatyam dancer, one as farmer, one as Barathiyar, and many in simple traditional south Indian pavadai sattai and sarees. Following this, it was announced that there would be a performance by a non-Indian. My curiosity was quipped, but I did not have to wait for long. I saw a tall Chinese gentleman clad in white jibba with a red towel tied across his hip holding a colorful thappu (a percussion instrument) walking onto the stage just like Rajinikanth. He stood at the center of the stage, with his head bent, his left leg crossed over, holding the thappu in one hand and the other, in the typical rajini style, on his hip. As the music began, we all instantly recognized that it was the BGM for “vantheenda palkaaren” an energetic song from Annamalai and I thought that he was going to dance for the song and my jaw dropped open when he dance a few beats and picked up the mike to sing the song. I couldn’t hold my excitement and I started clapping wildly and so did everybody else. I asked my husband to whistle loudly. The person in front of us turned with raised eyebrows as if to say that I should be nuts to even think of such a thing in the presence of a Singaporean MP. But my hubby dear obliged me and whistled loudly and immediately many started whistling and dancing. Rajini Chan, as the name of the Chinese man turned out to be, sang the whole song and performed as well doing all classic Rajini moves, the fast walk, the head shaking, applying the thiruneeru, throwing the red towel on his shoulder (padaiyappa style), it was awesome!! We all stood up and clapped and whistled for at least five whole minutes after the performance. It wasn’t that his voice was better than SPB’s or his performance was better than any other Rajini impersonators, but it was the passion the man had for Rajini!! I am a Rajini fan (don’t tell Kamal!!) Though I love Kamal for his versatility in performance and his approach to different social issues in his movies, I love Rajini as a good human being and of course for his style. Seeing a Chinese man so passionate about Rajini, a man we love and admire, made us all proud and happy. After the performance, my husband went to shake hands with the man and he introduced himself as “Rajini rasigan” (a fan of Rajini) and gave my husband a visiting card size calendar with Rajini’s picture on one side. A small refreshment break was given and we all had yummy veggie sevai, kesari, samosa, and coffee. The program resumed with few more performances and songs and then the prize distributing for the coloring contest and traditional dress contest was announced. First they gave away the consolation prices and my younger daughter, who is 3, was so excited when her name was called, one of the organizers carried her up the stage (as it might take her for ever to climb them), she was one of the youngest to participate (officially it was only for kids 4 -10 yrs old). I clapped with so much pride. By the time the consolation prizes were over, my elder daughter turned to me with a dejected look. I signaled her to be patient. Then they started giving away the top 10 prizes, and my daughter’s name was called for the 6th prize. She was so happy. She ran up the stage and claimed her prize of a trophy and a gift with a lot of pride. I clapped so hard and my husband clicked away photos. We were so proud of both the girls. She also went up again to get a consolation prize for the traditional dress contest and got a photo with the MP and other special guests who were attending the function. I congratulated the lady next to me whose kid won the first prize. She had taken immense effort to put on the barathnatyam costume with perfect hair-do, makeup and everything. The child looked adorable. I looked around to find the other mums whose kids had participated in the contest and congratulated them also. By the time the party ended, we were all exhausted but happy. We said by to our friends and walked out of the CC when I daughters said “ma, can we take a cab….. our legs are too tired to walk” and mind you, they know that our house is hardly 5 minutes walk from the CC. So they were bone tired after dancing and playing nonstop for 3 hours!! I smiled and picked up the younger one and my DH carried the elder one. To me it was an evening well spent.