PETALING JAYA: How often do you catch up with your grandparents? For many caught in the rush of city life, the answer may be “very rarely” or “once in a while”.
But this isn’t the case for 27-year-old Kanmani Periannan.
While Deepavali is usually a time when fireworks paint the sky, vibrant kolams adorn entrances, and the aroma of delicious food fills the air, a grandmother and granddaughter in Chemor, Perak, underscore the true essence of the festival: family.
In fact, this isn’t just any family; these are the folks behind the social media sensation “Enga Ammayi”, or “Our Grandmother”.
At 82 years old, Sinnamah Palippan has become a household name, especially within the Indian community, all thanks to her loving granddaughter Kanmani.
It all began during the pandemic when Kanmani began uploading videos of her grandma cooking time-honoured recipes and reviving forgotten traditions.
Whether it was grating fresh coconut using a wooden family heirloom or harvesting vegetables in her backyard garden, these videos quickly garnered millions of views.
“Many people commented on our videos, saying ‘I thought those practices had vanished’,” shared Kanmani.
An activity that began out of boredom has now evolved into a thriving business, with Sinnamah herself crafting handmade products like traditional herb coffee, Indian pickles, and black pottu paste for infants – all cherished traditions passed down through generations.
At the core of this firm partnership is the simple bond between a grandmother and granddaughter.
Speaking with FMT Lifestyle during their Deepavali preparations at home, Kanmani said: “My grandmother is one of the main pillars of my life. The main reason behind ‘Enga Ammayi’ is the love I have for her and the love she has for me.”
While trying to hold back her emotions, she added: “Since the first day I can remember, I have been living with my grandmother. My father told me that she was the one who first held me when I was born.”
After her parents’ separation, Kanmani was raised by her father along with her grandmother, the two most important people in her life. In fact, given that her parents are separated and that she lives with her dad, most people are surprised to learn Sinnamah is actually Kanmani’s maternal grandmother.
“When she was at school, I’d sit outside the house, waiting for her to come back,” Sinnamah said, tearing up.
Wiping away her own tears, Kanmani added: “This was during my SPM days, when I would ride the motorbike to school since dad would go to work. Back then, we didn’t even have an awning for the porch, so she would be sitting in the blazing sun, just waiting for me.”
As Kanmani and Sinnamah prepared to celebrate Deepavali, they pointed out that for them, family is at the heart of the Festival of Lights.
“Instead of only during Deepavali, we should celebrate our elders every day, while they are alive. Many forget to do this,” Kanmani stressed.
Sinnamah, who lost her husband when she was just 25 years old, shared that she has never been happier in life.
“At one point I thought that I had no one. But now, everyone I meet calls me ‘Ammayi’ and asks for my blessings. I never thought I’d have this, at this age. I’m very happy.”
Upholding both Tamil heritage and family values, this duo continues to inspire Malaysians and those across the world.
Sinnamah said: “I want our Indian traditions to be passed down to future generations. I learnt everything from my mother. Today Kanmani learns from me, and tomorrow her children will continue to keep these practices alive.”
Kanmani has a few wise words about what Deepavali means to her: “We always think of lights when it comes to Deepavali. But it should be about love and lighting up other peoples’ lives. They’re going to remember it forever.”
And while Kanmani is preparing for her wedding and big move to Pahang, she is confident her bond with her grandmother and father will remain unshakeable.
“Although I have achieved numerous things in my life, the fact that I have made my grandma a well-known personality across the world is the biggest achievement of my lifetime,” she said proudly.