When Neil Mathai moved to Greenville in the early 1980s, she remembers feeling a little out of place in her new home. She was familiar with Kolkata, India, where she was born and raised, and London, where she attended college, and a large city with a diverse population.
Greenville was smaller and far less diverse.
Today, Greenville is a very different city, with people from different countries influencing the city’s food and events, creating a broader culture.
This week marks India Day, an event held by the Indian Society in Greenville to celebrate Indian culture and mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence from Britain. After the coronavirus hiatus, Mathai and her co-organizers are thrilled to have the festival fully restarted, sharing Indian culture and celebrating the city many call home.
Mr Mathai, President of the Indian Association, said: “In every bank, in every law firm, there are so many Indians working now.”
The festival includes various offerings, all free of charge. Beginning in the morning, participants can experience a seminar on mental health and participate in a yoga session. The day continues with henna, parades, Bollywood dancing, music, cultural exhibits and an Indian-style fashion show.
role of food
Of course, there are also many delicious dishes. According to Matai, food is an important component of an event, not only because it is important for celebrations and gatherings, but also because it allows culture to be conveyed without words.
This year’s event features five vendors, all showcasing distinctive foods from different parts of India. We have three vendors from Charlotte and two from Greenville.
Greenville events:Build muscle cars, enjoy live music and pop at the farmers market
“There are four different regions, North, South, East and West, so the food is very rich,” says Matai. “We speak about 32 languages in India and each culture has different types of food, so it becomes very diverse.”
Sanjeev Arora, owner of Greenville’s Saffron Indian Cuisine, shares some of his favorite North Indian dishes. This style of cooking is generally spiced, but not spicy, and contains a lot of dairy.
The menu features everything from the restaurant’s favorites, chai tea and mango lassi, to samosas, chana puri chaat, chicken tikka masala, and vegetarian hakka noodles.
“It’s about showing Indian culture,” Arora said of India Day. “We live in a community. We are part of the community and we love attending India Day events.”
When Cima Mathur moved to Greenville ten years ago, he fell in love with the city instantly. She was working in medical services when she got the chance to take over her restaurant. She and her partner took ownership of Persis her Biryani Indian Grill on Woodruff Road three years ago. This was just months before it was shut down by the COVID pandemic.
Mathur learned many things, but mostly about the power of food to provide comfort and bring people together.
“There’s a saying that good food is small and that’s how happiness is delivered,” Mattour said cheerfully. “It’s a place where people are gathered, people are gathered at the table, and they eat. That’s where we talk. That’s where we learn about other people.”
Mathur prepares some classic South Indian dishes known for their added spices and vegetable focus. The menu includes her version of chicken tikka masala, samosas, chicken lollipops, chana masala (a chickpea dish), paneer, and rice.
“Indians love dancing, music, food and friends,” Mathai said. “So this is what we are exhibiting.
“When people leave, we want them to be happy, to have enjoyed their day, and to have learned about our culture as well.”
India Day will be held on Saturday, August 20th from 9am to 10pm at the TD Waichi Pavilion in downtown Greenville. For more information, please visit https://www.myiag.org.
Lillia Callum-Penso cooks for Greenville News. She loves the stories her recipes tell and she takes inspiration from the people behind them. Except when she’s looking for local food, she’s running for fun and keeping up with her 6-year-old twins. Contact her at [email protected] or her 864-478-5872 or on Facebookfacebook.com/lillia.callumpenso.
This report is only possible with the support of our readers. Sign up for your digital subscription today.