Photographic Tribute to Kayalpattinam’s Hometown in Tamil Nadu – The New Indian Express

Express press service

Sumaiya Mustafa firmly believes that every hometown is where stories begin, where memories stay fresh, roots are stronger, and a sense of belonging is much deeper.

The manifestation of this unconditional love for his native place, Kayalpattinam, a coastal town of Thoothukudi, is an Instagram page called lecturetv through which the blogger tells the local cuisine, culture and personal anecdotes.

The credit, says Sumaiya, goes to her grandmother who is ten years older than independent India whose art of storytelling she imbibed and relies on her to carry on the legacy.

“I grew up listening to real stories, mostly about the world Grandma grew up in. She saw multitudes of the same piece of land. Even today, hearing her tell the same story for the 100th time looks new,” says Sumaiya, who has a master’s degree in computer science and engineering.

While she started her career as an assistant professor, she is currently a full-time blogger.

Discover diversity

Sumaiya’s decision to stay in her hometown was an unconscious one, as she always aspired to move to urban areas in search of better opportunities.

“I love my close-knit family neighborhood. It’s a blessing and a normal thing here to catch up with third or fourth cousins ​​every day. Although many families in the city live elsewhere, creating a Kayalpattinam diaspora in the world, people here are very connected to their roots,” shares Sumaiya, noting that Kayalpattinam seems much more globalized than some Tier 2 cities.

“There is only one factor that protects this rooting endogamy that marries again and again within the same tribe. It is because both partners of any family in Kayalpattinam share the same homeland, so this sense of collective belonging is stronger. However, this has changed a lot in recent days, with more and more people marrying other people from another city, like me,” he added.

Scrolling down Sumaiya’s Instagram page promises to offer a refreshing perspective on this medieval-era port city. “As in the tendency of the ports of the time to show a strong cosmopolitanism and also to be deeply local, our culture in the city is a total of this syncretism”, notes Sumaiya.

“It has always kept our food, way of life and heritage so different from the rest of Tamil Nadu. It wasn’t until my late teens that I started to realize that friends from school and from college who lived just a few kilometers from Kayalpattinam see our way of life and customs in a confusing way. This led me to understand the food and roots of my town through reading and research,” adds- he.

Closer to the roots

What started as a humble effort to tell the stories of her people, connected her with a network of interesting people working on interesting topics. “I am still fond of urban histories and the making of our Indian cities. This has further diversified my reading interests. What is an Indian city without visible and concrete colonial heritage called buildings? I love to read and understand the different architectural styles that have evolved over different times and circumstances,” she beams.

“My biggest niche of interest is the history of Indian Ocean trade. That’s where my interest has sprung up in a lot of things. Our history of Kayalpattinam is so intertwined with that and I’m very privileged to to have been able to be part of a network of academics, enthusiasts like me, journalists and archivists who work on this space,” she adds.

Sumaiya’s blog topics often revolve around the mundane things about his city that otherwise fall into plain sight, books on the history of Indian Ocean trade, and the people he met on his journey – often those making menial and difficult work.

“I didn’t start blogging with a purpose or believing it was socially relevant. I started writing because I wanted to chronicle a way of life that is not common in Tamil Nadu I wanted to tell people that communities like ours exist where idli, dosa, sambar and vada are not part of the cuisine,” he adds.

I wanted to tell you that Tamil-speaking Muslims are not non-existent. I wanted to tell how our roots are more connected to this land through the sea. I wanted to tell you that we have nothing to do with the Muslim dynasties in the northern part of the subcontinent.

But there is a reason that feeds my talk today. Narratives that work to erase true history sometimes threaten the mosaic of myriad cultures called India are overwhelming.

“It’s high time we celebrated the microcultures that don’t fit into the mainstream. It’s this pluralism that adorns the beautiful landscape of the subcontinent. It’s something I’ve become more aware of now. I don’t know not if my write-ups have changed at least one person’s point of view. My idea is not to convince people of anything. I do this to expose stories and realities that are not seen otherwise,” she says.

The overwhelming support from followers has been an accreditation to the authenticity of his work. She was recently recognized as an Emerging Leader in Cultural Reconciliation by the 2022 Young People for Politics Champions Award.

“It upped the ante. I feel like I should become more socially responsible than ever and do some work for a peaceful sleep. There’s so much visuals can only say in words. A heritage intangible can best be told through words. It will remain a page like this while I continue to write on various other digital platforms as a freelancer,” she summarizes.

Kathirika manga: A recipe based on dal



  • Roast the dal until it becomes aromatic. Please don’t let it get dark or let the color change.

  • Boil the dal, shallots, green chillies, raw mango, turmeric powder and eggplant together until they become extremely mushy.

  • You can also pressure cook them.

  • Add some pandan leaves for aroma and remove them later.

  • Add a little salt and let the excess water drain out to maintain a thick consistency.

  • It is best when eaten with ghee rice cooked in pandan leaves and coconut milk.

local newspapers

Legacy Tales

My ancestral home was built in vernacular Kayalpattinam style in the early 1950s when my grandmother and great aunt got married. It has art deco features. The house you see here is a twin house with a common wall as a partition and also a door in this wall to easily move from one house
to another. Husbands live with the wife’s relatives. It is therefore the women who inherit the ancestral houses in Kayalpattinam.

Timeless architecture

Old mosques resembling temple architecture testify to our roots in a place uninfluenced by the Muslim dynasties of northern India. Ours predates their arrival on the subcontinent. The initial mosques all looked very much like temples, as that was how local craftsmen could build a place of worship at the time. Ours had always been a peaceful and friendly bond with the rulers of the country across the trading waters of the Indian Ocean.

Rooting for regional cuisine

Some of our specialties are vengaya paniyam, sothu vaada, watlappam (it is made during Eid with great passion in Tamil-Muslim homes, thanks to our Sri Lankan connections through Indian Ocean trade ), appams eggs and seeni sambol (Sri Lankan in nature but also an integral part of our cuisine).


Sumaiya was recognized as an emerging leader in cultural reconciliation by the Young People for Politics Champions Award 2022.

Michael E. Marquez