Every Deepavali, Leong Kow Chai looks forward to giving his children and now, his grandchildren, their ritual oil baths.

The 67-year-old Leong, who could speak Tamil fluently even before he married his wife Valiamah Selvadurai 40 years ago, embraces the spirit of the Festival of Lights fully.

He leads his six sons and their families in prayers at their home as well as in presenting the thenggai archanai (coconut offering) at the temple.

They also celebrate Chinese New Year and – now that one of his sons is married to a Malay – Hari Raya.

“Our children have been brought up to appreciate both heritages. We practise a good balance of Chinese and Indian traditions to enable our sons to have a better understanding of diversity, including the do’s and don’ts of each culture,” said Leong.

The couple said their lives had been enriched by accepting and embracing each other’s culture and traditions.

“In a mixed marriage, you have to learn how to adapt and respect each other’s religion and culture. It is important to accept your spouse’s traditional practices,” says Valiamah.

“It’s been a fun journey for us,” added Leong, who has eight grandchildren.

Their son Suresh Leong Kim Moon, 30, said growing up in a mixed-parentage family had taught him to be receptive to and accepting of different cultures.

“My brothers and I grew up with relatives from both families. This taught us to appreciate each culture – be it food, language or traditions.

“Plus, we live in a multiracial country. So, it’s much easier to accept people from different backgrounds,” said Suresh, a project consultant. – The Star


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