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Connections, Manapad and St. Francis Xavier

”The universe has this amazing way of giving back to those who serve first.”

I'm sure you are familiar with this quote about how when you give to the universe, the universe gives back to you?


A few years ago a friend asked me about how I was going to share all my experience of working with storytelling in education and my work as a library educator. It is your duty to now pass on your knowledge to others, she said…prodding me to sell myself more, to earn more from my knowledge and sharing.

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This did not sit well with me, as neither does most of the hard sell and influencer culture on social media.

So what I told myself was that I am going to share my experiences and learning freely through social media in a frank, honest, true manner...without expecting anything….likes, followers, shares etc. in return.

Whoever wants to draw from my sharing, are free to do so and hopefully this earns me a wee bit of goodwill.

Over the years I am amazed at how much I have got back in so many different ways, friendships, kindness, knowledge, opportunities...prompting me to back down and say, social media can be beautiful!!


Sumaiya Mustafa, reached out out me for some help regarding an idea she had. As we chatted, I was struck by how proud she was of her culture, traditions and hometown, Kayalpatnam...which has been mentioned in historical texts as early as 1CE as Kayal or Korkai. It was one of the most important trading ports of the Pandyas and finds a mention in the diaries of Marco Polo dating back to 1298. At the time, Sumaiya was documenting the traditional Ramadan foods of her community and identified my small community…the Bombay East Indians, from a picture of Easter eggs that I had posted.

We’d interacted on an off and as I was travelling to Thoothukudi for my birthday, I reached out to her for some tips on authentic food to try while there.


Sumaiya insisted that I meet her and offered to take everyone from our little group to Manapad, a small town not far from Kayalpatnam.

I was surprised to learn that St. Francis Xavier had lived and preached in the south of Tamil Nadu.

She thoughtfully planned our whole visit, taking us first to the cliff-side cave where the saint lived and preached.

The cave seemed to be a mix of coral and rock and has a little altar to St. Francis Xavier. The small well within the cave has sweet water, despite being just a few feet away from the sea. City-girl me was hesitant to drink the water from the well, which is considered holy...but seeing Sumaiya drink some and a little infant-in-arms being fed some, I threw may caution out of the window and followed the faith of the people.


She spoke to the priest at a church in the town, requesting for permission for us to see the relics of the Holy Cross and St. Francis Xavier.


Manapad is a gorgeous town, and I was blown away by the sense of calm, a place standing still in peace while the world buzzed crazily elsewhere.


Sumaiya treated us to delicacies from her community…hareera paal…a cooling drink made with khus and Dum Adai… little coconut and semolina cake she served us, which I found so similar to East Indian thali sweet...that I couldn’t help but marvel at the similarity.

I love making these connections across communities…there is so much to learn from one another.

It was wonderful to learn about her community, a matriarchal, matrilocal Muslim community and to witness how they valued their family and community bonds.

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Sumaiya is one of the gifts that I’ve received back through my sharing, and it was a wonderful meeting, one that I am deeply thankful and grateful for.

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