Global Culture: Connecting Taste and Language

by Amanda Woolery, Apartment 5C

This is the 2nd profile in an ongoing series of interviews with people from different backgrounds discussing how music finds its way into the nooks of their lives.

Born in Sri Lanka, moved to England in the 80’s, then headed across the pond to reside in Maryland, USA. Sulojana Tharmarajah has adapted to life in three different countries. Three different cultural lifestyles. Her life experiences have supported her understanding of the ever-changing global culture. She has claimed witness to how techniques in cooking and language have been modified to suit new environments and times.



Mrs. Tharmarajah and I began our chat with some small talk; an update on how my parents are doing, how I am enjoying Atlanta since my move, and of course the kicker, when was I going to get married. I laughed around an answer before the subject of numerology came up.

Sulojana Tharmarajah: Amanda, when is your birthday?

Amanda Woolery: It’s on Tuesday.

ST: Oh, you and Sangeetha {her daughter} are September people?

AW: Yes we are!

ST: Oh okay, what date you born?

AW: The 27th

ST: Oh, you are number nine, my number.

AW: Ohh, really?

ST: It’s numerology, a number horoscope; so you are number nine. First,  it’s the two and seven, and that’s nine, then it’s September, which is nine. You see, the number keeps on coming back to you Amanda, you understand what I mean?

AW: Yes

ST: Yes, nine is the highest number. Number nine is a high number, it means you are on top. Don't forget me when you are on top, yes? (laughs)

AW: (Laughs) I won’t!

~~~~~~~~PART 1: MUSIC~~~~~~~~~

ST: Okay Amanda, I am ready for the questions!

AW: Okay, great, so let’s talk about music. Do you listen to music throughout your day?

ST: I was! Then when the phone rings, I turned it off (laughs).

AW: (Laughs) What were you listening to?

ST: It’s our Sri Lankan Tamil music.

AW: Oh, tell me about that kind of music.

ST: They are from Sri Lanka, the northern part, and from South India- Do you want the name too?

AW: Sure!

ST: You can put bayila {aka; balia}, and other one is haran, H-A-R-A-N.

AW: Thank you!

ST: That is the shortest form that I gave you (laughs) otherwise its longer.

AW: (Laughs) So what is it about music that you love?

ST: I was brought up that way, with music, and it's like when I do any work in my home, like cooking or organizing or anything, I can feel like I am working, but then my mind is with the music.

AW: What did you listen to when you were growing up?

ST: Same music, but different singers. It’s my childhood music, but the rhythm is changing every time, you know, because the global culture is changing. The music now, it has some English words in it, it’s because of the online stuff, it’s the global culture, it is changing everything.

It's like, they say thank you now, but not in our language{Tamil}. It is so more people can enjoy the music. Makes more people comfortable.


~~~~~~~~Part 2: FOOD~~~~~~~~~


AW: So, tell me about your favorite foods.

ST: My favorite food is rice and curry and also, Puttu.

AW: Oh, what’s that?

ST: That's made out of rice flour. It’s steam rice flour mixed with the coconut, you know the coconut kernels, and make steam, it’s steam puttu, P-U-T-T-U.

AW: That sounds good!

ST: Yes, that's my childhood food. Still, we make it here. In England or in USA, we make our home food. Rice and curry, that’s spicy, you know that right? (laughs)

AW: (laughs) Yeah I do! So when did you move to the UK?

ST: I think in...1986.

AW: What’s the difference in how you cooked in Sri Lanka versus how you cook here or in England?

ST: You know actually, I didn’t cook by myself when I was back home. My mom always do the cooking and I help her out.

Usually when we cook with the curry’s or any other food, we use the coconut milk. They shredded the coconut to make a juice out of it and then make the curry; the fish curry, or chicken or lamb, or anything- they add coconut milk in it.

In England and here we use the regular milk or the canned milk.

AW: Who taught you how to cook?

ST: My mom. I started with cutting the onions and the chillies in the beginning, like 16, 17, 18. And in school we had to take a cooking lesson. It’s called home science. So there is a teacher weekly, one time, one hour, I think.

So they divide us into three or four groups, and one group has to make chicken curry and another one spinach curry and another one, like, uh, fish and chips or something like that.

So we need to take all the ingredients, and there is all the spices, stove, table, all cutlery, so then we need to do the cooking. They provide the aprons and everything.

So the teacher give us list, like, “you need to cook this, and you need to cook that.” It’s a group of like ten people, ten people in each group for example, and there is a mark for everything, so she {the teacher} taste everything and give us a mark. And everyone needs to do a different cooking.

So the class is like once a week….or every week two classes. So I learn some there, but when we go to the test…Oh, you know the TV shows with kids cooking now?

AW: Yes.

ST: It’s something like that, but we get some help from our parents at home, then we do the test in the school.

AW: Yeah, I used to call it Home Ec.

ST: Yes, yes.

AW: So why do you think cooking is important?

ST: Well...umm...we need to eat first! (laughs)

AW: (laughs) Right!

ST: And it’s filling our hunger! And it’s like passion of family get together on the dinner table, and we all share the food, it’s kind of a cultural way…and I think it’s kind of like we’re sharing our values to our children- this is the way we cook, and they catch our culture and it’s a repeat- they follow our culture.


We ended with talking about a popular song in India about girls taking selfies. An example of how the global culture influenced song lyrics and encouraged language blending. English words like selfie fall into the dialects of various cultures around the world. And so, the global culture expands.