An object that conjures increased sentimentality and pride inside of my household is none other than the velikku (a golden oil lamp) that sits on top of the mantelpiece.
The practice of using velikkus is largely native to Kerala, where my parents were born. In 2004, my parents and I went to India for the first time since my parents left Kerala in 1993. In the evening, I remember seeing my grandmother lighting the velikku with a theepetti (a matchbox). The living room was illuminated completely and there was no need to turn on the lights. The velikku remained illuminated until the entire family ate together, prayed together, and went to bed.
The velikku that stands on top of the mantelpiece robustly stands as a testament to our proud Catholic tradition. My father always used to tell me that we categorize ourselves as St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholics, meaning that our ancestors two thousand years ago were one of the seven families converted by St. Thomas. Originally Brahmins, they embraced the Catholic faith. Symbolically, the velikku stands for a Catholic tradition that has been maintained for two thousand years. It helps us vicariously celebrate our Catholic faith with our fellow Syro Malabar Catholics spread throughout the world, and it reminds my parents of the simpler life they had in Kerala with their family.
– Jeffin Xavier