TEACHER Nicholas Fletcher, 40, drew many curious glances during his kavadi procession, as he had behind him a group of foreigners dressed in traditional Indian garb.
Fletcher, who teaches at an international school in Penang, had the support of about 10 fellow collea-gues who turned up early to accompany him throughout his procession from Lorong Kulit to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Hilltop Temple on Jalan Air Terjun.
He was also accompanied by his two young daughters, Saidashini, 10, and Saimalani, six, who were carrying miniature kavadi on their shoulders as they walked alongside their father.
His colleagues, Charlene Bowker and her husband Neil, both 28, from England, said they were honoured to be part of Fletcher’s entourage.
“We admire his dedication to his faith,” said Charlene when met on Lorong Kulit.
Neil said he was amazed at how supportive the community was, adding that “they are very welcoming to everyone.”
Also among the group was housewife Sarah Smith, 42, from England, whose children attend the international school.
“I have not quite seen anything like this before.
“The experience is unforgettable,” said Smith of her first Thaipusam experience.
Over at Jalan Air Terjun, a group of volunteers who call themselves Sampah Masyarakat were seen busy collecting rubbish under the hot sun.
Shyam Priah, 37, said she and several other volunteers had tra-velled all the way from Kuala Lumpur to attend Thaipusam in Penang.
“This is our seventh time doing this and our first time in Penang. Previously, we have also been to Batu Caves during Thaipusam to help with the cleanup,” she said.
“We hope to raise public awareness of the importance of segregating rubbish at source.
“If everyone could cooperate to separate their rubbish into paper, plastic, glass and aluminium before throwing them, it would help save the environment,” she said.
She added that the crowd in Penang was much smaller than that in Batu Caves, so the volume of rubbish was less here.
“However, we also notice that Penangites are more environmentally conscious,” she said.
Volunteer C. Suntharan, 24, agreed, adding that he saw some people insisting on using only biodegradable containers and not polysterene containers.