It’s not always about the place you have lived all your life in. It is usually about the people you have lived with that the memories are filled of. It is the family, the friends, the bunch of folks you are comfortable hanging out with, the jokes you share with them which only they fully understand. That’s what memories are made of. Same applies to the festivals. It’s always about the people you celebrate with. First Diwali away from home, away from India didn’t feel like Diwali at all.
It came. And it went. Nothing exceptional about it.
Back home, Diwali fervour begins much before the festival actually begins. The atmosphere is charged with festive and celebratory mood many a weeks in advance. There is a tell-tell excitement about the holidays, about the festival, about the visits from families living away from home, about meeting your loved ones. That is Diwali to me.
The house is thoroughly scrubbed down, all the hoarded junk is cleared out, a fresh coat of paint is given just before Diwali, expensive chinaware reserved only for festivals and special occasions is brought out, varieties of sweets and savouries are made, elaborate lunch and dinner party plans are chalked out, invitations go out, lights and lanterns stacked away in the back of the cupboards are brought out and artistically put up, presents for families and friends are bought, beautiful rangolis adorning the front of the house are made, and best of the shimmery, glittery costumes are worn for the Diwali Pooja. People wait until Diwali to make that big purchase of the year; that washing machine or that fridge or that LED TV or that car that they have long desired is brought during Diwali. Shops make a crisp business. That is Diwali to me.
The glimmering lights from the hundreds of thousands of diyas and lanterns around the city, splendid fireworks going off every now and then, the smell of incense sticks permeating the house, fresh flowers in the vase, big, bright smiles on the faces of children jumping with joy, making most of their holidays and having a field day with chocolates and sweets and even adults letting them indulge. That is Diwali to me.
Away from home in NZ, it was just not the same. There was a huge Diwali celebration held by the Indian Association here, which saw a huge turnout of crowds, Indians and non-Indians. But it was more like a Bollywood night or some annual day function way back from school. Groups from different parts of India performing their folk dances. Nothing ‘Diwali” about it L
TCG and I tried to recreate that magic in our own little way. We have no relatives here. But we visited the temple on the New Year’s. On the day of Diwali, we performed a small pooja at home, lit up the house with tea light candles and made a few sweets and savouries. We tried to celebrate with as much spirit as we could. We made many Skype calls with our families and tried to make most of what we could.
It was just not the same. This is not what Diwali is to me.