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Festivals and traditions

What comes to your mind when you read the two terms above? Family, perhaps. I would normally agree to this as well however, the unusual times and circumstances we live in now lead me to celebrate Diwali away from my family for the first time in 21 years! Taking away the family element, I was left conflicted for a while and that’s when it dawned on me: festivals are what you make of it, it is a feeling of internal bliss and being at one with the lord above. I reminisced on the times I celebrated Diwali before and accepted that while it was saddening to celebrate it without my family, it gave me the opportunity to truly embrace my culture and stay true to my roots.

And so, here is my experience of celebrating Diwali away from home and with my second family:

 

07.00 – 10.00

According to tradition, one is supposed to wake early in the morning and oil their hair and then wash it off with a warm shower. This signifies the washing away of any sins we may have committed. Now being a student, being an early bird is not exactly my strong point, so this naturally posed a challenge for me. However, the festive spirit may have acted as a catalyst to get me out of bed and get started with the day. After a shower, I prayed and while I do so every day, this day was truly something special. Rather than just being thankful for all that I have, I found myself reflecting on all the events that happened the previous year and what lies ahead; and at the centre of it all was my family. I then changed it to a traditional Indian attire and suddenly it started to feel a lot like Diwali! After jumping on a quick video call with my family, I was ready to get going with the rest of the day.

 

11.00 – 14.00

Now came the tricky bit: food.

Traditionally, Diwali foresees people cooking large vegetarian meals; the preparation for which sometimes starts the day before. Now my ‘second family’ consisted of individuals who were not necessarily the best cooks and being students, we were just inclined to order in. However, we managed to fight the urge and pulled our socks up to cook a traditional South Indian meal. We all took turns contributing and during our break, we played some indoor cricket to further simulate the experience of being back home wherein the adults would be busy with preparations and the children ran about doing their thing. Being final year students, you may also consider it to be a plea to reach out to our inner child. After the preparations and a good while spent on Instagram posting stories of our achievement, we got around to eating.

 

15:00 – 18.00

After suffering a food coma (which lasted for a good hour) we got around to decorating the house, which according to tradition is a gesture of welcoming the goddess of wealth and prosperity Lakshmi into your house. We sat around in a circle on the floor making a “Rangoli” which basically is an art form involving making patters through coloured powder and to bring in good luck. Typically on Diwali, a family indulges in a “Pooja” which is a ritual to bless us with luck and prosperity for the years to come. This is usually carried out by a priest but due to Covid-19, we found ourselves attending an online Zoom session wherein we carried out the ritual and joined in a few prayers.

 

19.00 – 22.00 

Having spent the entire day “adulting”, the time had come for what we as kids used to wait for the entire day. We laid out the “diyas” across the house and lit them up in an attempt to welcome the Goddess Lakshmi into our house. We got out the sparklers and had a laugh as we swirled them around, not realising the Déjà vu we just witnessed and why would we? For a moment, we could finally be the carefree selves we used to be.

And that was Diwali 2020. Best Diwali I have ever celebrated? Probably not. A memorable one, however? Most definitely.

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