Another Diwali has come and gone.
Growing up in India, Diwali always symbolised the end of festive season. Well there was still ‘bhai phota’ or ‘bhai duj’ which falls a couple of days after Diwali, but nothing much after that. The frenzied shopping before Durga Puja, the magic of Mahalaya, those days of Pujo (as Durga Puja is referred to in Bengal), visiting family and friends, food and more food… all that seemed to culminate in the sound and fury of Diwali crackers. Schools would soon reopen; along with the first nip in the air, it would be time to prepare for annual exams. Yes, then there would be Christmas to look forward to, but it was too fleeting. Funny, now that I think about it, everything was about religion and yet the conviviality of these occasions overrode everything else. Durga Puja was as much about catching up with friends and eating out as it was about praying to the Goddess; Diwali time was about paying obeisance to another deity, Goddess Kali, but it was the fun of lighting sparklers and bursting the most innovative crackers that took precedence. Even Christmas was about buying cakes and checking out the street decorations, with occasional attendance of the midnight mass thrown in.
In my 20s, when I moved to Mumbai, I truly realised why Diwali is the biggest festival of India. It was about ushering in a new year, sprucing up the home and wardrobe, about buying and gifting gold, playing cards, partying endlessly, getting bonus at work. In the absence of social media in those days, one got to witness the beautiful rangolis firsthand while visiting friends and family. We may have less photographic evidence of celebrations in those days, but the experiences are as strongly etched in our memory.
A few years later, after moving to Singapore, it was another eye-opener about the significance of Diwali worldwide. Not only is it a national holiday, the fervour is no less here in Singapore. Perhaps even more. The shopping, partying, decorations keep getting glitzier, the mithais and dry fruits more exotic.
Now that all that’s over, we have Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year to look forward to. Oh, and in between there’s Halloween and Thanksgiving. Indeed, the festive season goes on round the year.
This is as good a time as any to send love, light and best wishes to everyone. May we truly vanquish the darkness and move towards an illumined world. Happy Diwali.
Writers Block brings you glimpses of Singapore’s MRT train and stations decked up for Diwali.