As an offspring of Hindu-Christian parents, neither of whom is an ardent follower of religious customs, I have often found myself wanting a better understanding of both religions. On the other hand it has also meant that as young children my brother and I got to enjoy the best of both worlds. We were equally excited about Christmas as we were on Holi and Diwali. While mum baked her famous Christmas cakes and made sure we went to Church, on Diwali we also had a houseful of mithai (sweets), dry fruits, fire-crackers and diyas (small earthen oil lamps) with the house decorated with flowers to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. Although we often joked that no goddess would show up on the doorstep of ‘sinners’.
Now married and staying far away from my home city, I can’t help but think of the many festivals celebrated with my family. As much as my parents may feel my absence this Diwali and I theirs, it will still be a day of laughter, good food, friends and family. In fact this year I will be celebrating Diwali from a particularly remote corner of the country, but I still can’t wait to get all dressed up, light diyas and wish a ‘Shubh Deepavali’ to the other handful of cohabitants.
The other thing I love about this time of the year is the sweet whiff of seasonal flowers and a chilly nip in the air bearing news that winter is around the corner. It the perfect weather to plan family picnics and bonfire get-together’s with friends or simply sit out in the patio soaking in the winter sun, reading a book and sipping tea (for the benefit of non-Indian readers, the winter season in India is the best time to plan outdoor events and activities).
With Diwali just a week away most of my Indian friends are busy sprucing up their homes, buying gift hampers and making a list of people to visit or call for the occasion. I have often wondered, is it coincidence or divine providence that the last months of the year also have the most popular festivals across major religions – Eid, Diwali and Christmas, giving all of us a special occasion to rejoice with friends and family.
I pray that this Diwali brings sheer joy and good health for you and your family. Particularly if you own a business and employ people, I hope that Goddess Lakshmi bestows every possible blessing on your enterprise.
Wish you all a very Happy Diwali!