Diwali: The Festival of Lights
As many of us are gearing up for Halloween and the upcoming holiday season, my family and others of Indian decent all over the world are celebrating Diwali, a five day celebration commonly referred to as the “festival of lights.” This year it started on October 22nd with the biggest day being October 24th. Diwali celebrations involve fireworks displays, lighting of candles we call “diyas”, decorating with rangoli (colorful art with dyed powder, sand, rice, etc.), large gatherings with friends and family, exchanging of gifts and sweets, and much more. While Diwali is a religious holiday with Hindu mythological significance, there is an even larger and very simple message behind it: the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil.
As a child of Indian immigrants, at times I shied away from publicly associating myself with my cultural roots. It was hard enough to explain to my non-Indian classmates what I ate for dinner. There was also the name calling – curry head, dot heat, Gandhi, and so on. I think back now on some of those names intended to hurt my feelings and they seem so silly. Kids would say I smelled like curry powder. Years later I learned that curry powder isn’t even from India! It is a blend of spices created by the British to evoke the essence of Indian food. My parents taught my sisters and I that sticks and stones could break my bones but names could never hurt us. But the names did effect many of us in some way. We just wanted to belong in our community so we celebrated at home amongst ourselves.
Now that I have children of my own, I want them to know our culture is something we shouldn’t shy away from. There should not be a sense of embarrassment or resentment towards it. Culture is a beautiful thing and diversity is what makes America the melting pot it is today. It isn’t meant to be celebrated only amongst our family at home. It brings me joy to see large US corporations like McDonald’s and Target partake in the festivities. At Systematics, we decorate our office with festive Indian décor. It is difficult for me not to be involved and bringing my peers into the celebration.
As I light diyas this Diwali, I think of my fellow EFBC colleagues and the joy you bring to my life. An occasion to celebrate victory over defeat, light over darkness, awareness over ignorance. An occasion to celebrate life. May this Diwali fill your lives with new hopes for the future and new dreams for tomorrow. Happy Diwali!
EFBC President 2022-2023