I feel immensely proud to live in a multicultural society such as Auckland.
The numerous efforts made by Aucklanders to recognise and celebrate a wide range of cultures we encompass are commendable. Diwali, The Hindu Festival of Lights is one such event celebrated with great vigour.
As a child, I used to await Diwali with anxiety and excitement. It was an occasion to rejoice with everyone in the family and neighbourhood.
The Festival heralds a season that is full of joy and fun. Every house, irrespective of whether it is a villa or a modest dwelling, would undergo a discernable transformation.
My mother would ensure that our house was spick and span, and decorate it appropriately to welcome Goddess Lakshmi.
According to Indian Mythology, Diwali symbolises Lord Rama’s victory over Ravana and his return to Ayodhya after fourteen years of exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman. To this day, Hindus all over the world commemorate his return with lights.
My grandmother always said, “Lakshmi will protect us from money-related sorrows and bring wisdom, intelligence and good luck. She is our main Deity on Diwali Day.”
My cousins and I would decorate the doorstep of our house with Rangoli designs depict diyas, flowers and Peacock, India’s National Bird.
We lived in an apartment building comprising 16 floors and it was great to see the corridor lined with colourful lamps, leading to our house. Neighbours and friends would compete to make their homes the best decorated.
On the evening of Diwali, children of all ages and young married couples would gather in the tiny garden on the ground floor to burn crackers. The night would begin with children grabbing fuljardis and waving them in imaginative patterns.
In order to keep up the tempo, tiny black chunks would be lit; children around five years of age would be amazed as the chunks grew to become long snakes.
The next stage would be the sprouting of fountains of varied hue and formations.
Those who dared would set fire to more noisy and ‘dangerous’ crackers including ‘bombs’ and ‘rockets.’
I now realise the harmful and irreversible damage firecrackers cause to our environment, innocent animals and newborn babies. These are therefore no more in my list of ‘Things to do.’
Exchanging sweets and gifts and meeting members of the family and friends are my favourite part of Diwali. My mother and aunties would wear colourful sarees with studded jewellery to mark the occasion.
The Diwali that I experienced in India was a religious, social and family occasion to meet, greet, chat and spend time happily. A variety of gift items including dry fruits, sweets and gold and jewellery would be exchanged between families and friends.
We would enjoy a magnificent feast of Channa, Navratan Korma, Aloo Matter and Dal Makhani, with Naan, Paratha and Raita.
If there was one bad aspect of Diwali, it was over-indulgence in exotic and rich food.
But as we used to say, ‘After all, it is just for a day!”
Change of scene
My experience in Auckland has been equally enjoyable.
I tell many of my friends who are jealous of the celebrations in India that they should participate in the festivities at Aotea Centre and Square on October 30 and 31.
“Experience India’s cultural and social heritage come alive, with colourful costumes and extensive cuisine. You will also have an opportunity to purchase a number of items and take home sweets and savories. Grab this opportunity to experience India.”
It is important to recognise and emulate the real spirit of Diwali, which is to spread goodwill, understanding and laughter.
Anshita Thakkar is a final year student at Diocesan School for Girls in Auckland, keen on pursuing a career in mass communications.