It’s hard to feel the vibes of Diwali in the lead up to it when we live so far from India. Luckily, there are many institutions around us that help us get into that groove.
The best of these are the large-scale community melas (fairs) that gather the clan for their day-long events. They do their bit wonderfully to remind us that Diwali is upon us once again. In recent years, we’ve seen a number of these melas in various pockets of the community, each with their own flavour.
This year, of course, the mainstream participation has been heart-warming. The pollies are beginning to greet the community at this time like never before – on their own social media platforms, in media releases issued by their offices, and in the form of ads in publications like ours. The call of NSW MPs Jodi McKay and Julia Finn for a ‘Diwali showdown’ as a contest in their respective constituencies won the admiration of the Indian community just as much as Blacktown Council’s Diwali Lights competition did for dwellings in the area. In coming days, we are going to see the Opera House all dressed up in Diwali colours.
At the personal level, we are now gearing up for the actual event. In this festive season, we have welcomed Ganesha into our homes (and fought for him in the lamb ad!), have tapped the dandiya sticks, arranged the golu set-up, fasted for significant others, and done whatever else our part of ‘home’ in India does at this time. This weekend we’ll probably spend bringing out those diyas and giving them a spot of polish, for that final flourish on Thursday 19 Oct.
And so this issue, we asked our readers for a bit of show and tell, on their favourite diyas. Out came the stories about family bonds, special moments with friends, random moments of connect with strangers, and a whole host of other fond memories. But the stories, still rooted in tradition as they were, didn’t sound dated and staid. They was a refreshing newness to them. In subtle ways, the traditions had been contemporised.
The readiness to mould our traditions to fit our modern lives in our new homes, was also heart-warming. When a handmade charity candle replaces the earthen diya, when fruit and nut replace mithai, when a fundraiser replaces the taash party, the message is, there is a willingness to make the traditional more contemporary. We are not bound by our old ways, but by the essential messages ensconced in our traditions.
A wonderful description perhaps of our own community here, as it comes of age.
At a time when there is much talk of lights and illumination, it is sobering to note that there are thoughts of darkness too. There are many amongst us who are hoping this Diwali to reach into the darkness – of poverty and disadvantage – and pull someone out. There are Diwali fundraisers galore this month, with beneficiaries in India as well as in Australia.
The darkness is also in division. The polarised world in which we find ourselves today – whether in terms of religion, race, gender inequity or gender identity – would do well with a healing light, one that will draw people closer in acceptance, or, at the very least, bring about civility in disagreement.
We pray for a more enlightened world this Diwali.