Most of us have many happy memories of Diwali. Carefree, joyful times spent in the company of family and friends, made more exciting with new clothes, an abundance of festive food and fireworks. We have enjoyed the Lakshmi puja, Bhai Dooj and visiting homes gaily decorated with diyas, lights and rangoli.
So what made those Diwalis gone past special? Here, Indian Link asks community members what made the festival truly memorable for them. In this yaadon ki baraat, some recount happy times, others tell of scary incidents, but all are wonderfully nostalgic and we hope, bring a touch of light and laughter to your own celebrations this year.
My first Diwali
My very first Diwali was in the year 2003.
Coming from Pakistan, I had had no previous exposure to this festival.
But the very first day at work as a broadcaster on Indian Link Radio, also coincided with the Festival of Lights. My first ever radio show therefore, was on Diwali. No wonder it is my most memorable Diwali!
It is memorable for another reason, though. My co-host that morning, was my colleague Khalid Malik. Two Muslims, and both from Pakistan, fronting a show on Diwali. Now how’s that for Australian multiculturalism?!
As we got down to work with our carefully prepared playlist of upbeat songs, the phone lines lit up. It was a barrage of listeners calling in to wish their friends and family Happy Diwali. There was much fun and laughter, and the positive energy was infectious. We got completely caught up in the joy of it all… I enjoyed myself thoroughly. We ended with, you guessed it, plenty of puppies and jhappies!
What a happy first show it was for me. I felt lucky to have got acquainted with the listeners in an atmosphere of joie de vivre, and that pretty much set the mood for my shows ever since. To all my favourite listeners who have stuck with me since then, and to the hundreds more who have joined in through ten more Diwalis, I say, thank you, and Diwali Mubarak!
Khalid Malik has since moved back to Pakistan and made a name for himself in the entertainment industry there. How I would love to have him back on my show on Diwali this year to mark the tenth anniversary of our first appearance together. Are you listening, Khalid miya?
Diwali 2013 will be a special one for Uzma as she clocks up ten years behind the microphone at Indian Link Radio, a full decade of non-stop diva-style dimaag-chaat-buk-buk. Congrats, Uzma!
True communal harmony
My most memorable Diwali experience was in 1975, at my home in Srinagar in the beautiful Kashmir valley. We lived in a neighbourhood that had Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist and Hindu homes right next to each other. Unlike today when Kashmir has become synonymous with violence and conflict, in the 1970s the valley was synonymous with religious and cultural harmony and togetherness. On the morning of Diwali in 1975 (I was 13 years old then), all the children in the mohalla first collected money from the elders and then went to buy the choicest fireworks from nearby Maharajah bazaar, which was converted into huge fireworks supermarket. And in the evening, instead of celebrating Diwali just in our own houses, everyone, Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhist and Hindu families, assembled in the grounds of nearby Amar Singh College, first ate together and then watched the spectacular display of fireworks. It didn’t matter which faith we belonged to or our political loyalties, we all came together in celebrating the victory of good over evil. Those were the days, unimaginable in Kashmir today!
It’s a special Diwali for Dr Mattoo as the Australia India Institute, of which he is director, has just concluded its fifth successful year of operations.
Warm and fuzzy
There have been so many happy Diwalis, I couldn’t possibly pick one! Ok, let me see – turning all the lights on in the house on Diwali night, but first checking to see there were no fused bulbs and changing them if there were any; helping to line up the façade of the house with electric light strings, which would stay on from just before Diwali to just after Guru Purb, equally significant, if not more so for us Sikhs; that much awaited afternoon when we would be taken to the shops to purchase our choice of patakas; the endless parties night after night in the week of Diwali as we made the rounds to homes of close friends and family; the special little things I would have for all my cousins, especially as the oldest cousin in the clan; the special moments with each of my brothers on Bhai Dooj (Brothers’ Day)… Oh, there definitely were some not-so-happy moments which we all laugh at today, such as when my hair went up in flames from a stray phooljhadi (sparkler) or when my brother burnt his hand! But overall, the outstanding memories are those magic moments of sharing and happiness and non-stop partying… A very Happy Diwali to you. May the diyas enlighten you, may the crackers add sparkle to you; may the candles fill you with hope, and may your fears go up in smoke!
Congrats to SBS Punjabi broadcaster Manpreet as she celebrates her Walkley Award nomination and UNAA’s media award for increasing awareness of women’s rights and issues. It’s certainly going to be a happy Diwali for her.
Crying for (an authentic) Diwali
One of our most memorable Diwalis is when my wife Simran and I took our ten-month-old daughter Ashna to India during Diwali. The poor babe got such a fright with the patakas on Diwali night that she caused quite a panic amongst the family members. She squealed non-stop as the firecrackers went off outside. Of course we thought she would get used to it shortly, but no! The louder they got, the harder she cried. Everyone ran helter-skelter to close the doors and windows and cover her ears and block air spaces with towels and sheets. But all the poor darling did was turn redder and redder with the constant crying. As for her mum, she turned redder and redder as she tried hard not to cry! And me, I just stood there wondering whether to cuddle my two girls in protection, or storm outside and give the pesky teenage revellers a piece of my mind, or drag a quilt out from somewhere to further soundproof the doors… or just eat another piece on burfi in resignation. It was one heck of a long Diwali night before the noise subsided and the fruit of my loins fell into exhausted sleep. And if you have had a ten-month-old, you will know the kind of exhausted sleep Simran and I fell into as well!
Many friends tell us that one of their fervent Diwali wishes is to be able to take their kids to India to see an authentic Diwali. Diwalis in Australia are so sanitised, they complain; no patakas, bad mithai, no extended family… our kids must see the real thing. But then I remember Ashna’s first Diwali and wonder, will your kids really enjoy it?
This Diwali will be a special one for Mandeep Rana and partner Dimpy Singh, as their Terrey Hills Restaurant Urban Tadka wins two awards in as many months (state level and national level Savour Australia 2013 Award for best Indian restaurant ), in its second year of operation.
Diwali with primary school kids
Every Diwali is special for me, but the most special is always the current one! This year’s Diwali has been like a dream come true for me, as I celebrated it with a few hundred primary school kids.
Students from seven mainstream schools got together at Cronulla Public School to mark Diwali. And what a Diwali party we had!
There were Indian outfits galore for teachers as well as students; a traditional Indian welcome ceremony; Indian music and dance, and some sumptuous Indian food for all. The mostly non-Indian kids learned about Diwali as they enacted scenes from the Ramayana (including a Ravana figure complete with ten heads), crafted colourful diyas as candle holders, and drew rangoli and henna designs during art lessons. And the Bhangra and the Bollywood dancing, what a hit!
My only regret is that alas, we did not have sparklers…
Having worked towards making something like this happen for the last 24 years, it was truly exhilarating to see it all come to fruition. I cannot express in words how I felt but hopefully my photos will say it all!
The event was initiated by the Principal Mr Peter Banks and the India Calling teacher and Assistant Principal Mrs Joanne Williamson. A huge thank you to art teacher Ms Jacqui Hachfath, Indian teacher Ms Kulwinder Kaur, music experts Mr Vinod Rajput and Mr Bulla Singh.
India Calling is a multistage teaching resource currently complemented by a Hindi language program, trialled and developed in the Sydney Region of the NSW Department of Education and Communities’ Expanding Horizons with Asia initiative. It involves both face-to-face lessons presented by our specialist Hindi teacher, augmented by videoconference technology to connect a total of 520 students in Year 3 and 4 across all the participating schools in the state. This innovative educational program shares resources to develop an understanding of India and provides insight into the Hindi language. This program builds vital ‘people-to-people’ links among school children of both countries and sows the seeds for opening up of opportunities for considerable growth through education, including exchange of language and educational programmes and deepening ties between Indians and Australians.
This Diwali will be a special one for Mala, as the Indian Calling program of which she is coordinator, marks five years since inception.