As I gazed at my husband who was almost comically balancing himself on a tree trying to fix the decorative string lights, it made me pause to think about all the festivities and how these traditions have not only shaped us but have been a part of learning even in the professional context.
Diwali, a festival of decoration, lights, puja, mithai and gifts, brings with itself fond memories of childhood, of helping mom prepare savouries and Rangoli. Here’s what I have observed through the years how communities are created by these traditions and how celebrations foster everlasting bonds :
In the days leading to Diwali, preparations of cleaning and decorating the house (or office) begins. It is that time of the year when the entire family helps in cleaning and the ritual is not just limited to the women in the household (You will agree that in most Indian homes, it is usually the women in the house who are responsible of the upkeep of the house). Cleaning of the house is not just about the mess but more so to do with the fact that everyone in the house takes up the ownership of cleaning the house; and this act alone can bring discipline to one’s family.
One the day of Diwali, the family gets together to decorate the house with lights, oil lamp, candles and a carpet of colours and flowers – the Rangoli. Some people take up the responsibility drawing the outline of the Rangoli, while some neatly fill in the colours and petals, while some, like my husband, choose to climb the trees and the rooftop to decorate the lights and lamps. Diwali is a festival of savouries and sweets, and some members in the family devote their time in that area. Right before the celebration kick start, there is a non-negotiable unity in the Laxmi puja where members of the family bow their heads to the Goddess Almighty and pray that the family stay blessed. The day culminates with friends and neighbours exchanging good wishes, gifts, sweets and basking is some soulful music.
There is a sense of spontaneous organization, automatic ownership and effortless harmony. It is a day where people break into impromptu chatter, a day when people have cleaning the mess of their house and their minds to welcome positivity. It is a day when people don’t shun their responsibilities but take up things that they enjoy or are good at. It is a day when people do good things for others and appreciate the world around. It is day that reminds me that even though we are living in an age when human connections are getting more and more distant, such festivities can foster community bonding and that these bonds are what bring strength to the heart. It is the heart filled with joy and warmth that can create magic!