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Published:November 2nd, 2005 14:39 EST
Sweets, Candles and Lights: Diwali on the Land of Videshi

Sweets, Candles and Lights: Diwali on the Land of Videshi

By Noopur Shrivastav

Sweets, candles and lights: Diwali, located on the land of Videshi. Supriya Singh was busy in the kitchen preparing sweets and namkins (hot and salty cuisine) for three days, along-side her two year old daughter.  This made it difficult for her to make all the preparations for Diwali celebration in a day or two. So she planned the things in installments and organized the Diwali party on Saturday evening. "Diwali will be held on a Tuesday, which is a weekday and people will have difficulties meeting friends and relatives after a busy day at work.  So I postponed the party for Saturday", says Supriya, draped in a beautiful blue silk saree and glass bangles jingling around her wrists. Diwali, which is a Hindu festival that is observed in India and on New Year`s Day, starts from this day, as per the Hindu calendar.

People light diyas (small oil lamps that are used during the celebration), as well as preparing a variety of sweets, meeting friends and relatives, exchange greetings and of course gamble for a while. Indians in Delaware observed Diwali in full vigor, "We do not find diyas over here, so we try to purchase a lot of candles and so that we may light our houses on this occasion", says Pratima Mahopatra of Cavalier Apartments. She bought a lot of candles from Wal-Mart, cooked traditional sweets for the festival, and dressed herself in the traditional Indian attire.

The evening was meant for Prayer and offering. Supriya cooked Kheer, pua and sweets and offered it to Goddess Laxmi and Lord Ganesh. After that, she switched off the lights, and her house was bathed in a dim light of colorful candles with small yellow flames dancing in their glass confinements. After prayer, she opened all her doors. It is believed that, on Diwali, "the Goddess of wealth and prosperity, Laxmi" visits every household, and she blesses the house with prosperity and this is why people keep their doors open. Another couple-- Neelima and her husband, Raghuram, chose to visit the Mahalaxmi temple on this auspicious occasion, and they were elated to see the arrangements the temple management had made for the festival.

"There was special archana and prasadam for the occasion; the temple also arranged for fireworks and children were given small firecrackers to light. It is so nice to see these things here", says elated Neelima. Another one of the apartments in this community was bustling with the cheers and laughter of 25-30 people; it was a Diwali potlach party at Veena and Laxminarayan`s place. All friends and colleagues dropped by their apartment with their special recipe. "Wow, it`s so delicious, are sab shuru ho jao nahin to katam ho jaayega aur tumlog bhukhe rah jaaoge"(guys make it fast otherwise it will be gone soon and you will remain hungry), " said a jubilant Snehal biting her piece of bread roll.

On the evening of Diwali the table at Laxminarayan and Veena`s place was full of Indian delicacies, and the couple was busy greeting and treating their guests. However, the festivities do not stop here in a day or two; the single men at the party have plans to visit the casino hub of east coast, Atlantic City, this weekend. They will gamble to see if they will prosper in the coming year. According to the myth associated with Diwali, people are to gamble or play cards on these days and for those who win it are believed that they will profit in the year ahead.

As the night grew dark, the wax of candles melted and the light faded. Gradually, a thin line of smoke rose from the candles and disappeared into the air. Still eyes stared at the remaining dancing flames. Lots of stories hovering in the mind, "when we were kids, we lit candles with our brothers and sisters, and our mother`s performed prayer rituals, as we enjoyed the excitement of the fireworks. The whole city seemed to be decorated as if for a wedding. All those days are gone, only memories of those days are with me now", sighed Hemant. The depth of his voice said he was missing his siblings and parents more on this occasion. Come any festival or special occasion, the Desi community starts thinking about their motherland.

My mother prepares Mathia very well for this occasion; my sister makes very good rangoli. I love shooting the firecrackers and I would always beg my father to buy a lot more for me. I wish I was still in India, I would have seen the rows of diyas that are lit on this occasion and I can still picture the whole city decorated with the colored bulbs and candles.  

In conclusion, if any of you from the Desi community think in the same way even now, give yourself a break. Come to the first state of the United States, Delaware. It housed 5,280 Asian Indians according to the United States census report of 2000. And the state has seen a growth of 141.87% from 1990 to 2000 and the market of the Information technology has not yet decelerated. Desis are still pouring in. Hence, do not be surprised if you see some doors open on November 1st or in the week ahead if there are candles and decorative bulbs glowing inside. Desis do what ever they can to bring the memories of their land and their festival to their present home.