Celebrations marking Diwali, the Indian Festival of Light, is a high-point in the socializing and entertaining calendar in India, and among the Indian diaspora worldwide.

Diwali is celebrated with fun, festivities and religious traditions by global Indians living in south-east Asia, as well as in such far-flung countries as Guyana, on the north-eastern coast of South America, to Caribbean nations and island-states lying in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. Diwali is also celebrated in countries across Africa where generations of Indians have long settled, and by the millions of migrant diaspora that have sought jobs and livelihood in countries lying in the Far-East, Middle-East, in Europe, and in the US and Canada.

The five-day festival of Diwali, which has traditional, religious, social and historical connotations attached to it, differs based on the celebrants, and though it has acquired a more mercantile aspect in recent times, the spiritual relevance of Diwali remains the same and has abided over the ages. The Festival of Light continues to symbolize the universal power of light to uplift, guide, and lead people along the righteous path.

The festival epitomizes the conquest of light over darkness, of good over evil, and on a more individual level, the eradication of ignorance with the light of knowledge. This eternal aspect of Diwali is what makes the festival so popular and is the reason it has prevailed for nearly three millennia on the Indian subcontinent and wherever Indians have made their home.

While in India Diwali is an unfettered celebration of the joy of life and marked by a profusion of riotous colors, aromas and sounds emanating from every quarter, it tends to be observed in a more subdued manner in countries populated by Indian communities, and in places where Indian expatriates live and work. No matter how it is commemorated, there is no denying the spirit of joie de vivre that the Festival of Lights spreads in the hearts and minds of Indians everywhere.

Generations of Indians abroad have marked Diwali with festive and religious traditions, and shared the joy of the festival with the exchange of sweets and gifts among relatives, friends and colleagues. For the expatriate Indian community, Diwali is a celebration that reflects their longing to share the occasion with their near and dear ones back home. It is also a way to keep in touch with their roots, and to join friends, kith and kin in celebrating the rich culture and heritage of India.

However, in recent times, there has been a gradual but noticeable erosion of interest in Diwali as well as other traditional festivals among many young Indians overseas, engaged as they are in their own busy daily schedules. Many do not seem to share the sentiments of their parents’ generation and appear to have no time for the rituals and rites associated with the festival.

Most young adolescent expats who probably were born and raised in a foreign environment, and have only made an occasional brief foray back home to India during holiday breaks, have no resonance with the cultures and traditions of a country that many find and consider alien. Many of these youngsters have only a fuzzy idea of the culture and heritage of India, and often have difficulty in balancing the culture of their forebears with prevailing norms in the urban culture they grew up in, and in the foreign land that many have come to consider their true home.

But prevailing unsettling times, of geopolitical crises, global pandemics, and economic upheavals, have driven home the fleeting nature of our lives and livelihoods, and how dependent we are on communities and social interactions. The importance of our roots and our connections are never more poignantly accentuated than during times of global crises. Knowing and acknowledging that we have a country and people to fall back on in the worst case scenario, is often the only bright spot when a situation grows increasingly bleak.

Importance of the land of our ancestors that always remains open and welcome to us, should be reason enough for the younger generations to familiarize themselves with their roots, their cultures and traditions. The Festival of Light this year could be the right time and opportunity to revive and give a restart to relations with our native land and its culture.

The festival presents us with an occasion to immerse ourselves in the beauty and grandeur of Indian culture and heritage. It also provides us with a chance to experience the tantalizing tastes of traditional dishes and delicacies prepared during the festival period. But, most importantly, it delivers us with a golden opportunity to imbue the sense of community and friendship that is fundamental aspect of our Indian values.

So this Diwali, even if you do not like to consider yourself an ‘Indian’, go light up your house, don bright clothes, the brighter the better, and go have fun with other Indians and other expatriates, while remembering to take along a gift of Diwali delicacies to share with them.

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