The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A night that lights up lives

Fireworks, fun and festivity. With Young Metro going to press the night of Diwali, we asked some of our young writers to pen their thoughts on the celebrations. So, here goes…

Come November and you are mesmerised by the sweet-smelling aura of budding flowers, the comforting chill of the evening air, the semi-foggy morning breeze and the charming solemnity of the setting sun. All this and more cannot stop one from co-relating the euphoria fashioned by natural serenity with the inspiring spirit of Deepavali — the festival of lights. Deepavali, meaning in Sanskrit “the garland of light”, can be traced back thousands of years. In celebration of the victory of Lord Rama over Ravana and the triumph of good over evil, the citizens of Ayodhya had illuminated their homes with diyas and flowers, welcoming their hero. Since then, Deepavali, or Diwali as it is popularly known, is celebrated every year.

People send greetings and mithais to friends, relatives and neighbours. It is the time of year when homes are repainted, refurbished and decorated with rangoli to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. Dhanteras, on the eve of Diwali, is a day when some form of metal is purchased, to make an auspicious start to the new year. Some buy gold jewellery while others choose steel utensils or silver coins.

Unfortunately, Deepavali has gradually been commercialised and is an occasion for raucous revelry. Exchange of lavish gifts, deafening noise of crackers, losing a fortune at a hand of cards — these have become the unwelcome features of the season. Pastries have won over pedas, fragrant candles over diyas, chocolates over dry fruits and mud pies over mithais. What was previously an individual and private celebration is now a public affair. People indulge in extravagance, as gifts are weighed in terms of their monetary value, rather than the thought behind the gesture.

However, there are some others who choose to bring light into the lives of the less-fortunate and the downtrodden during this festival. Some make liberal donations to the poor, while others purchase ‘ordinary’ but meaningful gifts from places where the proceeds are given to charity. Family bonding becomes the order of the day where get-togethers revive the festive spirit. Children are happy as they light up the night with phuljharis and charkis.

Although the recent ban on noisy firecrackers has dampened the spirit of Diwali to some extent, everyone has become more conscious of respiratory hazards, the ever-increasing pollution and the ecological imbalance. There have been a number of NGOs and nature clubs of city schools that have supported this cause.

No matter how far family members may be from each other, the distance seems to dissipate as the festival of Diwali comes closer. People living abroad make earnest efforts to celebrate the day with friends. With the Internet boom, sending free electronic greetings across the globe has become a simple affair that suits the wallet. Aartis, shlokas and bhajans are available on tapes and CDs. For the Net-savvy, Lakshmi pujan is just a click-of-the-mouse affair. With cellphones fast becoming the communication lifeline for generation next, Diwali greetings on SMS is the way to go.

This festival has evolved into a secular one, which is enjoyed by everyone, irrespective of common differences. In this festive season, we should aspire to light up the lives of the needy, even as we eradicate the evils of terrorism and poverty and make this world a better place. Cheers and Happy Deepavali!

—Harsh Vardhan Sonthalia, UG II, St Xavier’s College


Playtime at Penn

Festivities here, at Philadelphia, began a whole week before Diwali, with students from Temple, Drexel and Pennsylvania coming together to celebrate it. The 11th annual Diwali show was organised on October 26 by the South Asian Society (SAS) at Irvine auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

The two-and-a-half hour celebration was divided into two acts, separated by an intermission of 10 minutes. Act One began with an opening speech by SAS President Kartik Anbalagan and was followed by a Bharatanatyam ‘Tillana’ by Geeta Bhargave. Indipop band Synergy enthralled the audience with hits like Tanha Dil (Shaan) and Yaaron... (KK), while dance troupe Dhamaka grooved to the Bhangra music of Daler Mehndi. The all-female group Penn Aatma sang Bollywood classics like Chura Liya and Aap Jaisa Koi, while a drama by Penn Naatak depicting typical Indian village life rounded up the first half.

Act Two began with Classical Interlude, an eastern classical performance in music, and an outrageous skit, Pristine Paagalpan, about the eccentricities of Asians. The auditorium came alive when the all-Indian band Penn Masala along with budding artist Ramya performed songs like Dil Kya Kare and Om Shanti Om. Jackson Heights put on an imitation of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, only to later revert back to Asian boogie. Frosh Fire, an enthusiastic dance performance by the freshmen’s class of 2006 at University of Pennsylvania rounded up the programme, amidst much cheering and boisterous merriment.

It was delightful to see such support for Asian traditions in America. Asians and non-Asians alike flocked to fill up Irvine auditorium to its capacity of 800, the common note being the “ring of culture”. The event was sponsored by Tandoor, a trendy Indian restaurant in Philadelphia. After Pataakha — The Sound of South Asia, as the event was named, SAS vice-president Anjali Singh admitted that she was “overwhelmed” with the response that the Diwali show had elicited and hoped that they would be able to build on this year’s success.

Kumar Vardhan Patodia,

Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


Boom or bang

Boom… Boom… Bang…!! It’s Diwali, the festival of lights where noise comes along as a buy-one-get-one-free! The festival is a remembrance of Lord Rama’s return after killing Ravana, when Ayodhya was lit up for his welcome. But that was thousands of years ago. Today, Diwali for most of us is simply a time to pollute, go out, play cards and shop.

As Dhruv Majumdar, 24, puts it: “Diwali is just another day, celebrated because Rama, who was out on a holiday treat in a forest (you know one of the health things) with his ‘girl’ and bro, had an amazing time killing the demon!” Asked about Lakshmi puja, he says he loves Puja… not to forget Monica and Priya! Amritanshu Khaitan, 20, however, is against firecrackers and feels this is a time when the whole family spends precious moments together.

On Diwali, we pray to Goddess Lakshmi for her blessings and every nook and corner of the house is cleaned for her welcome. Some believe that playing cards at this time of year is our dharma, and that it brings prosperity. It is ironic, that on the one hand people pray to Lakshmi for wealth and on the other, they gamble it away.

Ashish Kedia, 22, enjoys dressing up in kurtas but feels that the Diwali spirit is losing its charm courtesy the government’s decision to ban crackers. But it’s the Diwali insects that irritate him the most. Chintu Vij, 22, ‘a young businessman’, says Diwali is a time to please Lakshmi for her ashirwad, though he confesses that the ashirwad for him means cash. Smriti, 11, loves the Diwali noise, fun and lights. For her, it’s all about crackers. So what if the adults are preoccupied with choosing saris and sherwanis, ordering sweets and visiting the numerous exhibitions and sales!

But what is Diwali for an orphan, or a beggar' For one who cannot afford crackers or someone who is ill' For a soldier on the border, or the blind' How many of us consider Diwali as the victory of good over evil' And finally, aren’t we losing touch with our culture' These are just a few questions we need to reflect on this season.

Namrata Maheshwari,

Christ College, Bangalore


Move over darkness

This is our favourite festival. The delicious sweets, mouth-watering dishes and above all, the firecrackers. Last year, we saw a documentary on TV about child labour in a cracker factory. It was so sad. So we had decided to do away with crackers, but unfortunately, we lacked the determination.

We usually celebrate Diwali with our friends and relatives. Actually, the Puja is of Lakshmiji, but we are told by our grandfather that we must perform Ganesha puja first. This day is also very important for us because a panditji performs a puja in our office for two hours, where we play on the computers and an old typewriter. We get a new pen every year as a gift from the office.

After the puja at home, all the family members eat dinner together. Finally, we go to our garden to burst firecrackers. Earlier, we used to do this on our own, but for the past three years we have decided to share our crackers with all our friends. We pool all our crackers together. This way, we have a variety of crackers and our friendship grows because we share.

When all our crackers are finished, we turn into hunters, looking around for the firecrackers that had not burnt fully. We then collect all such unburnt crackers and create a bonfire, and sing and dance around it. This is followed by a small snacks session. This part of Deepawali is the most entertaining.

Last year, we wanted to give old clothes and shoes to poor children, which we could not fulfil. But this time, we definitely will. We have also decided to give some firecrackers to street children, because they don’t have enough money to spend on these things.

Nikunj Bhaiya, 12, and Varun Bhaiya, 10

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