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Lights will guide you home: Diwali Edition

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George Washington University

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Lights will guide you home: Diwali Edition

Homesick x 100

10.19.17

Diwali is the popular Hindu festival that falls between the months of October and November every year, falling on October 19th in 2017. It spiritually signifies the victory of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair, all of which are symbolized by brilliant lights and colorful decorations. Amongst the many spiritual and religious connotations it carries, Diwali also marks the beginning of the fiscal year for Hindus and is celebrated with exceptional enthusiasm in hopes of prosperity and good luck. as well as around the world.

For me, Diwali was always the time I got to break out my best outfits and spend the nights dancing away with my friends and family. We all miss home and have our favorite times of the year - this is mine.

Firecrackers rumble across the smoky horizon. The lights in the house have been dimmed to allow brightly colored diyas to cast spritely shadows across the walls. Behind closed doors, there's a kitchen with people bustling away in the heat. Didi is trying her best to get the food ready before the guests arrive. A table sits in the center of the family room. Atop it lies a garland of marigold flowers hugging a misshapen crescent of tiny, silver Gods and Goddesses. The floor below is peppered with red rangoli powder brushed into an upright swastika, complete with four essential dots. A large clay bowl sits in a pool of milk and sugar, supporting a weakly lit, homemade cotton wick. Upon the strength of the flame of this diya lies the fate of the entire New Year.

The house is momentarily stagnant; doors closed, the jingling of heavy jewelry drowned out by the sound of explosions outside.

The grating of a doorknob marks the first family member to get ready.

“Mama! I need your chappals for tonight, I don’t have any other sandals to wear!”

A breathless swish of tulle and polyester accompanied by the thumping of feet reverberates through the wooden floors as my sister runs from one end of the house to the other. A door on the far side of the hallway swings open.  With one hand cradling a massive earring on her ear, Mom looks out anxiously.
“You’re the one who saw those chappals last.  I don’t even know where they are. No! You can’t take those ones, I’m wearing them toni-“

A light-footed pitter-patter follows another swish of tulle to the other end of the house. A heartbeat later the kitchen door bursts open with the force of a thousand, disgruntled cooks. A gust of greasy, hot air pervades the open space. It smells delicious. My dog jolts out of her half-hearted slumber and scampers to the nearest set of naked toes in hopes of a quick game of never-ending fetch.

I lace up the back of my corset. Silver globes swing across my bare back, at the end of blue cotton strings. The ornate border of my skirt ripples mischievously as I turn to face the mirror, struggling with the latch of my earrings. I line my eyes with kohl, the only time of the year I allow myself the intense Indian smolder. My heels are dangerously high as I teeter towards the door, taking a last look over my shoulder.

Another doorknob spins out of place.

Outside, the doorbell chimes and the festivities begin. The house is suddenly caught in a pedaling rhythm, smoke and breeze, laughs and cheers, gulps and bites. Food and sweets are doled out by the kilo, the tallest glasses full to the brim. Clothes ebb and flow between legs and arms, narrowly missing mindfully placed candles. The view is unrepeatable, yet repeated every year. The sky bursts with color, tearing through the clouds, of smoke and other, creating brilliant motifs.
The crowd is momentarily entranced; silence amidst the noise. There’s a spectacular bang and then speckles of ash. The sound doesn’t die, but it fades. A pack of playing cards is produced and the show is forgotten, bid adieu till next year. The taash games carry long into the night, thousand rupee notes float above all heads and before all eyes. There are few triumphs, but most games are crusades that have been in progress for weeks, years. Mom flutters from group to group to inquire about drinks and children away at college, Dad drinks and makes others drink, while my sister snickers behind her phone with her friends. Guffaws and grins animate every corner of the room. We call it the festival of lights; I call it the festival of sounds.

Though I can't be there, in my mind I still celebrate. Clips of the seventeen years I spent at home in India play on repeat in my mind, like an old tape, a grainy VCR, a black and white home video. I sit 7,000 miles away from home, but there’s still something comforting about Diwali; the one-day of the year an entire nation comes together, to create magic. 


This article was published initially on The Rival's old site. It has been edited for this year's Diwali celebration.