Happy Diwali!

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My Diwali greeting is a little early this year, as I’m using this New Year to say goodbye to this blog (and to start a new online project). Over the past year, this space on the internet has been somewhat neglected as I’ve been concentrating on my own writing and other paid work. Just the other day, mom.me published my latest reflection about parenting on this holiday. An excerpt:

My 4-year-old daughter, as is to be expected, has given much more thought to her Halloween costume (a caped pink rabbit) and the treats she will accumulate, than her snazzy new Diwali lengha and her grandmother’s homemade laddoos and barfis, her favorite South Asian desserts.

This year, Halloween is the day after Lakshmi Puja, the third day of Diwali, the five-day Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of good over evil. My family considers this day the most auspicious of the year. We believe that Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, visits our home. On this night of a new moon—the last night of the Hindu year—total darkness sets in the night sky.

As my daughter tries on her costume yet again, I reach for picture books and search Pinterest for age-appropriate Diwali crafts and recipes. I jot down recipes for salt dough to shape diyas, or tiny lamps. I find instructions on turning reams of construction paper into paper garlands. I Google rangoli, traditional floor art, and buy food coloring on Amazon. The irony that I turn to the tools of modern, privileged-class American parenting to explain my own religious holiday to my child is not lost on me.

As always: may the season illuminate new dreams, fresh hopes, uncharted paths, and different perspectives. See you around!

Happy Diwali!

Happy Diwali!

Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil, although the deities, rituals, and stories that are associated with the holiday are different in different parts of the Subcontinent and the diaspora. Deepavali is observed today in Singapore (as most Singapore celebrants trace their roots to Southern India) as a public holiday. My family considers tomorrow, the third day of the five-day festival, most auspicious; we believe on this day that Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, visits our home. On this night of a new moon—the last night of the Hindu year—total darkness sets in the night sky.

On Wednesday, when every one in Singapore is back at work and school, our preschooler will paint diyas, tiny clay lamps, to place in our doorway for Lakshmi can find her way.

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Yesterday was Dhanteras, an auspicious day to buy gold, silver, and utensils or to begin new businesses or to gamble. I don’t shop, or own a business, or gamble, so, instead, on the eve of this public holiday, we joined a half dozen of our three-, four-, and five-year-old neighbors for a diya-painting, cracker-bursting, puri-eating, Bollywood-dancing party. Little children in their best dhotis, kurtas, and lenghas are too cute.

Celebrations continue through the week (Thursday [Annakut/Govardhan Puja] and Friday [Bahi Dhuj]), but these days are less significant for my family.

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ICYMI:  I’m over at The Aerogram with Diwali reflections on visibility and meaning in the U.S. and Singapore. An excerpt:

When I first arrived in Singapore in 2010, I found it utterly delightful to live in a country where Diwali is a public holiday and where cab drivers handed me my change and wished me “Happy Deepavali.”

Yet, I soon learned that Diwali is actually quite invisible, except for the lights at Serangoon Road in Little India and the fact that it is a holiday, to those outside of the country’s minority South Asian community.

Singapore, which touts its vibrant and diverse cultural heritages, only trades in a facile, photogenic, and superficial multiculturalism. I, too, thought that because I could nip down to Little India, everything I could want, from sparklers to saris, from mithai to mehndi, would make a beloved holiday “easier” to celebrate.

However, most non-Hindu Singaporeans have no impulse to see community celebrations of Diwali on a bigger, more visible, scale, whereas Halloween for example, is embraced with such gusto across so many different national and ethnic groups because of the pernicious nature of American cultural imperialism.

So, ironically, while nearly nine percent of Singaporeans and permanent residents, and a number of non-residents (economic migrants) — many of whom are Hindu — trace their ancestry, wholly or in part, to the Indian Subcontinent, Diwali had been much more meaningful to me in the United States, than it is here, despite its public acknowledgement.

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A Diwali greeting from me to you: May the season illuminate new dreams, fresh hopes, uncharted paths, and different perspectives.

Happy Diwali!

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Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil, although the deities, rituals, and stories that are associated with the holiday are different in different parts of India. My family considers the third day of the five-day festival most auspicious*; we believe on this day that Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, visits our home. On this night of a new moon—the last night of the Hindu year—total darkness sets in the night sky.

This year, our toddler painted diyas, tiny clay lamps, to place in our doorway for Lakshmi can find her way.

* Lakshmi Puja is on Thursday, October 23.

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A Diwali greeting from me to you: May this year bring light to your spirit, warmth to your home, and joy to your heart!

Happy Diwali (and Three Years in Singapore)

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Today, we celebrate our fourth Diwali in Singapore. We also commemorate the third anniversary of our arrival here.

So, on this very special day, I leave you with a poem by Sarojini Naidu, poet, Indian independence activist, and the first woman to become the President of the Indian National Congress:

Lakshmi*, The Lotus-Born 

Thou who didst rise like a pearl from the ocean,
Whose beauty surpasseth the splendour of morn!
Lo! We invoke thee with eager devotion,
Hearken, O Lotus-born?

Come! with sweet eyelids and fingers caressing,
With footfalls auspicious our thresholds adorn,
And grant us the showers and the sheaves of thyblessing,
Hearken, O Lotus-born!

Prosper our cradles and kindred and cattle.
And cherish our hearth-fires and coffers and corn,
O watch o’er our seasons of peace and of battle,
Hearken, O Lotus-born!

—From The Broken Wing: Songs of Love, Death and Destiny, 1915-1916 by Sarojini Naidu (John Lane Company, 1917).

(*Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil, although the deities, rituals, and stories that are associated with the holiday are different in different parts of India. My family considers the third day of the five-day festival most auspicious; they believe on this day Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, visits our home. On this night of a new moon—the last night of the Hindu year—total darkness sets in the night sky. We place tiny clay lamps in our doorway so that Lakshmi can find her way.)

Durga Puja 2012

We spent our rainy Sunday afternoon in Little India, kicking off the Hindu festive season. It is navrathri (literally “nine nights”), a festival dedicated to the worship of the nine avatars of the Goddess Durga.

Durga is the ferocious protector of the righteous and destroyer of evil. She is usually portrayed as riding a lion and carrying weapons in her many arms.”According to lore, the Goddess Durga spends the whole year caring for her husband, Lord Shiva, in the Himalayas. But for four golden days in autumn, she returns to her parents’ house, accompanied by her children, an occasion that mortals celebrate with pomp and pageantry.

Durga Puja, which commences on the seventh day of navrathri, is the biggest, most important religious festival for Bengali-Hindus. Apparently, the Bengali Association Singapore‘s six-day celebration, which began on Friday, is the largest outside Kolkata (Calcutta)!

If you are keen on seeing the magnificent idol (above), the celebration continues until Wednesday, October 24 on the grounds along Race Course Road, not far from Little India MRT Station.

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We were woefully underdressed. Really, truly, embarrassingly underdressed. I should have worn my favorite Kantha (embroidered) silk sari and adorned myself in all sorts of gold baubles. Ah, well. Now, I know for next year!

Happy Diwali!

Last year, we “celebrated” our first Diwali in Singapore. We had just arrived in Singapore and, if I remember correctly, we indulged in a carb-laden meal in Little India and crashed early in our nondescript serviced apartment.

What a difference a (lunar) year makes. We have friends! And last weekend, we invited our near and dear over for an informal dinner at home. Our holiday meal served as our small token of gratitude to those who have opened their hearts and homes to us this past year. We are very blessed to have them in our lives.

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A Diwali greeting from me to you: May this year bring light to your spirit, warmth to your home, and joy to your heart!