Growing up in London, my fondest memories of Diwali were waking up with the feeling of excitement (primarily for the good food and fireworks in the evening) but also for seeing family and friends.
Typically, Diwali is celebrated in the evening as denoted by the description “festival of light”. The run-up to the auspicious day consisted of frantic cleaning and the last minute making of sweet and savoury dishes (everyone would request their favourite!). Our family would start our celebrations at night with prayers and blessings.
All lights were turned on and a candle takes around the house to usher in the goddess Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity. What followed can only be described as a mass demolition of the good food that my mum had painstakingly laboured hours over! Once we were full to the brim, the fireworks would begin lasting into the early hours of the morning. The most concerning part was that many of these fireworks shouldn’t have been let off in the back garden in retrospect!
The same process would follow at numerous relatives’ houses until all Diwali presents had been collected, and I was fatter than a stuffed Turkey at Christmas (not much has changed in this respect).
As a Londoner, I have always been proud of the diversity that exists in this great city. People from all backgrounds come together to unite for all sorts of festivities regardless of their individual beliefs.
One of my earliest memories of multi-culturalism was a play that we enacted at school of the story of Lord Ram defeating the demon-king Ravana. Children from all backgrounds participated in the fun and food that followed.
As a Hindu Punjabi, I share my culture with members of the Sikh religion who also celebrate Diwali or Bandi Chhor Divas for an auspicious reason. Sikhs commemorate this day as it marks when the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind Singh Ji was released from prison alongside 52 other princes in 1619 having been held captive as a direct order of the Mogul Emperor Jahangir.
This year will be very different as households will not be allowed to mix with the re-introduction of lockdown. Thankfully, technology will mean that we will still be able to pass on Diwali wishes to our loved ones both in the UK and abroad. As we all enter another phase of heavy restrictions, let us take solace in the fact that this is not forever, and as the core concept of Diwali is that there will be light at the end of this dark tunnel!