Colorful diyas, the sweet aroma of fresh, home-cooked dishes, and the warmth of friends and family is what made celebrating Diwali so special to me.
I have fond memories of getting dressed up in my best suits, partaking in puja with my family, going house to house visiting relatives, and devouring the best Fijian-Indian treats that I could imagine.
But all of that changed once I moved out and lost contact with my family.
The traditions we followed and practiced together stayed within the parameters of the home that we lived in, and when I walked away from that, I was left with just the memories that accompanied it.
Thus, the weeks leading up to Diwali inevitably left a hole in my heart. I felt like a motherless child on Mother’s Day, except it was with my entire family.
The festival, which usually brought so much joy and love to my heart, drastically changed when I was forced to celebrate alone.
Seeing everyone else celebrate created a feeling of jealousy inside me. How come their families all got along? How come mine couldn’t be like that too?
With these feelings, I opted to switch off my phone and take a break from consuming everyone’s Instagram highlight reels.
In fact, I disallowed myself from celebrating Diwali all together. The first few years on my own consisted of no celebrations at all.
As time progressed though, it left a lot of room for reflection.
After developing somewhat of a hatred for those who celebrated, for the first time I felt like I may have taken my family for granted.
Although we were dysfunctional and a lot of trauma and abuse took place within our home, Diwali was one of the time’s throughout the year where everything remained relatively pleasant and calm.
There was something truly magical about Diwali that encapsulated one’s being. Stress and sadness slowly subsided and love and contentment flowed effortlessly in its place.
My attachment to the festival grew even more because of this. After a couple years of avoiding Diwali celebrations, I decided enough was enough.
I began to try and create my own traditions.
Youtube became my best friend, as I’d search for Diwali prayer songs and instructions on how to conduct my own puja.
After celebrating alone, I learned that Diwali is about a lot more than just spending quality time with the people you love, but also expressing gratitude for what you have.
In my situation, I no longer had the opportunity to celebrate with my family like I did when I was younger, but I did have the memories and the ability to attach a new meaning to the festival on my own.
Being thankful for our home, families and food that we are privileged to experience every single day should be an important part of everyone’s Diwali celebrations.
Ultimately, Diwali is about understanding that wherever there is darkness, there is also light. It took me a long time to finally get it and be able to see the positive in this situation.
So although I am no longer able to hold my hands in prayer alongside my mom, or devour my nani’s crunchy and savory saina, I’m thankful to have been able to learn so much about myself and the true meaning of Diwali during my own celebrations.
About the author: Manisha is a writer and reporter with previous radio and television experience, who is passionate about connecting audiences to the stories and voices that matter to them most. Check her out on Instagram: @exclusivelymanisha
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