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Challenges of celebrating Diwali in lockdown

Diwali is on the 14th November this year and celebrations usually start a few days prior. We decorate the house with colourful rangoli patterns (a colourful design using coloured rice powder), lighting divas (oil lamps), and making delicious Indian snacks and sweets. We dress up in bright traditional outfits, some of which are brand new or received as gifts and prepare for a big family get together.

We also perform rituals/pujas, visit the temple and our elders to pay our respects and seek blessings. This is followed by visiting more family and friends and in the evening reuniting with the whole family at one household for a fireworks display and to enjoy eating Diwali food.

Diwali in lockdown

However, as you can imagine, things are a going to be a bit different this year. The majority of normal plans have been put on hold, and many families instead will switch to Zoom celebrations. Temples have put together programmes, such as a virtual Diwali on the Square, and community groups are also hosting a variety of events and shows to celebrate over video conferencing platforms. Some celebrations have already taken place, with dancing, singing, activities and sharing stories of Diwali for children – with much more to come this weekend.

I am joining a family Zoom call, but everything is so visually orientated on video conferencing platforms I find it difficult to stay engaged. Unfortunately, most planned events are not audio described and I find that my interest levels quickly diminish, especially if I have been on MS Teams of Zoom for work at work during the day as well. As a result, I am not feeling the usual excitement for Diwali this year, though I am trying to get into the spirit of things!

Snacks and decorating

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the switch to online Diwali celebrations, I will still indulge in some of my usual rituals. I will certainly set some time aside to make my favourite Diwali Indian snack – chaklis – which are made from rice flour, yoghurt and spices. Using a specific machine to release the dough into spiral shapes, which are then fried: the crunchy snack is delicious. I will also light up my house with bright colourful divas. I now use the extra-long matches which means I can light up the candles and divas myself. I use one hand to hold the wick and the other hand to light it so that I can do this independently.

Rangolis

My children and husband have taken over decorating rangoli patterns as this is something I am no longer able to do. I do love the templates you can buy but I must admit I have not been out to even get any colours this year. I previously loved designing my own patterns and decorating them. When I was younger, and before my symptoms of Retinitis Pigmentosa developed, I entered competitions via my community and Gujarati classes and for several years I came second each time amongst over fifty participants. The colours can be made from dry or wet powdered rice, dry flour or powdered quartz. There are so many talented artists who create such beautiful designs.

In spite of 2020’s challenges, people will be celebrating the best way they are able, and I would like to wish all those celebrating a very Happy Diwali and a prosperous New Year. In the Hindu calendar, the start of the New Year follows Diwali, and we will be entering the Year 2077.

May it be full of good health, an abundance of joy, wealth and positivity. May the light guide you in the right direction always.

Bhavini Makwana, Engagement Manager for London Vision

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