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Who wants a blast on Diwali?

Many of the diaspora have settled for a quiet, at-home Diwali this year, writes Meeta Chaitanya in Atlanta Diary.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2005 01:13 IST
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya
ATLANTA DIARY | Meeta Chaitanya

Diwali festivities perhaps are the most fundamental celebration for Indians everywhere- and not just because of the religious significance of the hour. It is, in fact, the all-inclusive tone of the festival that pervades over the entire gamut of activities that culminate in Diwali. Or so, it ought to be.

In Atlanta, as always, various Indian cultural organisations have come forth with programmes tailored as per the needs and expectations of the burgeoning Indian community. These range from informal hangouts to more organised gatherings garnered around achieving some kind of parallel gala to the buzz that is enveloping India.

However, the spirit of joy has got marred by the blasts in the Indian capital claiming scores of lives and sending ripples of shock and sadness all over the world. Also, in some measure, the resolve to remain undeterred if not unfazed has stayed with the diaspora, many of whom have settled for a quiet, at-home Diwali this year.

This is further flawed by the needless accent on region-specific festivities that have been gaining momentum in Atlanta and that have begun ironically to divide the Indian diaspora into Kannadigas, Biharis etc.

Many people have begun to shun focused community shindigs in favour of personal Diwali parties at home, regardless of how they are celebrated traditionally.

Not surprising, given that fact that in any case, every year, we follow the same rig of dressing up, going out and avowing ourselves to the cause of the community in whatever way possible.

The aforesaid cultural associations here are as varied as they are numerous- with practically every region in India finding some kind of representation in Atlanta, as it does in other major cities in the US, as Maharshtra this, Telugu that.

The array of activities to choose from within these said organisations are just as copious. Members at the helm of affairs in these communities spend laborious hours preparing for the D-day and do whatever they can to relay the information to as many people within the community.

The statutory clause contained in every flier and invitation received by journalists, stakeholders and members naturally reads- "all are welcome".

However, that very press release details activity that is imbued with a parochial tone so specific to a state that it is practically impossible for a non-Gujarati, for instance, to go to a Gujarati Sangh meet and not feel conspicuous for lack of conformity. This goes for all other similar associations as well.

Forget that. It's okay for a state-sangh to celebrate Diwali or Onam or Bijoya or Lohri the way they do. Facts can neither be changed nor be sidelined. We are a nation comprising of states as different from each other as chalk from cheese, so it follows that there will be a disconnect in everything beginning with language and ending at communication.

That's not all. This diversity is a tirelessly touted 'plus' that we project to the international community. Sitting across cabins in a typical office, a Punjabi (for whom every resident of south India is a madarasi) is as far removed from an Andhrite (for whom anything North of Hyderabad is alien) as he is from the Chinaman (again, he may be a Malay, an Indonesian, a Mongolian, Vietnamese, Chinese or a 'chink' from Shillong) sitting next to him. How can they then be affected by bloody havoc in Paharganj on a level more than rudimentary humanity?

In circumstances as these, when groups of people in the US refuse to form any alliance whatsoever other than that, which is based on purely personal rapport and celebrate Diwali in ways other than Dhanteras shopping, lighting diyas and bursting crackers- they are lauded.

For, legend-galore aside, Diwali is the victory of good over evil and it surely cannot condone ruthless killings or superficial division.

First Published: Oct 31, 2005 21:39 IST