Like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter, Diwali falls annually (around Oct – Nov) and there’s always so much to do! From prepping for prayers to Goddess Laxmiji, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, to cooking and looking forward to the sumptuous Diwali dinner and fireworks (to ward off evil spirits) it’s a never-ending maze of to-dos. Diwali 2019 held extra excitement because fiction author, Sheryl Parbhoo, invited me to unlock the secrets to this titanic celebration which blankets almost all of India and every Hindu world-wide.
I’ve celebrated Diwali for as long as I can remember. Several years ago I researched in depth to understand more about the festival and why we do what we do. You see, a huge turning point in my debut novel (to the Winds of Fire series) Duty and Desire, occurs on Diwali.
That was research.
This was my first in-person recording. I didn’t know what to expect and how much to prep!
I headed down to Sheryl’s podcast studio last month, nervous and unsure if I could do it right. What if my facts weren’t right and I messed up the order of events?
What if I incorrectly narrated the Diwali story?
What if I messed up facts during the recording?
What if I fumbled and forgot?
What if— I rang Sheryl’s doorbell and lo and behold I was greeted by 2 fabulous golden retrievers! Nugget and Bentley! These 2 adorable dogs turned the stress of the moment upside down or right-way up, I should say.
Now, I’m a HUGE dog person. Actually, I’m an animal person—furry animals that are cute and manageable (lions and tigers count but from a safe distance). So you can imagine what these 2 nuggets of fun (see the pun?) did to my attention span! Diverted from Diwali to dogs, I got to feed Nugget and Bentley Milkbone treats, pet and play with them, instruct them to ‘sit’ and loll on their tummies and more…
That’s not all. I got to spend time with my host, Sheryl, prior to and after the recording—the real nugget of our time together. I listened to her trials and triumphs in having married an Indian gentleman (a dentist) and how she adapted to our ways. Our Indian ways.
I learned how Sheryl was treated with distinct difference, indifference by people from my country, and how she was constantly told she didn’t belong. An ‘outsider’ Sheryl turned her world upside down to fit in, but her new environment didn’t always readjust to let her in. She was told to think of Diwali as an Indian Christmas and steer clear.
How many stories have we heard about Asian immigrants dealing with racism, discrimination and unfair treatment? How many times have we felt the pressure of a harsh head-to-toe scan and then been judged based on the color of our skin? Accent? Our country of origin?
Feel a shudder up your spine?
It’s logical to blame and point fingers when you’re a victim? But what about when those considered ‘victims’ scan another from head-to-toe and judge based on the color of skin? Accent? Country of origin?
Feel a shudder up your spine?
Sheryl doesn’t any more. She spent our time together learning about diyas, how we arrange red powders, dry grains of rice, a spool of religious red thread and more on our puja thali. She asked about the order of events for Diwali day. Then she flashed a 100-kilowatt smile, fine-tuned our microphones, snapped on her headphones and we dived into a world she’s been so curious to learn about. Here are the basics of what goes into a Diwali puja. The details are all in Duty and Desire with a touch of sizzle and romance, and I can’t wait for the 2020 release!
With an infectious Southern smile, Sheryl calls herself ‘White as Wonderbread’ but look behind the color of her skin. Accent. Country of origin. You’ll see that her smile shines brighter than a Diwali diya.
Happy Diwali everyone! And may diyas shine light, prosperity and a true perspective on all of us forever…