The sparkler exuded different rays of blues, greens, and yellows. It was my first attempt at holding an actual firework in the palm of my hand. Very afraid of the sparks, I remember my Uncle in India telling me that it was a rite of passage for all children to celebrate Diwali by lighting a sparkler and swinging it around until the rays dimmed.

Years later, my memory reflects on this snippet from my life. Fourteen years old. In India. Celebrating Diwali as a young girl with my Mom, Dad, and my sister as well as my extended family. The lights shined everywhere even though it was pitch black. People laughing, eating traditional Indian sweets, and yelling, “Happy Diwali” in their best voices. The sounds and sights were new to me as a non-resident Indian. The experience, I know, now, was the most authentic Diwali I’ve experienced.

Almost 8,500 miles away, I know my relatives, as well as billions of Indians are celebrating Diwali with the same zeal as I did years ago. For many Indians, it is the single most important day because Diwali’s significance is connected to the religious, spiritual, and the wholly ordinary. Literally meaning the row of lights, Diwali signifies a new beginning along with the mark of a fresh calendar year. And the importance of that is not lost on me.

For Diwali this year, as tradition dictates, I decluttered and cleaned my home. I prepared some traditional sweets to offer the deities in our temple. In the morning, the three of us, will light a candle and honor Diwali by acknowledging our collective new beginning. After school, we will go to the local temple and watch the festivities. Over the weekend, we will attend a Diwali picnic organized by one of our friends. It’s different than the Diwali I experienced years ago as a child, but I believe the best lesson one can learn is to improvise. Perhaps at night we may light a sparkler or two and explain to our daughter what Diwali means. And I will tell her the story of my first real Diwali.

Here’s to sparklers everywhere commemorating a new beginning. Happy Diwali to all.


Image by denharsh