I held the sparkler in my hand, a firework of sharp lights angling toward the sky. The smell of cashew curry, rising dough and the mixture of saffron, cinnamon and sugar dotted the air. Shouts of “Happy Diwali” erupted everywhere. The streets flooded with women in a colorful potpourri of saris with their children tugging on their mother’s silk fabric. Outside, small flames flickered to highlight the night sky and the pathway toward my Uncle’s house.
Thirty years have passed since I celebrated my only Diwali in India, but I still remember. I still hear the bellow of my father’s laugh as he mingled with his sisters and encouraged me to light yet another firework. Diwali seemed to transform his usually introverted and serious cadence into a giddiness I hadn’t witnessed in our home in Texas. The gaiety sprinkled on the floors – elaborate designs filled with colored sand illuminated the once grey pavement. This memory still retains its texture as if it occurred only a few days ago. I am always humbled and surprised by what glimpse of my past will request my attention in the present.
I contemplate this memory and the abundance of the different kinds of light present on that Diwali years ago – the flicker of the flames, the lightness of the laughter, the familiarity of spending time with family and my parent’s joy in landing in their homeland for Diwali. As much as the texture of Diwali changes from year to year, one truth survives the passage of so much time – the act of looking for light doesn’t disappear. In earlier years, I’ve focused on what was missing in my current celebrations, but my gaze shifts to focus on abundance. This past weekend we attended a celebration where my daughter performed with her friends at a Diwali event. During this evening, many “Happy Diwali’s” were exchanged followed by heartfelt wishes and hugs. The pulse of this night thrummed with a sense of community, cheer and yes, light. Today I am grateful I’ll be spending Diwali with my husband and daughter. I will have the honor of preparing a traditional Indian meal for my family, as well as the gift of visiting the annual celebration at the temple this evening. I’ve spent the morning talking to my mom and exchanging Diwali wishes with her as well as my sister and various family and friends across the country.
This evening we will light a divo, the tiny flames moving upward diffusing its various rays.
It’s the light that sustains me after all the years. In it, I commemorate the past, but also acknowledge the present.
Happy Diwali to all. May the light find you.
Image: Diwali by shutterbugamar via Flickr