The stupendous complexity of Hindu immigrants’ conundrum magnifies when they ‘attempt’ to celebrate Diwali in communities where Hindus are a minority.
By Nandita Godbole
“If you date, find a Hindu fellow,” instructions from my doting father, as I left India for the United States in 1995. Given his long tenure in public service, he believed that sectarian differences were less contentious than religious ones, displaying and reading from holy books of different faiths at his work desk, offering a safe conversation space to those who approached him.
Yet, he could not have imagined that although the premise of Hinduism appears inclusive, practicing it imposes subtle expectations on women. When one moves away, and becomes an immigrant, it intensifies their immigrant experience, affects their accent, attire, grooming, food, travel, etc. Along with these shifts of adjustments, the stupendous complexity of Hindu immigrants’ conundrum magnifies when they ‘attempt’ to celebrate Diwali in communities where Hindus are a minority.
Until the late 1990’s the Georgian calendar did not include Diwali and I recall that friends would be taken aback by my ‘Happy Diwali’ reminders. What nuances remained veiled under enthusiastic celebrations in one’s home country, became targeted glaring differences in the new country. Outwardly, the vibrancy and essence of this unmistakably Hindu celebration filter through the lens of a new country and its commercial substitutions. Paraffin votives replace traditional clay lamps, floral wreaths replace fragrant floral doorway garlands, adhesive floor designs replace elaborate forms of rangoli, Christmas lights replace colorful ‘lanterns’, fireworks are limited. A quick trip to an ethnic grocery store freezer replaces the age-old tradition of handcrafting desserts, and spontaneous family visits become a trip to a ticketed ‘Diwali Mela’, if accessible and affordable.
But these are not the problems.
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