This Diwali, be your own light and light up someone else’s life
When you think of Diwali, what’s the first word that comes to mind? Is it diyas lit in every corner of your home? Is it the aroma of savory goodies in the kitchen? Is it the sight of mithais — a sight for sore eyes? Is it the new clothes, jewelry, puja, gatherings, card session, rangoli or something else that brightens you up during the festival of lights?
With the pandemic, for two years in a row, many of us didn’t get to celebrate Diwali on a scale that we might have been used to. I am on big on festivals, whipping up a few traditional recipes, and gathering with loved ones. My mom taught me that only if we are fortunate are we able to celebrate a festival. She meant it in terms of health, wealth, and support. Mom thought of festivals as a way of celebrating humanity and saying gratitude to the universe and God.
In these two years of missing festivities — what we grew up taking for granted — we have all had the time to reflect and recalibrate. I am a thinker at heart, so I wanted Diwali to become even more meaningful than what the Vedic texts and generational hand-me-down traditions tell us. Every year, we do so many things on autopilot mode. But do we pause to think that Diwali truly represents the healing power of love and light? It’s celebrated on the darkest day of the year. The agni in the diyas is associated with transformation in Ayurveda. It’s pure and it has the power to illuminate the darkest corners of the human heart and world.
1. Start your own traditions: In our home, aside from lighting up diyas for puja and our NYC apartment, I started lighting up five intentional Diwali lamps.
- One for my mom who taught me to love all festivals with zest.
- One for the loved ones who passed away.
- One for the babies born during the pandemic. I realized that we were so focused (understandably) on the losses starting 2020 that we forgot to acknowledge the lives we welcomed.
- One for my yoga and Ayurveda community — teachers, teachings, students, colleagues, clients, and friends: they light up my inner agni.
- One for the people who remind us that good will always win over evil.
Start your own traditions that bring your family and friends closer together. Be creative. Maybe make a rangoli together as a family from scratch and let that be your tradition? Maybe your family comes together for Choti Diwali and cooks a one-dish meal and shares that with your neighbors? Be intentional about lighting up diyas together.
2. Remain mindful: I know a large majority of people reading this are already conscious about what they feed their bodies. You might choose to spend an extra hour running, practicing yoga, lifting weights, or swimming — you get my drift — the day after Diwali. I won’t tell you to pay attention to what you feed your body. I’m going to urge you to be mindful of what you feed your soul this Diwali and how you choose to spread the light. Can you recognize that your helpers have less than you? Can you sponsor a lunch for your helper’s family around Diwali? Would you consider volunteering time, not money, for organizations that feed the hungry? Do this as a family activity. Will you smile and compliment three people in your community? I don’t mean fluff; genuine things that you like about them.
3. Look within: We live in a world which is filled with opposing views, arguments, varying philosophies, and a lot of pessimism. Social media gives people the permission to hide behind masks and say hurtful words. We judge, criticize, and become distant from authenticity and attached to materialism. Who throws the bigger party? Who has the better sari collection? Which host got totally wasted? What the world needs is a little more kindness, patience, and compassion this Diwali. For Diwali, we clean up our homes and paint the walls. I urge you to look within and let go of what doesn’t serve you. We all have shades of darkness within. Is it food addiction, alcoholism, lethargy, social media obsession, over-expressionism, procrastination, infidelity, extreme competitiveness, bad mouthing others etc.? Pick your vice and let it go. Maybe do a social media detox for two evenings the week of Diwali? We get so busy sharing moments on the Internet for external validation that we forget to enjoy people and moments present right in front of us. I urge you to get together as a family and share (individually) what each person is grateful for. Dig deep within. On Diwali, 2020, I said, “I am grateful to have my breath.”
What good is external sanitization and house cleaning on Diwali if your insides are rotting and relationships are suffering? What good is a vibrant décor in your house if your inner diya feels dim? Be your own light and be the reason for lighting up someone’s life this Diwali. If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught us: life is fragile, so don’t squander it mindlessly.
“You cannot celebrate the festival of light before combating the darkness within.”