On Diwali: Glorious, Magical, Bittersweet

Only the best restaurant I've ever eaten at in Bangalore.
Only the best restaurant I’ve ever eaten at in Bangalore.

It’s Diwali, and with that comes so much light and love and happiness for me as a Hindu. I continually learn about elements of my faith with each passing holiday, so I always have a hard time explaining Diwali to other people, but the most beautiful thing for me about Hinduism is that I feel it deep in my soul. I understand it there first, and then in my head. That doesn’t always sit well with others, but its what makes Hinduism mine. It’s why I am Hindu and not Jain or Sikh or Muslim or Jewish or anything else. I am inherently Hindu, deep through my core, and it bursts out of me in the most glorious ways. I am a human representation of the physical aspect of Diwali.

I am drawn, like that cliche moth to its mother flame, toward the light and love that Diwali represents, both in the material and spiritual worlds. But as I celebrate, I miss my mother. I miss India. I miss my spirit’s home. Hinduism and India, in my heart, are one.

So many things have reminded me of Bangalore this past week, even before I began celebrating the festival of light. My roommate bought a new hand soap that I’d used while I was in Bangalore, and every time I wash my hands I feel like crying a little as the scent reminds me of my time there. I watched a few videos of people celebrating Diwali in New Delhi and Bombay and once again felt like crying as I saw the trees wrapped in the most fluorescent lights known to mankind. I miss seeing those everywhere at night, simultaneously blinding and entrancing me. When I was in Bangalore, those lights comforted me even as I felt like dying from E. coli or homesickness for America, and remembering that they exist makes me want to jump aboard the nearest plane and endure 20 hours of air travel just so I can see them again.

India is magic. I miss the old men, laughing louder than I’d ever heard anyone laugh before, burping after they ate a good meal, looking at me like I was just a silly child when I got confused about directions. I miss rickshaws, those sassy little vehicles that simultaneously inspired terror and joy as they careened throughout the narrow side-streets. I miss women touching my blonde hair and telling me I was so tall. Mangoes. Everyone laughing at me. With me.

But in the same breath that I call India magical, I must also call it devastating. The duality of India is not lost on me: rich and poor living directly next to each other. Beggar children with no shoes standing atop piles of trash. Cattle wandering aimlessly, without owners or protection. Wild dogs, all of them with at least one injured limb, begging for food. Rabid. Begging. India begs, often without pride or ego, with the most desperate voice. It’s not something anyone can easily forget or ignore.

But it’s like a lover you can never leave behind. India. She appears in my dreams, calling out, begging me to return. And oh god, I would oblige if I only could. I don’t think I’d ever wept before, but I weep now for my companion. India is a physical representation of my god, my religion, the spirituality I feel deep within. And I need her now more than ever.

Diwali is glorious, shining, happy. I will celebrate and pray and love, of course, because this holiday is perfect. But this year, it is also tinged with sadness as I experience a longing for the home I never truly grew up in, wishing teleportation would hurry up and invent itself, because I’m homesick.

96 thoughts on “On Diwali: Glorious, Magical, Bittersweet

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  1. India is a study in contrasts – economically, socially, politically, and religiously. Indians can be intimate without being friendly. The social system and family values are somewhat eroded but still intact, lending it a unique charm and attraction!

      1. Not “individualism”…individualism. I’ve seen some nasty accounts on TCFL about parents controlling (or trying to) their live-in adult children, and no those people weren’t happy about it. But I think people should know that you can still have close ties to your family without having them control you…I have an Afghan friend from college who moved out because she didn’t want her mum telling her what to do but she still visits her because she loves her…and no she isn’t “westernised” at all, just liberal/independent.

  2. Your description of India is vivid and colorful, I feel I can visualize it and now you’ve left me curious to know more. Here in San Diego we have a very large and growing Indian population. Many of my Zumba classmates are from India but they are part of the wealthier class. Such poverty as you describe is beyond our imagination here. I’ve noticed that everyone seems to be celebrating Diwali now, including Mindy Kaling who’s posted a few photos on FB. Any plans to go back?

    1. I think it’s becoming more widely known as a lot of Hindus-Americans use it to teach about their faith, which is great :)
      I absolutely plan to go back, hopefully during Diwali, but who knows when I’ll get to :( Soon I sure hope

  3. Festival of light Diwali is celebrated of victory of truth on barbaric terrorism when god Rama returned back after killing and winning truth on man of Terrorism ravana . This story goes on all the time. Even now. Be a flag for truth and that is dharma . Truth. Religions of modern times are sect.

  4. It is a very sweet post . I have been in India several time snd now I moved to malaysia. Diwali is a fixed appointment every year. Although I have not had the chance to celebrate it with Indian friends it still brings me the sweetness of a different Christmas with its decorations everywhere, with the anticipation and holiday climate. It comes here in the beginning of rainy season when the rain brings respite and cleans the air, a truly new world awakens. I miss India too

  5. Omg! Seriously. You didn’t mention anything about food? Or may be you did not get the chance to try the tantalising dishes!!

  6. What a beautiful write up! It’s so amazing when someone writes such wonderful things about your country! :)
    And sure, we have our issues, but India’s strength lies in its diversity.

  7. I am an Indian (hindu) & it feels really good when someone (who is not Indian) appreciates its culture and likes it as well! Not only Diwali, if you witness any other festival, you’ll love it as well as every festival is equally colourful & fun!

    1. Thank you so much for saying that! My one true writing love is poetry, so I really appreciate that you experienced that in this post :)
      India is like that too. You gasp and cant breathe the whole time youre there.
      Xo thank you so much for reading!

  8. I love everything Indian. It’s such a complex and amazing country. We have a long-standing tradition in our house – Saturday night is Curry Night and there is no more wonderful and tantalising smell than that of a freshly-made Jalfrezi …

  9. Seeing India and Hinduism through your eyes make it more tantalising. I experience the duality you describe every moment, being an Indian but only some days does it penetrate the depths of my being for me to do something about it. Thank you for the wake-up call.

  10. I thought this article was mostly well-written; On another note, the word “diwali” comes from the Sanskrit word “dipavali”, which is basically a combination of the two following words:

    1. Dipa (which means “light” or “lamp”)

    2. Vali (which means “series”, “line”, or “row”)

  11. Its so gud to see dat a holiday visit by a person from another country has described abt india in such beautiful worlds!! We would really b proud to hav u again n again in our country so dat u cn receive the same hospitality n respeft evrytym!!!

  12. Being an Indian living in Hawaii for the past two years, I can totally relate to feeling homesick. ‘India is magic’ is so true. Beautifully written and totally describes the way I feel about my country :)

    H.S. Bajwa @ Short Stories

  13. This is an absolutely beautiful and sad post. I empathize with your feelings of homesickness!
    I have never visited India myself but the way you describe it makes me very interested to go.

    1. Awww:) I think every Diwali I’ll just feel a little sad. In a nice way that means I just love India. Sorry youre feeling that way too, but at the same time it means you have a great connection with that place :)

  14. Reblogged this on Assembled Creatively: Something For Everyone. and commented:
    I was born in the United States, but of course, the best Diwali I ever had was in, you guessed it, India. I don’t make my ethnicity much of a mystery. but as much as I liked India, I felt kind of ashamed of being American. I would always see people begging on the streets, these thin, thin, children… it made me feel bad for enjoying all of the pleasures I do in the United States. Diwali has become so mundane for me, it’s not even funny. Literally, my diwali was spent taking a test, then going to swim practice, then homework. I feel like the holiday has lost so much of its luster. Whether or no you’re Indian or Hindu, I would read this if I were you.

  15. Wow what a brilliant piece. I’ve never felt as proud living in India. Now you have made me proud and pensive at the same time.

  16. India. Just after reading this one word, billions of colours get displayed infront of my eyes. India is vivid, all too bright, with it’s own soul. It does not know formality or advanced technology. It’s laid backup and totally beautiful with so many cultures. But the thing is you will find beauty almost inseparable with the poor condition of the nation. There is potential. But it needs to be utilised. But I believe, there is no country like india out there. :)

  17. Hi friend, After reading your blog i felt the sense of diwali in my eyes, ears and touch. Such a lovely composition of words. May your journey in blogging as well as in life be as colorful as diwali. cheers…

  18. Bangalore is home for me. And I’ve been living in Seattle for the last two years. Could you have possibly made me any more nostalgic?! I wanna hop on basically anything that’ll give me a ride to India right now.
    Also, please tell me you ate that Masala Dosa in CTR? It’s one of the best restaurants we have and one shouldn’t leave without a visit to that restaurant.

  19. Hi! I am am indian too. Ive been following your blog and i was pretty excited! All of your posts are interesting, do follow and read mine too A :-)

  20. My boyfriend is Indian, and although I’ve never been to India, I cant wait for the experience! You make it sound absolutely wonderful!! Thanks for this lovely insight into a beautiful country with beautiful people!

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