What’s your favourite Diwali memory? The Festival of Lights signifies many things for each of us. For some, it’s the tradition of welcoming wealth and prosperity into the house while enjoying sweet delicacies and treats. For others it’s about spending quality time with friends and family. For those who are overseas, away from some of their loved ones, the festival offers a trip down memory lane of the times spent with family in their hometowns. Ahead of this year’s Diwali, we asked a section of Dubai’s Indian community what the festival means to them. While everyone had their own special memories around the festival, the underlying message was one of love, prosperity and family.
Manish Das | CEO (corporate affairs and franchise retail), Jashanmal Group
On Diwali we welcome the Hindu deity of wealth, Lakshmi, into our house. We offer prayers to her and the house is filled with lights. We also buy gifts for the family and all our near and dear ones. Diwali is also a time when we spring-clean the house, getting rid of clutter to usher in the new. My favourite memory of Diwali is from my childhood, when neighbours would come out on the street and we would burst firecrackers together. I remember bursting a trail of crackers, nearly 500 metres long. It took about 20 minutes to finish. That was the high point of our celebration back then. Now Diwali is more mellow with so much awareness about pollution. And everyone is health conscious, so [they go easy] on sweets and fried savouries. But in spite of all this the good thing about Diwali is the spirit of togetherness that we cherish.
Pallavi Tewari | Radio Presenter
Diwali means the world to me. It is that time of the year when I decorate my home with earthen lamps or diyas and colourful patterns of rangoli. Diwali was a big deal while I was growing up. My mum would prepare her signature homemade sweets and we had guests pouring in all evening. Laughter, love, happiness all rolled into one. That’s what Diwali signifies for me even today.
Here in Dubai I live with my daughter Sameera, and being a single parent, I try and make Diwali special for her every year.
We make sure we wear traditional clothes, make rangoli together and have our fill of ladoos. On Diwali morning we visit the temple together, and in the evening light diyas after the customary religious rituals at home.
My favourite Diwali memory is of my mother wearing her silk sari, with flowers in her hair, and me waiting eagerly for her coconut ladoos.
Besides the ladoos, I was fond of her chaklis, murukku and homemade chaat (all types of savoury snacks).
Like any other festival, Diwali celebrations have changed a lot over the years. It breaks my heart when I see kids playing with their iPad or watching TV as opposed to enjoying the sweets and interacting with people. It’s very important that children are taught about traditions and family values. I feel it’s slipping away because of our busy lives.
Dr Pankaj Shrivastav | Founder and Medical Director, Conceive Gynecology and Fertility Hospital
Diwali, for me, is connecting with friends and family. It is to take stock of the year gone by and plan ahead for the next year. Every year we have a big celebration where most of our friends and family come home to enjoy the festivities. We’re able to reconnect with friends we haven’t seen in a long time. It’s a day filled with love and warmth. Weeks go by planning for this day. Nishi, my wife, starts preparations days in advance, sending out invitations to more than 300 people. She patiently lists all that needs to be cooked and gives the house a thorough cleaning.
On Diwali day, celebrations take off on a massive scale. The evening is filled with fun, food, dance and fireworks. In the last few years we’ve cut down a lot on fireworks as we are conscious of the environment and understand that it affects pets. We have many rescued dogs of our own, so we are careful.
On Diwali day we always serve home-cooked food. It’s a large vegetarian meal that takes immense planning and hours of hard work. We first offer our prayers at home and at our places of work (the hospital) and then light the customary Diwali diyas (lamps). The house looks magical and ethereal and this is my most favourite moment – the quiet beauty of it all before the party starts.
My favourite Diwali memory goes back to the days when the girls and my wife would get together and paint the rangoli (traditional Indian floor painting in different designs) on the garden path leading to the front door. Over the years the scale of celebration has certainly changed but the love and happiness remains untouched.
Sima Ved | Vice Chairperson, Apparel Group
Diwali is a festival to remind myself and my kids that we are Indian. Growing up in Dubai, I think we celebrate the festival much more than some Indians would do in India. It involves getting together and meeting friends, and having parties at our homes much before the real festival day. The merriment spills over to a few days post Diwali as well. On the auspicious day of the festival we do our religious rituals and visit family and friends. I always make sure all of us wear something new on Diwali.
My favourite Diwali memory goes back to 2015, when my brother’s and my kids sat at my parents’ prayer room for the prayers. That was the last time we all were together. Now one of my nieces is married and my eldest is in university. So we are incomplete in a way! Diwali is not just synonymous with one type of food or sweet. There is just so much to indulge in, especially the chaats.
Every year for Diwali the number of houses that are lit up increases in various parts of Dubai. For us, Diwali is now less hectic and it’s more a family affair.
Pawan Kachroo | Managing Director, Khamas Hospitality
The joy of Diwali starts a month ahead of the festival with parties at the homes of our friends and family. During Diwali the one customary thing my wife does is the beautiful rangoli with different colours. Apart from that, we also decorate the house with candles and diyas. After prayers, we serve delicious food and sweets for family and friends. My favourite Diwali memory dates back to our first year of marriage in the hotel where we were living. We celebrated with all the staff there. It was great fun and holds a very special place in my heart. During Diwali our hotel, the Canvas by M Gallery Collection, prepares a lot of traditional Indian sweets, such as gulab jamun, boondi ladoo, jalebi and rasmalai. It’s all about sweets, sweets and more sweets. Diwali is now a global festival and people from all over the world participate in it. A lot of people also engage in charity during this time. It’s the perfect time for people to come together, eat and enjoy with love and happiness without any barriers.
Mohit Bhojwani | Owner, SpiceKlub Dubai
Diwali means driving around Dubai and enjoying the lights, especially around Bur Dubai. It’s a total family day. We have prayers at home and the office, followed by an open-house at our cousin’s place! It’s quite the event of the year, where the whole family parties until the early hours of the morning. My favourite Diwali memory is celebrating the festival for the first time at SpiceKlub last year. What a vibe there was. The restaurant looked pretty with all the lights – people came in dressed in festive gear. There is a lot of awareness around Diwali now and people play it safe. I am happy to have our friends and extended family indulge in a bit of firecrackers, but personally I keep away from it.
Sakshi Nath | Entrepreneur
Diwali is my favourite Indian festival and I look forward for it every year. I don’t do much on my own but a lot of our friends here have their signature Diwali parties and we look forward to celebrate with them, dressed in festive attire, with lots of food, drinks and card games. But I do love to light up my house with candles during Diwali, and it’s customary for us to do that. My favourite Diwali memory to date is cleaning the entire house and having a beautiful rangoli just outside the main door for a few days. Even now we have rangoli in our prayer room. I love doing the traditional floor painting and indulge quite a bit in traditional Indian sweets without feeling guilty. I eat a lot of fried stuff and I forget all about my diet. I just eat everything I love.
Hema Kaul | Fashion Designer
Diwali brings back memories of how we celebrated the festival back home in India with my mum, dad and siblings in our house in Pune. There is so much happiness and joy associated with this festival. Even now I make it a point to celebrate Diwali with friends; it is a joyous moment for me. The one customary thing I always do on Diwali is curate some beautiful gifts for the people I love and send them as a token of love. I also host a small get-together for my friends every year. I love the special food that my mum prepares during Diwali, especially the poha chiwda (the spicy flattened rice) and it is served to all the guests who come to visit. Diwali has changed over the years. People are now careful of firecrackers as they are a hazard to the environment and also because of the noise pollution. It’s become a quieter affair now.