Sunday, 13 December 2015

Diwali – the festival of lights (and really loud firecrackers)

For weeks people had been talking about Diwali, the festival of lights, or by some referred to as the “Indian Christmas”. Shops had been selling fireworks, candles and tons of sweets in all colours and shapes. Needless to say, we were really excited about celebrating this important event. I had been ravaging the stores in the nearby city of Hariana in the search for a pre-made dress. Believe me, it’s a lot harder than it sounds! Most of the people here buy fabric, which they then bring to the tailor. With only one day to go however, this was not an option for me. Luckily, after having tried most of the very limited selection of pre-made dresses, I eventually found one that was actually pretty nice! 

Me, in my new dress, with Bide, a girl from the migrant camp

And so the big day came! It didn’t start out great though. A girl we know from the neighbouring community of Janauri had offered to come by our house and cook for us. We happily accepted! In true Indian fashion however, we had problems with the gas in our kitchen that day so the lovely lunch never happened! Luckily the rest of the day turned out a lot better. The families in the migrant camp we work with had invited us over to celebrate with them. We were not exactly sure how Diwali was celebrated but people had told us to bring sweets. So we all dressed up for the occasion, got a big box of Indian sweets and some fruit and headed off to the camp. The camp seemed really happy to see us but they were even happier to see the sweets we brought. It didn’t take long for them to finish it all (for some reason they were not as interested in the fruit…). One of the young boys had a particularly good appetite. Unfortunately it was too much of a sugar shock for his poor tummy so the sweets all came back up in the end of the evening… 

Geeta and Taravati enjoying the sweets we brought

Apart from that incident, we had a really good time with the families. We did henna with the girls, took hundreds of photos (of course everyone wanted a picture with their Diwali outfit on) and the kids lit firecrackers. We didn’t really see the point as the firecrackers were not nice to look at and they were super loud! For the kids, however, it seemed the louder the better! We were a bit worried seeing them lighting them off everywhere. The rest of the adults in the camp did not share our concerns however, and to our massive relief no one, including us, got hurt.

The children of the camp playing with firecrackers
After spending a couple of hours with the family we headed off to the neighbouring Janauri community to meet with the families we had got to know there. They didn’t really have time for us when we arrived so we walked around in the community for a while, had some pakoura (deep-fried vegetables) and watched the fireworks that were going off all around us. It was so beautiful to walk around there at night with all the candles and lights everywhere! People also seemed to have embraced the Diwali-spirit and offered us sweets as we went along. One type of sweets was particularly interesting. It was basically deep-fried sugar twisted into an orange spiral. It was really weird, greasy and sweet but somehow it worked! We made a last visit at the house of one of the young women we had got to know in Janauri before heading back home. Madi, our Centre Manager, had bought fireworks so whence back home we lit them off our rooftop while having some delicious homemade popcorn. A great ending to a great day!

Siobhan, Sonia, little Jyoti and me in the temple of the migrant camp

Sabina Bäckman - Sweden
Women's Empowerment Project Manager, Paro (Punjab)

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