FIRST DIWALI AWAY FROM HOME
Back in India, this time of the year would have been marked by wetness due the northeast and the cyclonic rainfalls. Here in Los Angeles it is marked by the setting of the winter. And finally it is getting colder in here. Three days prior to Diwali, the mercury dropped below the double digit mark for the first time since I came here. If I were to go by the famous line from Game of thrones, “winter is coming”. Though this is one of the places in USA were you have relatively mild winters, conditions were you have temperature as low as this is new to me and I do have some difficulty in getting used to it. This is my first Diwali away from home and for that matter my first away from the home country. More than the Diwali, the prelude to it is the one that is more exciting. The thought of impending holidays, the festivities and the mere fact that it is Diwali time just gives everyone or at least the majority a feeling of excitement. There will be a chaos all around us and that will be enjoyable. Back in college the attendance on the last working day before Diwali drops exponentially with each and every period. Getting out of the campus as early as possible will be prime objective for many. For me personally, the last four Diwali are associated with road trips back home from the college. Getting a bus ride back home on Diwali eve is a near impossible task and we use to book vans from college back home. I still remember the night when I was leaving for home before Pongal. As I was travelling a day before the holidays start, I thought maybe I can get a public bus back home as the actual exodus will start only the next day. As I entered the bus stand I was shocked by the fact that there was a queue that has formed to board the bus. Thing don’t go as you wish and accepting the fact, I just took few more steps to find that there were two separate queues. So when I tried to find out the queue that I was supposed to enter, came the actual shock. It wasn’t two separate queues but a single one twisted and turned over the area of the bus stand to make it appear as separate one at first sight. That is the situation a day before the actual start of holidays. So Imagine the day when the holidays begin. This makes a hired vehicle inevitable during these festive times. I do have some fresh memories of those trips. Those were really nice journeys. Coming back to Diwali, there would be at least one full day that would be devoted to purchase of new clothes. As my birthday also comes in this season, my shopping would be pretty extensive. And suddenly things have changed altogether. I am not at home; the van trip is not there, there is no chaos around me, no new clothes, no crackers and no television ads interrupted by special programs. Above all there is no feeling of Diwali around. But to my surprise, I don’t feel anything odd about it. And I don’t know the reason for not having any odd feeling. I feel odd that I didn’t get that odd feeling that I am talking about. The day of Diwali was yet another day in my academic calendar, marked by typical events of a graduate student in an American university. Classes, assignments, campus job, cooking his meal on and on went this “day of lights” just like yet another Tuesday. On the day of Diwali I got a text from a friend of mine in another American university wishing me on the occasion. Back in India, texts would have been flying like crazy on the evening before the Diwali. Mobile operators have successful established a mobile Diwali that falls a day prior to the actual festival, by cutting the free messaging on the day of Diwali.
Something else that I miss from the last four years of my life is the evening on the day we come back to the hostel after the Diwali holidays. That would be evening of sweets with all of us exchanging the sweets that we brought from home. Some of them bring loads of them, that it comes for almost a week. That evening is one special evening. Sweets bring people together and that just sparks of one conversation after the other, and before you find that it’s time for dinner. Comments on the newly released movies and forming groups to watch a new release on the weekend will always be there during these evenings. Now this is replaced by the thought that when will a print of the newly released movie be available online.
Boasting a large Indian student body here in the University of Southern California, Diwali indeed is marked and celebrated. There was an evening of cultural events on the Sunday prior to Diwali, organized by the Association of Indian students here at USC. The three-storeyed Bovard auditorium in the campus was packed to its full strength for the evening. Though an Indian dominated spectators, there were also students and guests of other nationality turning up for the evening. It was a typical Indian style cultural program comprising of dance, music and other variety shows, for the spectators to witness. You get to eat the same kind of sweets again and again for every Diwali and still you like them and savour them. On a similar line though there wasn’t many things that were strikingly out of the box in the agenda for the evening, it was indeed a good show. The last time I witnessed a stage performance of similar kind was during the last semester of my college. The show was indeed a good one. Though the kinds of events are nothing but the clichéd ones that we get to see in any schools, colleges and other stages in India, it was indeed entertaining. There were of course some offbeat performances. The dances were good but there were quiet of few singers whose performances deserve special praise. There was a play put up with a story line no better than that of an Indian masala movie, but the performance by the artist deserves applause. Moreover the skit was scripted to have a decent or in fact a good screenplay and people were not allowed to wander out of the skit throughout its run time. The stage was utilized to perfection and the way the performers carried themselves through the play was really outstanding and for me that is one of the top events of the evening. Another stand out performance of the day is the one by the DPS officer Veeru Valencia who just came on the stage and lightened the moment by just boasting of his knowledge on India languages and firing one liner here and there. Such a lively person, he is really interested in Indian culture and festivities and can be seen in almost all the Indian festival programs in the campus. The evening culminated with some tasty Indian food and a journey back home on that cold night.
That made my Diwali this year and still I don’t know why I didn’t feel odd about missing an Indian Diwali.
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