Blog Post: Festival of Lights – Reminder of Rebirth!

Happy Diwali Everyone! This Diwali feels like a special one to me… mainly because I didn’t celebrate it. The first year that I didn’t think about it, plan for it, dress up for it, shop for it and pray at it was the one year that I learned the most about it. I remember going to school on this special day glowing inside knowing how important it was to me and my family and never having a place to share that feeling. Over the years I grew resentful and stopped thinking about it, telling people about it and sharing my gifts with others on this day. This year was different though. The one year I didn’t talk about it was the one year I that learned most about it… from the thoughts and questions of all the people around me.

It was Thiv’s birthday at work. While enjoying cupcakes, he told us that he brought samosas as well. “Adam told me to bring food for the tea

m because of Diwali so I brought in some samosas.” Bring us food on your birthday…?? I thought. But… this was the spirit of Diwali at work... Generosity.

“So what is Diwali anyway? Is it like your new year?” Chuck asked. “Well kind of, we do get new things – new clothes, gifts for others, blessings & warm wishes – Yeah, I guess you could say that…” I replied. “It means rebirth” maternal Maylyn said firmly but quietly, walking back to her desk to finish her work. “It’s true, it is like a cleansing… like a fresh start.” I added.

“What did you do for Diwali this year?” Brittany asked “It was a strange year. I went to visit my parents, but we just missed each other and didn’t end up seeing each other. Normally, we have a lot of fun when the whole family – my sister, nieces, brother-in-law and cousins—gets together, but we were all in different places this year, so we didn’t do all our traditions.” Maybe it’s time for new traditions, I thought to myself as we moved on to talk about other things.

Earlier that day, at my new favourite tea shop Plentea in Parkdale, Toronto, the owner said something that really resonated with me. “I notice business owners can get complacent” he said “so I come to work every day like it’s my first.” Here it was again – the spirit of Diwali. Renewal. I woke up this morning feeling the same way, ready to plug away in solitude at 6am in our poorly heated industrial loft… but ignored the urge, listened to complacency… and got stuck in traffic behind a bad accident… with the rest of the GTA.

It seemed Diwali’s messages were finding their way to me, as I made no effort to look for or share them myself. Earlier still, while trying to find the right music to get me focused at work, youtube found me a great mix that reminded me of music I listened to as a kid. It happened again on the drive home – I heard my favourite songs from my teens and sang along as I watched the sun brightly light the sky - hours before the dark ghouls and goblins took the streets for Halloween.

As I gazed at my candle (‘diya’) and reflected on my day, I realized that what Maylyn said about rebirth really was true. Something about today’s events reminded me about the importance of returning to the places, moments, people and feelings when you felt most alive and of experiencing them with fresh eyes and a renewed spirit. I was experiencing rebirth – not by trying (as I often do), but instead by letting the spirit of the festival carry me to where I needed to be.

What could you re-do with enlivened spirit and energy? Who or what would you re-commit to? How, and why? I wish you a very Happy Diwali and hope the spirit of the festival of lights carries you to where you need to be!

Diwali (or Deepawali - 'row of lights') is a festival celebrated across India (and now the world) in the Fall, in celebration of various gods in Hinduism (depending on the region of India). During this festival, we give thanks to gods for allowing good/love/wisdom to prevail over evil/ignorance/darkness, and for providing us with health, knowledge, peace, wealth and prosperity. In Kolkata, West Bengal, it is celebrated after the 8-day "Durga Puja" which celebrates Goddess Durga ("strength, power, peace"), Lord Shiva ("create, protect, transform") and her children Gods Kartik ("war"), Ganesh ("wisdom"), Saraswati ("knowledge, arts")and Lakshmi ("wealth, prosperity").  In It is a joyous time for people to enjoy with family, friends, community, etc. In India, communities compete against each other in art competitions to see whose display of the gods is most beautiful (the largest in the world). They also get all days of the festival off work (like stat holidays)!

The intention of the article was to demonstrate that curiosity about things different from you can help increase awareness of others' beliefs & values (both similar and different from your own) and can help others (i.e., minorities) feel more included. The principles of the festival are universal - it's wishes are for everyone.