November 12, 2007

Diwali in Kuwait

Lit up complex

Presently, local religious and cultural festivals of India that were celebrated by one community is, more or less, celebrated by the rest in some form or the other. For example, neither a Hindu nor Muslim, I could enjoy celebrating Diwali and Eid, as much as I would probably if given a chance to with other festivals around the world.

What used to be a celebration of Diwali for relatively private sphere of ritual and sacred performance has now become a public and mostly secular display of celebrations. Celebrating Diwali in Kuwait has become a mainstream public manifestation of being “Hindi” (Arabic term for ‘Indian’) and though the term is sometimes used disparagingly, somehow I’ve not once felt less dignified in being called a “Hindi.” (I believe in the adage that ‘no one make you feel inferior without your consent’ – Eleanor Roosevelt.)

F
estivals are a perfect occasion to renew one’s ‘Indianness’ and I spent this weekend celebrating Diwali, mainly with dear friends, one of whom belongs to a loving Rajasthani family, wearing an ethnic salwar-khameez and the usual accessories that go with it, instead of the usual jeans and Ts.

As
we were animatedly chatting, I could sense a distinct sense of nostalgia. There was no paucity of topics to discuss on India, its customs and traditions, its cultures not to mention the feelings of the memories of the past that evoke at these festive occasions. It felt good to see the NRIs trying to cheer each other up through the longing for the feel of India and actually succeeding!

Jhumpa Lahiri in her book 'The Namesake' has tried to capture the feelings of the Indians abroad in her book where Gogol goes exploring his Indian heritage and Mira Nair has portrayed it in her film, The Namesake, where one could sense the second generation also continues to feel a sense of detachment and aloofness. However, I do not feel like how Gogol did.

I am
distinctly aware of my identity though I still claim to be a citizen of the world. Over the years, I kept thinking a daisy is a daisy no matter which part of the world’s soil it has sprung up from. Now I think that each daisy blossoms from a plant that has its own spot where its roots are embedded. It draws its strength from that spot. I have a sense of continuing to be rooted to my land.

So
through the colourful rangolis (colourful floral patterns) and beautiful home decorations, noisy firecrackers and striking fireworks, strings of illuminated lights and elaborately decorated balconies of homes, ethnic clothing and flickering lit-up diyas (oil-lamps) in rows, delicious Diwali sweets and authentic Indian cuisine, and all through the cheerful moments with that warm Rajasthani family, I still miss India!

After
all, regardless of wherever an Indian might be on the globe phir bhi dil hai Hindustani (after all, the heart is Indian).

PS: The Indian Diaspora, currently estimated to exceed over 20 million spread across more than 100 countries, is perhaps the most widespread and heterogeneous than any other, with its half a dozen religions and sub-ethnic identities. A recent estimation of the number of Indians in Kuwait is approximately 300,000.



16 comments:

Rambodoc said...

What a colorful blog! Do write on your personal experiences with others when you were in India, or the ones you have in your current life in Kuwait.

indicaspecies said...

rambodoc:
Thank you for your visit. I'm a fairly new blogger and would like feedback from my readers, so shall consider your suggestion.

In the meantime, you might wish to have a glimpse at some of these posts where I feel there's a personal touch:

http://indicaspecies.blogspot.com/2007/08/
incredible-india-indeed.html
http://indicaspecies.blogspot.com/2007/10/
conning-ponkra.html
http://indicaspecies.blogspot.com/2007/10/
trip-to-nubra-valley-ladakh.html
(this should lead you to other posts).

Priyank said...

I liked the way you started describing Diwali - associating with a religious identity - and slowly moved to he bigger picture - national identity. Indeed, religion is only the pertext ;)

indicaspecies said...

Priyank,
I don't lose sight of the bigger picture. I often pause and admire the fact that 1.2 billion people live, more or less, harmoniously in a pluralistic society as one nation! Isn't that itself something to celebrate about?

imac said...

Most interesting and a good photo to.

Crazy Me said...

Great photo. I like your profile picture too. Very cute!

Kalyan said...

lovely reading about the celebrations there &ythe spirit of your celebrations in such a far away place. The photo is also a beautiful one!

indicaspecies said...

imac:
Thank you. It's fascinating indeed. :)

indicaspecies said...

crazy me:
Hey, thanks a lot. :)

indicaspecies said...

Kalyan,
Thank you very much. :)

Mridula said...

Loved your account and the pictures. I wonder what would it feel like to stay abroad for an extended period, have never been in that situation till date.

indicaspecies said...

Mridula,
In my case, it's a feeling that's pretty difficult to describe. Like I voiced out earlier somewhere on this blog, I have neither anything to complain about being here nor anything to be passionate about either. That's probably the reason I make frequent trips to India at every opportunity.

I can say one thing for sure - I miss India. So, I know for a fact that the moment am free of these few responsibilities, I shall be heading back to my homeland with a smile.

Suldog said...

Thanks for stopping by over at my place.

I love reading about other's customs, both religious and secular (and sometimes combined!) Thanks for sharing this wonderful time with me.

indicaspecies said...

suldog:
Welcome and thanks for your visit. Delighted that you loved reading this post. :)

Sigma said...

A wonderful post. Warm and heartfelt.

indicaspecies said...

sigma:
Thank you. :)