I was very tired after such a hectic day on Sunday, and even yesterday, since my son didn’t resume school back after his mid-term holidays, because of the bad weather outside and due to some health complications, which made that I had to look after him and at the same time catch back a lot of delayed chores and prepare dinner, but I didn’t want to fall asleep without writing that blog post, which I could publish this morning only due to network problems I occurred last night because of slow-down of Internet connection. Last Sunday was a very special day: It was Diwali Day.
For those who never heard about Diwali, in the Hindu religion, it commemorates the return of Lord Rama from Lanka, after he defeated the King Demon Ravana, who kept Lord Rama’s wife Sita prisoner after having trapped and kidnapped her from her home, and saved the life of His beloved wife Sita. When Lord Rama returns to his homeland together with His wife Sita, He is welcomed by all his devotees with oil lamps called Diyas, which they illuminate all along His footsteps together with flowers to welcome Him and to celebrate His victory. Diwali is also the opportunity for Hindus to celebrate Goddess Laxmi, who is the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, whom they thank during that special occasion for all the good luck She has been bringing into Hindu families all over the past year, and also the Elephant God Ganesha, who is the Son of Lord Shiva and His wife Parvati and who represents the God who removes all obstacles, and Goddess Saraswati, who is the Goddess of Arts and Knowledge and spouse of the Creator God Brahma. On Diwali day, in India, in Mauritius like in every Hindu families, a couple of days before Diwali starts, families deep clean their houses, buy a new broom, a new cooking recipient, some new clothes and jewels for the occasion and at times start preparing some sweet cakes, since the varieties are numerous and that some of them need a long time of preparation. On Diwali morning, spouses keep on preparing some cakes and offer those cakes with the Holy Prashads (offers to God during prayer) to Laxmi Maa, Saraswati Maa, Lord Ganesha and also to Lord Rama and His Beloved wife Sita before packing the cakes and distributing them with all their family members, friends and loved ones before 06.00.pm, wearing their new clothes and jewels for that special occasion. The rest of the cakes that they don’t have time to distribute, they give them during the day after, since they need to be back at home before 06.00.pm to light on all the oil lamps (Diyas) before that time, which is the time, according to the Hindu ritual, where Goddess Laxmi enters the house of the family to bring Her holy blessings in the house. Diwali represents a very festive day, since after the rituals, youngsters and adults have a lot of fun with sparkles and firecrackers, folkloric songs and dances until late in the night.
But through the experience that I had yesterday, the Diwali that I celebrated together with my little family was very different. We are still settled in the Seychelles all alone, since my son goes to school there and that my husband still works there. On Saturday, my son and my husband went for shopping to buy all the necessary stuffs for celebrating Diwali, whereas I stayed at home to proceed with a deep cleaning of the house. But since we were staying in an apartment that we were renting only temporarily, we didn’t buy any new broom nor recipient, but we only lit a new oil lamp at night for the evening prayer. On Sunday, my husband and I woke up very early to have shower, to perform our usual morning prayers and then, after a quick breakfast, I tidied the kitchen and started preparing the sweet cakes, while my husband was busy finishing an urgent work. To be honest, I have very few experience in cooking Indian sweet cakes, since it was only the second time in my life that I experienced cooking them on my own, and later I will explain you why. I first wanted to cook some Rasgoolahs, which are some little round cakes made with milk powder, which you should fry in hot cooking oil before rubbing them with a homemade cardamom syrup. Unfortunately, since we have an electric oven which heats too much, my Rasgoolahs got burnt and I had to throw all of them in the dustbin 😦 Furthermore, I tried another type of cakes, the Nankatais, which are some vegetarian cookies made with corn semolina. They were not too bad but they didn’t have the original shapes that Nankatais have in general, and rather looked like some ordinary cookies, but they were presentable and, according to my husband and to my son who enjoyed them to the core, they were delicious 🙂 So happy for them! After the Nankatais, I tried some Almond Barfis. Barfis are some cakes made with liquid and powder milk, sugar, cardamom powder and almond powder, which should have a thick texture after the Barfi paste gets colder and is then cut into some little diamond shape cakes. I tried the Barfi cakes and even included some green food colour in it to give it a more attractive presentation. However, since the Barfi didn’t have enough time to get colder due to the lack of time, the paste was very sticky when I tried to cut off the diamond shaped cakes! The taste was good though, but the presentation was a true disaster, and I learnt trough that catastrophe that next time, I shall prepare it the day before, so that the texture gets more firm. Finally I ended with Gulab Jamun, a sort of oval shape cake which resembles the Rasgoolah, but with a thicker texture since you add more flour in it. But when I tried the oval shape, I had difficulties to cook it because of the overheating oven, also I had to give the Gulab Jamun a round shape for a better cooking, and I may say I succeeded them. After the cakes were over, we gifted each type of cakes in front of our Deities which we regularly pray before distributing them with some of our neighbours and friends before lighting the Diyas at 06.00.pm. Contrary to the previous years, we only had two Diyas, one in our Prayer room, and one in our kitchen, since the kitchen represents the heart of Hindu homes, like all homes in general. We also got in touch with our relatives and close friends to share the Diwali wishes, looked after our young son, since he would resume school the day after, and my husband prepared a delicious carrot, potato and leak soup for dinner. And here I am, while my husband and my son are deep asleep, sharing you how my Diwali went on… And why I chose such a title to write my blog today.
Before I share with you my personal experience, I have had the pleasure reading a recent post from one of my compatriots, where he expressed his own opinion about Diwali, and I really enjoyed that opinion because what he wrote in his post was completely right and summarises exactly what I have myself been experiencing before. He mentioned in his post exactly the way Mauritians celebrate Diwali nowadays: with hypocrisy and by showing off what they have. With the huge economical progress, lots of Mauritians tend to show off their wealth by building big houses, buying the latest high-tech products, the most expensive car, etc. But the medal reverse behind so much wealth is completely different and proves that the Mauritian society is based upon the principle that all what glitters isn’t true gold. To appear so much fortunate, Mauritians have a lot of debts since they need to contract loans with their banks or insurances, which they struggle to reimburse in return. There are some Mauritians coming from affluent families or of affluent personalities, who are protected by some religious communities, by freemasonry or who don’t even hesitate to call after sorcerers to be able to influence people through their fortune and words. There are some dealers who operate illegally in prostitution, child labour, drugs and all sorts of illicit businesses in exchange of dirty money. There are some corrupted people who either bribe their suppliers or superiors in exchange of money despite the active intervention of the ICAC in Mauritius to obtain some favours they don’t deserve. And it’s most of them who celebrate Diwali with so much extravaganza for the pleasure of showing off and without realising they are mocking Goddess Laxmi, and this without any shame nor remorse! And those same people expect that with so many lights decorating their houses, with huge Laxmi poojas celebrated in their houses, so many cakes shared with hypocrite Happy Diwali wishes to people they criticise, envy and dislike in reality, Laxmi Maa will step into their houses? And how about She shows Her anger by removing all the luck and wealth Her fake devotees accumulated for years to punish them,will they accept their fault or reject the wrong on others… including on Laxmi Maa?
Regarding my own experience on Diwali, yes, I admit that I have also experienced Diwali in total ignorance and hypocrisy, but in a totally different concept. As I have mentioned in some of my posts, before marriage, I followed my parents’ religious steps mostly based on Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and Christianity, before embracing Hinduism, though I kept on practising a few Catholic rituals after marriage, since my husband also praised Mother Mary regularly. I gave more details about that experience when I wrote about the way I took back the Hindu religion that my father rejected against his family’s approval. Since my father changed his religious orientation totally, as an ex-Hindu, he never felt the necessity to explain me the true meaning of Diwali, since myself I was christened Roman Catholic after I was born. However, for the pleasure of celebrating Diwali and being part of the Diwali festive mood, we enjoyed ourselves by buying Indian sweets and Diwali carton boxes, sharing the cakes and preparing the boxes equitably before sharing the cakes with my paternal relatives, and lightning some electric lamps… and even some Diyas! What was funny was that even though we were not following Hinduism, my father allowed that we would light Diyas, but he never explained me the meaning of the Diya… And myself, since I was so naive and ignorant, it never came into my mind to ask my father to explain me about the meaning of the Diya, nor about the difference between lightning a Diya and lightning some electric lamps. It’s through the news on television that I came to know about the meaning of the Diya and the information I obtained about its meaning was more than enough for my general, cultural and religious knowledge about Hinduism, since I wasn’t a Hindu devotee before marriage. After marriage, I embraced Hinduism, but yet, I admit that I had so much things to learn about Hinduism. My paternal family members were Hindus for the most of them, but none of them taught me about Hinduism, in one hand because my parents would never allow them to influence me on Hinduism because of my Christianity, in another hand because myself I was linked to Christianity and never wanted to betray my religion, which was the one in which my parents placed me since I was born. Things drastically changed after marriage, since, like I described in the post regarding my conversion to Hinduism, which I mentioned previously in that paragraph, I never expected that one day, I would be taught about the importance for me to embrace Hinduism after marriage. At first though, since I had no one to really explain me the basics that I was supposed to know, I ignored about the importance for me, as a spouse in a Hindu couple, to prepare the Diwali sweet cakes with my own hands by lightning myself the oven with my hands. I have been living in Madagascar from 2005 till 2009 and then had to leave Madagascar in emergency with my husband because of the socio-political crisis of 2009 which shook the country and forced so many expatriates to leave the country for safety reasons. But during all the time I was settled there, we had a Malagasy maid who used to prepare all our meals and who had a very strong experience in Pakistani cuisine, which mostly was alike Indian cuisine, at the exception of a few variants. Even Pakistani cuisine included Diwali sweets… But the difference was that Pakistani sweets all included eggs among the main ingredients, whereas Indian sweets excluded eggs, which was considered as an animal product as per Hinduism and wasn’t allowed to be used for cooking Indian sweets, especially since those sweets are distributed after prayer sessions with Hindu priests and during Diwali celebration and prayers, and also should be purely vegetarian sweets, by respect for the religion which didn’t authorise any animal product as offerings. Before marriage, my husband, who was already settled in Madagascar, then completely ignored that the Malagasy maid included eggs in the Diwali cakes she prepared for being distributed by my husband to his compatriots and colleagues, until one day, my mother-in-law, who was on holidays at his place in Madagascar, noticed that our maid included eggs and then forbid the maid using eggs again, explaining her as best as she could the meaning behind it, and the maid then stopped using eggs. Since it was the maid who used to prepare the cakes, and since she was already a good cook, I never cared about learning how to prepare food, and I admit it, since i came from a rich family where I had maids all the time to serve me, I was a spoilt child and I was never interested into learning the rules of being a good and independent housewife, until we had to leave Madagascar and that I retrieved myself on my own, and then forced to learn everything from scratch! For Diwali 2009, since we were living at my in-laws’ place, and 2013, during which we were on holidays at my in-laws’ place one year after our settlement in Seychelles, since my in-laws were preparing all the cakes and that we were mostly busy with our young son, I didn’t cook one single Diwali cake. For Diwali 2010 to 2012 that we celebrated in Mauritius, during which we were renting my husband’s uncle’s house until we would obtain our own house in January 2013, we could manage with some Rasgoolah, but we even ordered some cakes outdoors to complete what we cooked, but some of my in-laws, especially my sister-in-law, who was known to be always competitive with me since we know each other, was all the time teasing me ironically because of that, and it really pricked me though I never replied her anything to her provocations. But for the last three Diwalis that we celebrated in Seychelles from 2014 to 2016, we had to manage on our own. In 2014, my husband helped me a lot, whereas the two other years, since he was at work and our son at school in 2015, and since my husband was very busy with an emergency task this year, I had to manage on my own. I won’t say that my cakes were brilliant, but one thing was sure, I did my very best and I was proud that I could try to follow the Hindu tradition for Diwali as a true Hindu spouse after so many years of struggle and wrong experience choices. I understood that, as a Hindu spouse, for Diwali, it was of my duty, as a Laxmi in my family and in the home that I represent together with my husband and my child, it was MY duty to light the fire from MY oven, in MY kitchen, in MY home. It was MY duty to bake the cakes with MY efforts and own hands. It was finally MY duty to be the first person in the family to light the oil lamp for Diwali to welcome Laxmi Maa. It WAS NOT the Malagasy maid’s hands which counted to light the oven and prepare the cakes, though she did it in our house. It WAS NOT my mother-in-law to light her oven in her kitchen and to prepare the cakes. Because the efforts for those cakes and prayers were coming from OTHER PEOPLE, and it was THOSE PEOPLE who were harvesting the prosperity from Laxmi Maa, and NOT the three of us, since the efforts didn’t come from ME, the Hindu Housewife.
However, this year, we were away from my in-laws, from our native country and from my family. People were pitying us because of that, thinking that we were sad for being alone, but it wasn’t true, at least for me personally. Yes, it’s true that I was alone, but I wasn’t lonely. I wasn’t lonely since after so many struggles I had been experiencing with my own family, and which I had been sharing in several of my previous blog posts, I totally eliminated my biological family from my life, and that I came to understand, after so many difficulties, that there was no worth for me to have a biological family with heartless, fake, hypocrite and hurtful and hateful feelings towards me. I wasn’t lonely, since I eliminated a lot of people among even my in-laws, who deceived me a lot through their behaviour towards me and the numerous critics and gossips I had been victim of since I entered my family-in-law and embraced their name, rites and rituals. Among those in-laws, I especially kept grudge against my father-in-law, who prefers my other sister-in-law than me, since she is the one who completes him the best, and I also keep grudge against my sister-in-law herself since she always keeps on competing with me since I entered the family. And you won’t believe me, but I didn’t even greet them Happy Diwali, since I didn’t want to be hypocrite with anyone this year, and that I preferred keeping silent instead of wishing Happy Diwali hypocritically to people that I dislike and despise. I wasn’t lonely since I moved away from my native country, where I had been unfortunate before and even after marriage and where I only keep bitter memories instead of sweet ones because of my family, most of my in-law, bad school experience during which I was considered a loner and at times was even bullied at school, where I never knew about experiencing a good socio-cultural life, and where unfortunately I made so many bad choices among those I thought would be true friends for me, but who were just illusions, at the exception of very few Mauritian people whom I still cherish a lot, but who made the object of a very selective choice by myself and at times with intervention of my husband. Finally, I wasn’t lonely, like I mentioned before, because I eliminated so many fake friends who turned either strangers or enemies to me through some bitter and unexpected life circumstances. I spent Diwali mostly with my husband and my son, through farewell thoughts shared with some people dear to me but geographically living away from me, through some people in the neighbourhood with whom I have a rather good relationship… and with God above all. But hell yes, I was alone… But I was happy, since I wasn’t lonely.
By the same way, even though I didn’t succeed my cakes, though there were times I panicked under effect of stress and pressure, and at times because my son was mischievous with me in the kitchen, I gave so much punishment to myself to prepare all those cakes, and though at times my husband reproached me drastically when he found that my cakes weren’t good at all, though after those reproaches I wanted to let everything down, sit down and burst in tears, I found back the courage I started to loose to improve my preparations as best as possible, and though the final result wasn’t exactly what was expected, the cakes were tasty and delicious… But unfortunately, it seems that in Seychelles, local people don’t like sweet cakes too much, which means that unfortunately none of the cakes I baked for Diwali were consumed by my husband’s Seychellois colleagues. Only one of his colleagues from South Africa enjoyed the cakes, since he loved tasting new stuffs, but that was all. I was very deceived, and I even interpreted their reaction as pure racism and despise against Indians and Mauritians, which means that I swore to myself to never bake so many cakes next time, if those cakes will finally finish in the dustbin or in a forgotten corner of the kitchen cupboard or fridge. I was very deceived that so much energy and fatigue has been used finally for nothing when it came about sharing. But what consoled me though was that before sharing the cakes, I could perform my prayers in total simplicity and with a sincere heart.
Finally, during all the times we celebrated Diwali in Seychelles, neither I nor my husband nor our son, except that year at least for our son with new clothes we succeeded buying for him during our latest trip overseas, had the opportunity to wear new clothes and accessories. We appeared in front of God and in front of people with our previous clothes but which were still in good state. We couldn’t even buy new broom this year to clean the flat we are actually renting, since we are renting it temporarily only, nor a new cooking recipient to cook our cakes for the same reason as the broom. But we succeeded lightning a new Diya that we never used before, and this the day before the Diwali Day. The fact that we could at least light a new Diya this year was the most important for us since we at least succeeded welcoming a new light full of hope and courage in our lives, after so many struggles that we had been facing in our little family and in our marriage life. The way I had to manage on my own most of the Diwali celebration this year, and even last year was difficult, but my husband interpreted that experience as a test, since a true Hindu housewife, since she stands as a Laxmi in a Hindu family, must represent the rock of the family through both thick and thin, and be able to bear both the joyful moments and burdens of life upon her shoulders.
Myself, through the years since I married, the more years go by, the stronger I feel I am becoming, though I admit I am still very fragile and vulnerable and that I need protection from stronger people than me to succeed in life. But that latest Diwali tested me and taught me some tough lessons: Quality instead of quantity. Sincerity and honesty versus show off and hypocrisy. Finally, the importance of the presence of the light inside our own hearts, souls and auras before spreading it in our houses and prayer rooms, since the first door Laxmi Maa will enter is the inner door to our hearts, souls and auras, and then the doors of our houses and surroundings.
So on those words above and as I mentioned in my WhatsApp status, I am wishing Happy Diwali to all my dearest ones, the ones whom I cherish the best and sincerely, but I am not wishing Happy Diwali to those whom I dislike and despise, because they don’t deserve it. However for those same people, who represent my enemies, I wish them that the Light of God penetrates their inner selves and succeeds into cleansing their hearts and souls from all the darkness and shadows making them haunted and miserable, and that they feel the blessing and the welfare of that Light of God within themselves for a positive change, for themselves to start, and then for the rest of the world.