Diwali, the festival of lights, symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, the triumph of good over evil, knowledge and truth over falsehood and ignorance, and new beginnings. Shefali Desai, Head of Global Talent Acquisition based in India, and Rolly Sachdev, People and Culture Business Partner for Global Products and CTO based in the United States, show us that that no matter where you live or what’s happening in the world, the spirit of Diwali will always shine.
Happy Diwali, Rolly! I so love this time of the year, a time to rejoice and celebrate. In my home, we embrace Diwali with great pomp and show – we feast on mouthwatering sweets and savories, exchange gifts with family and friends, wear the finest of attires, and of course the most important, worship Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. How do you celebrate in California?
Rolly Sachdev: Happy Diwali to you, Shefali. My home is buzzing with fun activities weeks before the festival officially begins. On the day of Diwali, we illuminate our home with homemade ethnic clay diyas (oil lamp usually made from clay) and also create rangoli art, which I do with colored sand and flower petals. Even being so far away from home, we wear our traditional ethnic best, and this is the only time I buy ethnic clothes. Similar to how you celebrate, we will pray, cook, and eat a huge family meal with lots of dessert, share gifts, and do our Diwali Prayers.
SD: The sweets are definitely my favorite part! One thing I’ve noticed, and been touched by, is that Diwali seems to be celebrated more and more outside of India. I’ve seen friends and colleagues from all over the world follow the traditions with just as much zeal and zest as I do.
RS: Some elements have definitely changed since I moved to the United States. It’s sort of a scaled-down version from how it’s celebrated in India and I do miss the joy, the enthusiasm, and the buzz of excitement that is inescapable back home. I miss walking down a street where every house is completely decorated, with people chatting and having fun all together.
Since we have no family here, we celebrate with our friends, and wear traditional clothes and cook traditional food. It’s really the only time all year that I make traditional Indian snacks and sweets. We also have a family tradition of making a small “killa“, which means castle, to welcome the gods and goddesses. It’s a wonderful activity for the children and brings back memories of the fun I had with siblings, cousins, and friends in my own childhood. My kids helped me decorate the castle and prepare the other Diwali arrangements, and I like that I get to teach them about their Indian culture through all of this.
SD: I love that you share these traditions with your children, and I really love the idea of the killa – you’ll have to post a picture in the blog comments!
RS: When I first moved to the U.S., I didn’t have much of an idea or help so I bought a birdhouse from Michael’s and decorated that as my killa! I still have that and decorate it every year differently to give it a new feel. This year we are also helping a very close friend who is in our social bubble to build and decorate a killa in his backyard. It was a good cultural experience for the kids and adults equally and was quite a nice distraction considering we aren’t going out much because of the pandemic.
SD: You mentioned the pandemic, which has been on my mind a lot (and everyone’s!). One thing I keep coming back to is that Diwali is the celebration of good over evil. It brings us so much beauty, happiness, and joy, and spans cultures, religions, and economic groups. This feels even more important as we face a global pandemic.
RS: I completely agree - Diwali always gives me an abundance of joy and energy and so many of us need that right now. We have been sheltered in our homes, but our lives are still busy with school, work, and all of the extra hats we are wearing. Diwali will provide me with much-needed down time with my family. While we’re celebrating at home and virtually this year, we will do so with the same amount of spirit, as always! Honestly, I feel like everyone could use some Diwali in their life!
SD: That just gave me the biggest smile and that is a great reminder to note that everyone can join in and celebrate Diwali.
RS: Festivals like this provide such a great opportunity to bring people from all backgrounds into another culture and help promote diversity and inclusion.
SD: Those are great last words to leave us with. Thank you, Rolly, for your time today, and we wish all of you out there a Diwali that brings happiness prosperity and joy to you and your family.
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