It is the time of one of our favourite festivals of the year –the peaceful aarti, warm diyas, colourful lights, new traditional attires, fresh fragrance of flowers, mouth-watering delicacies, shor-sharaba, exciting gifts, and most importantly those warm hugs and heartfelt conversations with friends and family – everything makes it one-of-a-kind. Yes, a lot of these factors will get affected because of the pandemic. But hopefully, people will not go to crowded places, avoid hosting big-fat parties, and say no to crackers, keeping the consequences in mind. However, what will not change is the love, joy and warmth this festival brings to all our lives. Read ahead, to know more about celebrations in 2020, from nine lovely women and their families in and around the country. – Srivalli
Monica Shah is the co-founder and atelier of JADE by Monica & Karishma. Besides, she is also the co-founder of the Chanakya School of Craft – an NGO built for the education and empowerment of women from underprivileged backgrounds, intending to sustain Indian arts, crafts and techniques while also providing employment opportunities to the women in need.
For Monica, Diwali is an intimate and traditional affair that she could celebrate with her family and loved ones, performing all the traditional rituals. “It’s a classic, traditional ritual. We do Lakshmi Puja every year and take time off for a family holiday. The entire family gets together in their finest traditional outfits to celebrate and have a good time”, she says. Because of the unfortunate Coronavirus outbreak, the celebrations won’t be the same. However, Monica hopes to keep the Diwali spirit high with the ritualistic puja with her family.
Speaking to us about the festive delicacies, she adds that she loves to indulge in everything. “This is a time for celebrating together, and in Indian households, food is the go-to way of doing it!” When asked about her fondest Diwali memory, she notes, “Every year is a special one. This is the time we all look forward to the most. I love dressing up in traditional outfits, getting together with my family for the puja and Bhai Dooj. There’s so much warmth and happiness in these times; it’s hard to pick a favourite!”
From dressing up to decorating the house with lights, devouring the festive food to participating in traditions and rituals with everyone and spending the best time together, Monica loves it all. “I wish everyone gets to have a safe, warm and loving Diwali. No matter how small the celebration, as long as you’re with your loved ones, it’s a truly special one!” she concludes.
Shalini Passi is an artist, art collector and a philanthropist. She is the founder of Shalini Passi Art Foundation, and MASH, a digital platform that explores the intersection of the arts, architecture, craft, design and fashion in an engaging & accessible format.
“Diwali is all about praying for my family and the well-being of my loved ones for their prosperity, peace and happiness,” she says. Every year Shalini and her family start their celebrations by offering hymns and prayers to Lord Ganesh, Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu. They perform the aarti, light up diyas, wash silver coins and decorate the house including the home temple with flowers. She further adds, “We spend the entirety of our day singing bhajans and offering prayers to the gods.”
Every year on Diwali, I used to attend the Diwali parties that were hosted by my friends, and we would hold a puja at our home as well. We will still hold the puja, but no Diwali parties would happen in Delhi. The celebrations would continue at home as we don’t burst crackers and only light the diyas while spending time with each other. Speaking of the delicacies they devour, the artist says, “We prepare different kinds of Punjabi sweets that are made at home using traditional recipes that have been passed on to me by my mother and grandmother. On Diwali, we observe a strictly vegetarian meal as well.”
Reciting Gayatri Mantra after offering prayers to Ganesha, Lakshmi and Vishnu with her grandfather on Diwali is one of Shalini’s fondest memories. “He would then explain the meaning and tell us that it means ‘Do not let evil enter your temple and be mindful of your thoughts,” she explains.
Sharing her plans, she notes, “I am travelling to a lot of religious places right now, and I look forward to praying and lighting diyas with my family on the day of Diwali. I will also invite my parents over for dinner and spend the evening with them as well.” Concluding on a positive note, she elaborates, “My message to the readers would be that this Diwali you should let the gods and goddesses into your homes and your hearts and pray for prosperity and that peace be upon everyone”.
Kanak Mehra Quadros and Shan Quadros
Kanak who heads the marketing team at Starbucks all over the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, says Diwali for her and her family is the most important festival. She adds, “We all look forward to it. Despite living in Dubai, we celebrate the festival with great fervour and gaiety and deck up our houses with flowers and diya. Then in the evening, we look forward to the aarti that is very special to us.” Right from the colours, lights, joy, and positivity, Kanak is fond of everything about Diwali. She explains, “It is a festival of happiness that brings everyone together. In many ways, it marks the beginning of the new year.”
Every year Kanak performs puja at her house and office and visits family and friends to gather in merry and cheer. Sharing her views on pandemic Diwali, she adds, “We are definitely going to restrict ourselves to small gatherings. There will be a lot of zoom sessions to wish our loved ones all across the world.”
As a child, Kanak and her family would start puja on Dhanteras and on the day of Diwali, wake up, pray, have family and friends over for dinner and end it with burning crackers. All those memories stand special for her. When asked about her favourite festive food, she tells us Kaju Katlis and Motichoor Laddus are something she absolutely loves. Kanak and her husband, Shan will be indulging in food without feeling guilty.
Garema and Vipul Nagpal
Garema and Vipul Nagpal run a thriving telecom infra manufacturing company called Orient Cables India Pvt Ltd; while the former is the Director, the latter is the Managing Director at the firm. Garema is also an entrepreneur at Futurology India, a luxury fashion accessory brand, and an angel investor at Eattreat.
Garema believes Diwali is the most opulent Indian festival. In this jet setting age, this is the only time of the year when everyone makes it a point to avoid travel and stay home for celebrations. “The glamour and magnanimity of lights against the dark sky make it one of a kind worldwide. From elaborate Indian designer wear to gorgeous events, it gives us a hint of Indian royalty,” she adds. In her childhood, Diwali was more about family and few family friends, but for the last ten years the celebration has been about parties; be it intimate and warm or a melting pot of the crème de la crème of the society with gourmet food, drinks, music and cards. For Garema and Vipul, this year’s Diwali will be more intimate with small gathering because of the pandemic. Sharing her thoughts on this change, Garema says, “Puja and gifts would be more meaningful and personalised than ever before, as staying at home has highlighted a deeper dimension of relationships.”
Speaking of her fondest Diwali memory, the entrepreneur notes, “When my kids were younger, they would burst crackers for a whole month. Diwali was prolonged and action-packed because of them. Now with awareness about the environmental impact, we completely refrain.”
So what kind of food does her family devour during the festive time? “In times when fitness is a way of life for one and all, my sweet tooth makes me compulsive. I source mithai from the Oberoi Gurgaon.” Keeping the traditions alive, Garema along with her family, starts the celebration with pooja which she calls a mandatory custom.
“For once let’s not crib about the negatives of living in India and be grateful for what we have. Let’s preserve our heritage. Let’s imbibe the beauty and significance of our own culture before we include the cultures of the whole world,” she concludes.
Bhavna Gautam and Tia Jasra
Bhavna Jasra is India’s premier lifecasting artist who has made personalised art commissions for celebrities in the field of Bollywood, sports, business and politics including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Her concept involves framed masterpieces of the hands and feet of babies and kids, casts of couples holding hands and casts of blessing hands and feet of elders. She calls them a lifetime treasure those have pure metal finishes such as gold, silver & bronze over them.
“Not just for me but I feel for everyone Diwali is a beautiful time of happiness; everyone is in a joyous mood, all dressed up, sharing love and gifts and celebrating their togetherness,” she says as she talks to us about her celebrations. For Bhavna the only thing that will change this year will be the big parties. She further adds, “We still might have intimate gatherings with four-five couples. Other than that the excitement of dressing up and performing puja will be the same.” From mithai, décor, clothes, gifts to the lights, Bhavna absolutely loves the colours Diwali brings around us.
For Bhavna and her family, the customary puja at home and office is something they look forward to, followed by a dinner with family and friends. They usually have around 15-20 people; some play cards, some chitchat, some discuss jewellery and apparel and everyone exchanges gifts. Bhavna is a very traditional person when it comes to celebrations and
delicacies. “I am contrary to the change that has happened to everybody (laughs). I don’t mind eating mithai with a contemporary twist, but Diwali for me is typical Indian sweets like laddus and kheer,” she elaborates.
As a kid, she would love lighting firecrackers, but now because of environmental issues, she has stopped it and also has put the same thought in her daughter Tia’s mind. “Somewhere in the corner of my heart, I miss lighting up firecrackers. For any child at that time, it was what Diwali was about. I wish there were some eco-friendly ways of bringing that joy back,” she sighs.
Sharing her thoughts this Diwali, Bhavna says, “Because COVID-19 is the condition of lungs, I think we could light up eco-friendly diyas that do not emit carbon into the environment, instead of regular diyas and candles. Maybe one diya could be put up in the mandir to follow the traditions and customs.”
Nikhila Palat and Vivan Bhathena
Nikhila Palat and Vivan Bhathena along with their little one Nivaya Palat Bhathena are looking forward to celebrating this Diwali with their family. “Diwali is a time for celebration. It’s a time for togetherness with family and friends. But most importantly, it’s a time to express gratitude for all the abundance of love that surrounds us,” tells Nikhila. Since the past few years, Nikhila’s sister has been hosting Diwali, where she decorates her beautiful home with lots of lights and festive flair and serves the most decadent delicious meal. Nikhila and her family play games, laugh, exchange gifts and have a wonderful time together. The unfortunate outbreak of Coronavirus didn’t affect Nikhila and Vivan’s celebrations much. “One thing never changes for me, and that’s family. So this year too, we will be going to my sister’s home for Diwali. She is an incredible cook too, so to be extra safe she will be cooking all the delicacies at home for us,” she adds.
Explaining about the Diwali dining, Nikhila says that each member of their family has different tastes when it comes to food, so usually it includes the personal favourites of each family member including their two cocker spaniel puppies - Muffin and Magic!” What is the couple’s fondest Diwali memory, “Last year was extra special as it was my baby Nivaya’s first-ever Diwali. I believe she looks gorgeous is everything, but in her Indian Diwali outfit, she was just radiant. My husband’s birthday was on the same day, making it even more special for us!”
Talking to us Nikhila shares a message for all the readers, “Instead of focusing on all the challenges this year has presented, let’s be grateful for all that we have, especially our health, friends and family.”
Sharnamli Adhar is the co-founder of The Pink Post Inc, India’s well-known exhibition platform for young local designers to showcase their brand and talent to discerning shoppers. The 8-year-old platform has emerged as a leading fashion & lifestyle platform for events, partnerships and brand launches in the county.
For her, Diwali has always been the most favourite festival of the year. “It embodies everything I love - food, fashion and a whole lot of celebrations,” she says. Sharnamli celebrates Diwali with the entire family getting together for puja at home, followed by reading Diwali based books and enacting the stories by the kids! Post that she always goes to a friend’s house to play some cards and dance the night away! This year the celebrations at her house will definitely be low key, but it will not stop her from dressing up in fanciest Indian clothes and begin the celebration with a puja in the presence of her family and close friends.
On Diwali Shernamli’s mother in law always gets new clothes stitched for everyone in the house each year, which has become a beautiful tradition. “As a family, we make sure Diwali is also a time to help the needy and poor by donating clothes and food to those in need,” she notes. Diwali has always been special for Sharnamli and her family, but the first one with her son will always hold a special place in her heart. Her little one has always been fascinated with mythology and loves listening to the stories of the Ramayana and all other gods.
When asked about the delicacies she indulges into during the festive season, she adds, “I come from a Punjabi family and am married into a Marwari household. Both sides love their signature dishes, and we always get to witness a double feast! From Punjabi mithais like jalebis and barfis to Marwari delicacies like dal baatichurma and chaat, it’s a cheat day for everyone!”
Sharing her thoughts, she says, “This Diwali, be grateful for everything you have, for the safety and health of you and your family and above all to pray for the triumph of good over evil so we can all beat this deadly virus soon together and emerge victorious against it.”
Vimi and Kawaldeep Singh
Along with her husband Kawaldeep Singh and son Dashmesh Singh, Vimi Singh loves to celebrate festivals with friends and family. Vimi calls Diwali a beautiful, spirited and full of life occasion. Every year she decorates her house with flowers, and handmade diyas and prepares delicious and warm dinner for all her guests. Firecrackers are a definite no to her. “This time will not be the same as because of COVID, the extended family won’t be able to attend the celebrations, just an intimate family dinner,” says Vimi.
Speaking about her festive dinner, Vimi says nobody thinks of calories on Diwali. “We make a lavish dinner, and since I love mithai, I buy loads of them every year. However, this time I will look forward to buying date based sweets as they’ll be natural and chocolates because of the packaging,” she elaborates.
One of the Diwali memories that she cherishes is when her son was in pre-nursery, and he came to her and said he would not burn crackers as that’s what he has been taught in school. That moment still holds a special part in her heart. “Ever since then Dashmesh has never burnt a single cracker,” tells Vimi.
When asked what she loves the most about Diwali, Vimi replies, “The lights! I love the idea of decorating our house inside out. I love how lights make the homes look so pretty. The entire city is decked up; even vendors light up a small diya outside their shop. It’s the time of the year when everybody tries to make things beautiful.”
She urges the readers to avoid crowded areas and markets, as we don’t want to contribute to the pandemic. “Order online if possible, make homemade things and support small business,” she concludes.
Radhika Goenka is currently working with Spaces and designing pillows and cushions. The designer is also working on a nightwear collection that is launching in November. Radhika defines Diwali as the festival of happiness and togetherness. She further adds that it is a cosy occasion where every member of the house makes sure to be at home with the family and enjoy the time of lights with laughter and fun. “It has always been with few close friends and family. Because of COVID times, we will celebrate it just at home. We will do the puja like every year, eat homemade sweets, and lighten up a few phuljhadis,” says Radhika talking about her 2020 Diwali celebrations.
Like everyone else, Radhika and her family too love the festive delicacies. From Dal Bati, Churma, Gulab Jamun to Rasgulla, they indulge in the best Marwari food and sweets for the occasion. The best part is everything is homemade. Remembering her fondest memories of Diwali, Radhika tells us, “When I was 11-12, and we were in our old house, we would decorate the house with lights and diya. My sister and I would light up diyas in every corner of the house. For us, it was a fun task that strengthened our bond and filled it with love and affection. And after puja, we would all have dinner together; it was a very fulfilling time.”
Before the commencement of the festival, the designer would go for some basic lehenga shopping and pair it up with her mother’s antique jewellery on the day. Radhika loves the puja and the lights the most. “Puja is about offering gratitude, and it fills one’s soul, and the bright and colourful lights feel like all the evil is destroyed,” she explains.
“Please celebrate the festival with loved ones and also start on a fresh page with people you haven’t had good terms with. Stay positive and safe. Celebrate it in a small measure keep social distancing in mind, and don’t go extravagant with it,” she concludes.