If there’s one festival in India that’s celebrated with a bang it has to be Diwali – the festival of lights! Diwali is synonymous with a warm festive atmosphere and a time when friends and family come together to party and share the spirit. Apart from the general fun and frolic that Diwali brings, there is a beautiful significance and meaning behind it; spiritually, the festival signifies the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and positivity over negativity. Diyas and lights are placed outside people’s homes in order to welcome Lakshmi – the goddess of fertility, wealth and prosperity. People dress up in their festive best, and each family has its own unique way of observing Diwali. This week we caught up with some families from the city to get a peek into their Diwali celebrations. -- Suneela
Namita, Sanjay, Ankit, Ritika, and Vaibhav Sondhi
Diwali is a special time for the Sondhis. Despite everyone’s demanding work schedules, the entire family makes time for each other and their friends. They celebrate Diwali in a typical North Indian traditional way, wherein Lakshmi puja is followed by a traditional meal. Namita says, “Diwali to our family represents togetherness and love. This year Diwali is extra special, as it’s our son Ankit and daughter-in-law Ritika’s first Diwali together after their wedding. We are planning to have a small get-together at our place with just a few close friends and family to celebrate the Festival of Lights!”
“Being away from our family in Delhi, our friends in Hyderabad hold a very special place in our hearts. They are our chosen family who made the transition for us easy and memorable, and so no Diwali is ever complete without our friends by our side. As for me, Diwali has a very special meaning for it is a time that reconnects me with my past, and the traditions around Diwali personify my upbringing and values. I hope to pass on the true essence of this festival forward to my children!”
Premlatha, Naval, Madhvi, Trisha, and Armaan Chandra
Madhvi has a Master’s in psychology and got involved in Gitanjali Group of Schools (run by her mother, Gita Karan) in 1997 when Gitanjali Devshala was started. She is currently the Principal of the latter. Today there are four respected, award-winning schools in the twin cities under the Gitanjali banner. Madhvi and her family celebrate Diwali with the yearly Diwali cleaning, during which they get rid of all that is unwanted, and therefore symbolically rid themselves of all the excess baggage that tends to be carried throughout the year. For the family, the day of Diwali is always busy with the puja, gifting, flower decorations, diyas and candles, crackers and visiting elders to seek their blessings. Their day ends with a big fat celebratory get-together with family and friends.
Shailu, Krishna, Sreekar, Vamsikrishna, and Shukshma Reddy
Shailu jokingly calls herself a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, as she dabbles in a range of things in her life. She worked in the television industry as a creative director for five years, before moving into costume designing and associate producing for movies. For the Reddys, Diwali is always celebrated in a traditional manner, where family is priority and a few close friends always make it a point to join them. Shailu says, “I was born and raised in Chennai. Diwali was always a traditional practice, like waking up very early and following rituals like oil bath and bursting crackers to evoke the Goddess Lakshmi.” This year’s Diwali is particularly special since her son and daughter are home for the festival after three years.
Ravi, Dr Mrudula, Jia, and Yash Kodipaka
Mrudula is a physiotherapy consultant with specialisation in orthopaedic rehabilitation, and is working as the head of department of rehabilitation at Century Super Specialty Hospital, Hyderabad. Ravi is a chartered accountant working as a principal consultant at Infor Global Solutions. Mrudula celebrates Diwali with her family by decorating the house with marigold flowers, lighting earthenware oil lamps, making rangoli, and performing Mahalaksmi and Ganesh pujas. She says, “Diwali is regarded as ‘the festival of lights’ as on this day we illuminate our home and offices with diyas and colourful lights. This festival literally illumines our lives with its brilliance, and dazzles us with its joy.” In the Kodipaka home, Diwali is celebrated over three days with the purchase of new clothes, jewellery, crackers, and décor for their home, followed by Lakshmi puja. Then they leave the doors, windows, and gates of their home open so that Goddess Lakshmi can enter and bless the family.
Drs Vijay Anand, Shashikala, Vishal, Karan, and Aashna Reddy
Dr Vijay Anand Reddy is a practicing oncologist and the director of the Apollo Cancer Institute, Hyderabad. His wife Shashikala is a professor of medical microbiology at Osmania Medical College. They have two sons – one is in the software business, and the other is an oncologist who has joined Vijay’s team at Apollo.For the Reddy family, religious festivals and celebrations have become an important way to identify with their religion and teach their children about living with diversity and being respectful of other religions. Festivals are also occasions where families come together and enjoy performing rituals and being together. They go on to say, “We have always felt that festivals have been created to share all that we possess in this world with people around us - food, money, kindness and, overall, happiness! The joy and contentment we feel when we have been the cause of happiness to others is unparalleled. And that is what we do on this very special day.”
Akhil, Swetha, Thaman, and Theya Reddy
Diwali for the Reddys is synonymous with family bonding; all their relatives and cousins come together for some quality family time. Lights, colourful decorations, crackers, sweets, gifts, and great food are the highlights of the evening. Swetha goes on to say, “Usually my father-In-law, Maruthi Reddy, gets everyone together to celebrate the festival in a grand way beginning with Lakshmi puja followed by bursting crackers, a lavish dinner, and some enjoyable moments.” Swetha is a fashion designer and consultant who has an innate flair and passion for design and has channelled this creativity into opening an eponymous store, “Swetha Reddy”. She says, “For me Diwali is the most awaited festival of the year as it’s the time when everyone comes together for a fun filled evening. All our staff and helpers get Diwali bonus and gifts for themselves and their families too.” The day of Diwali begins with decorating the house with flowers and lights, and the entire day is about family and having a good time. The Reddy’s are also altruistic during the festive season and they give sweets and crackers to underprivileged children in orphanages across the city.
Neeru, Dhruvika, and Akshit Mohan
For the Mohan’s, Diwali is celebrated with great enthusiasm, fervour and humility. Neeru is a celebrity makeup artist and hairstylist who owns a spa and salon in West Marredpally. She says, “For me, Diwali is a festival of lights and all things glowing, since I specialise in making people their glowy best. It is a family occasion for all of us. We decorate our home and our temple of beauty – my salon – with flowers, diyas, lights and floating candles. Diwali celebration starts with the cleaning of our home, buying beautiful artecrafts, jewellery, and dresses on Dhanteras.”
“On the day of Diwali, our family and friends get together for the annual bash hosted by my husband. The party starts once the puja is completed and is followed by delicious food, sweets and crackers.” Speaking about their love for the festival, Neeru goes on to say, “We like to celebrate the festival of good over evil by spending time at home.”
Chinmay, Anika, and Arav Khara
After a successful career in human resource and project management in fashion designing, Anika took her love of people and fashion to the forefront of her work. She conducts workshops for both professional and personal groups, and provides training in fashion, makeup, and styling within the fashion industry as well as outside of it. On what she and her family enjoy most about the festive season, she says, “The fact that my husband has a day off (smiles). There are many things we enjoy, as festivals are meant for that, be it a good lunch, family time, friends pouring in and catching up on all the memories we have forgotten to recount in our day-to-day schedules. The fresh breeze of happiness and smiles all around is the best essence of any festival.” The festival holds a poignant significance in the Kharas’ lives as, apart from the meaningful traditions, festivals are a great reason for them to renew and refresh themselves by infusing a breath of fresh air in their lives. Being
a multi-cultural couple, they have all kinds of food preparations at home, where friends and family drop in for an evening of great food and light-hearted gambling. The festival is all about decadent fun for this fun-loving family.
Jitender, Geet, Sanchit, and Uchit Gupta
Geet is the founder of Femmis Club, which aims to bring women from various fields together to host fundraiser charity events, and help children who are less fortunate. The Guptas celebrate Diwali by decorating their house with candles, offering prayers to Goddess Lakshmi, enjoying fireworks, giving gifts to relatives and attending Diwali parties. Geet also indulges in shopping for clothes and jewellery for the festival. “I enjoy celebrating Indian festivals as they involve colour, light and fun,” she says. “Everything about the festive season is enjoyable: the food, crackers, décor, etc. But what I enjoy most is throwing and attending parties, as it gives us a reason to meet friends and relatives, and celebrate with them.”
Dr Shirisha Shiri, Dr Ranjith Kumar, and Kanishk Nayan
Dr Shirisha is a consultant radiologist and head of women’s imaging at Century Hospital. Dr Ranjith Kumar is a consultant cardiologist at Care Hospital. For this doctor couple, Diwali this year is extra special, since it happens to fall on Shirisha’s birthday. The family celebrates the Festival of Lights and joy by welcoming Goddess Lakshmi into their home. A day prior to the festival, they clean and brighten their home, and decorate it with flowers, diyas and beautiful lights. On the festival, they enjoy the day with a cosy family get-together, enjoying the evening with silent crackers.
Bina, Jason, Celine, and Marilyn Singh
Bina comes from a multicultural background and therefore celebrates Diwali and Christmas with equal fervour. Bina is a busy social activist and homemaker. The lights, diyas and sweets are some of the family’s favourite things about the festive season. The Singhs enjoy celebrating Diwali in an eco-friendly way. Bina says, “We try to go slow on the amount of crackers we burst, keeping in mind the health of children, our pets and street dogs. A greener, pollution-free Diwali never hurts, a little bit of effort is all we need,” she says, adding that she hopes to look up and see the sky, not just fog. “I hope good triumphs over evil and we see a greener Hyderabad soon. This Diwali we are gifting a year’s supply of books and stationery at an orphanage,” she concludes.