Diwali in the USA

Ronak Jain
Ronak Jain
Indian student Ronak Jain talks about his experience of studying abroad at DePaul University in Chicago, USA.

One of the consequences of studying abroad is that you miss being home to celebrate your favourite festival or holiday. On that particular day, you miss your family more than usual and you reminisce the good times you had with your cousins and friends. For me, this festival is Diwali; one of the biggest festivals in India celebrated with great pomp and splendour.

What’s Diwali?

Diwali is celebrated across India and is an important aspect of our cultural identity. It is called the festival of lights because it involves the lighting of small clay lamps (divas) filled with oil. That means to signify the triumph of good over evil.

Diwali is especially important to the Hindus because it commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshman from his fourteen-year-long exile and vanquishing the demon-king Ravana.

The return of the king is celebrated all over India and the whole country is lit up to welcome him. Spectacular fireworks are all over the skies and people get together to burst smaller firecrackers in open spaces. Families also get together to share sweets and snacks and everyone wears new clothes.

Family celebrating Diwali Festival in the USA

Celebrating Diwali in the USA

Given the scale of celebrations that go on in India, Diwali has been a fairly low key event for me here in the US; it’s always like just another day at school.

But this year was different; my school’s Indian Student Association and the University Ministry organised a Diwali celebration and it was great.

On a cold November afternoon, I walked into the busy student centre after a really long class on professional writing. Once there, I heard a faint Bollywood tune coming from a room in the far end. I swiftly made my way towards it, excited.

The Diwali party had kicked off to a great start and the brightly lit room with Diwali decorations felt like a cultural oasis in the middle of a boring Tuesday. I made it just in time to devour the samosas and Gulab Jamun’s which vanished in minutes. I also taught my friend a few Bollywood moves as we all danced around in a circle. It was also funny to see how a bunch of my friends were trying to be DJ’s by going on YouTube to play the next hit Bollywood song.

Overall all it was a great experience. And although I would have loved to be home for Diwali, celebrating it with a diverse group of people and sharing its significance gave me an opportunity to experience my traditions and culture more intimately. It was awesome!