If the most telling picture of a Diwali Kodak moment is the big happy Indian family, think again. For single urban professionals living far away from their homes, expensive air fares and limited public holidays are often major deterrents to the grand family affair.
Taamini K., a 29-year-old New Delhi-based fashion stylist, has not gone to see her parents in Chennai for two years. Although she feels guilty, especially on Pongal (a state featival in Tamil Nadu) and Diwali, she says she’d rather go to a networking party in the capital. "I’m too busy trying to be visible on the scene here so that I get more work," she says.
This year may be different for her as she wants to attend the Lakshmi puja with a close friend instead.
Dr Pulkit Sharma, psychologist at Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences, New Delhi, says young people who have just moved away from home may not have the emotional support system of intimate relationships to rely on. "The idea is to not run away from your negative emotions. Try to find people from perhaps other cultures who may not be familiar with Diwali and hold a party with them to create a sense of celebration," he says.
For some NRIs concerns may be different. Recreating the same customs to uphold values could be more important than nostalgia. Pradnya Agawane, 45, from Maharashtra, teaches Social Sciences at the Delhi Public School, Dubai and lives with her son. Together they try to achieve a traditional Diwali with as many rituals as possible. Since both of them work, Agawane plans weeks in advance. "We get only a day off on Diwali, so there is no time for all the rituals. After we perform the puja at home we have to leave for my son’s office to offer prayers there." Agawane’s son tries to be as traditional as possible by wearing a dhoti on the occasion.
"It’s easier to carry out all the rites in India. For example, flowers used in puja cannot be left in the water here," she says. The mother and son also make the most of the time by entertaining friends in the evening.