Being a non-Indian, what can I do for my Indian friends to show my appreciation and celebrate a traditional Diwali family gathering with them?
Pierre Francois, Sharjah
It's definitely a good gesture from a foreigner that you would like to enjoy Diwali with your Indian friends. A common practice is taking a gift along and presenting it to them on Diwali. It doesn't have to be clothes; it can be whatever the person likes. If presenting the gift to elderly Indians, it is a good idea to bend and touch their feet with your hands. In addition, offer the gift in the right hand with left hand on the bottom or do not use the left hand. Common gifts for Diwali are sweets, jewellery or other household fabrics like linen. However, today's generation prefers to offer trendy up-market gifts.
We have been invited for a Diwali dinner. What is the correct dress code? What should we take as a gift?
Diwali generally signifies being festive and shiny. People dress in their best chiffons and extravagant designer wear. Women will be loaded with jewellery and diamonds. It is a grand occasion for all Hindus which calls for celebration. Dress up to compliment your hosts, but try avoiding anything short that makes you feel uncomfortable. It is not essential to take them a present. But it would be a generous act, fitting the spirit of the season. Flowers, chocolates, something for the kids? Traditional Diwali generally abstains the usage of alcohol or non-vegetarian food on the Laxmi pujan day. But the most important thing to take is yourself, with shining morning faces and a determination to have a good time.
ASGHAR KHAN/GULF NEWS
People buying decorated Diya's for Diwali celebration at the Meena Bazar, Bur Dubai.
What type of food should one serve for Diwali guests?
Malvika, Abu Dhabi
Make-ahead simple dishes or dishes with little (or minimal) last minute preparation. Ethnic dishes are welcome if not cumbersome for serving and eating. Most guests have lots of houses to visit and prefer to gorge on exhaustive food offerings. Simple food works better. Traditional sweets, dry fruits and quick starters are a must.
Lighting candles and diyas in and around the house is an important ritual during Diwali. Why is this done?
Abhilasha Chaterjee, Sharjah
This is not a mere tradition. Fire represents energy. And the night of Diwali is moonless. Lighting lamps on this night signifies the dispelling of darkness. It also signifies that no matter how difficult any problem that one faces in life, through the light of the soul one can find a way through the darkest of times.
With so many friends and relatives celebrating Diwali, it becomes difficult to visit all of them. Is a SMS enough to convey my best wishes to them?
Vandana Shastri, Ajman
SMS is a very impersonal approach to communicate your wishes for a grand festival like Diwali. Just pick up the phone and speak to them, they will like it more. If unable to get through to them, then the SMS could follow. As for visiting your friends, the Diwali visiting continues for weeks after the festival is over. It is an accepted fact that our careers and stressful lifestyle restrict us to complete the rounds during the festive occasion. The best strategy is to make short trips or party hop to most of your friends in the first three days of Diwali.
Some of my friends keep visiting me after the Diwali season is over, and dump their recycled gifts. Most often it is sweets, which they have got from others. Is there a polite way to refuse such gifts?
Vineeta Mohan, Dubai
I know this is humorous and it happens too frequently. Recycling gifts is very much a trend with some of us. People don't want to spend money, so passing on an unpleasant gift is the best option available. No, you should not be refusing the gift since you wouldn't know till the time it is unpacked by you. As for the numerous sweets boxes, there is always the neighbourhood needy man like the laundryman, etc. who would devour your sweet thoughts.
What does Diwali mean to people in Dubai?
"[In India], people visit each other and eat good food, sweets, burst crackers and I get to play with my cousins. I get more presents than in Dubai as there are more relatives there"
Anshuman Saxena, student
"It's the feeling of being away from the family. Back in India, Diwali spreads out across a week, but here it's just restricted to a day, with some shopping before"
Satyajeet Vaidya, engineer
"When we were younger, we would be involved in the preparation aspect of the festival and that would be so enjoyable than the actual day. Nowadays kids just want to come, eat and enjoy"
Neelam Saharia, teacher
"We do miss the family and the crackers. Friends compensate for the absence of relatives and make it nice, but I think Diwali is a festival about meeting relatives"
Rahul Saharia, engineer