Due to the large Indian population in the nation of Trinidad and Tobago, many of the Hindu celebrations are recognized there, and Diwali is not an exception. The Festival of Lights is one of the largest holidays of the Indian society, and I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the festivities with a local family.
In the days leading up to Diwali, there was a hustle and bustle in my neighbourhood, as locals did various chores around their homes in preparation for the event. Many different structures were skillfully created using dried halves of bamboo shoots on which lots of candles would be placed. Many of my Indian friends stopped eating meats of any kind, as this is part of their religious proceedings for Diwali.
My close friend, Ameer invited me and a few of my friends over to his home to have dinner with his family to celebrate the event. The drive to his house was fascinating, as all of the Indians in the different villages and communities had seemingly hundreds of lights dotting their front lawns and porches. Everything from driveways to even the wall fences were bathed in a golden glow, and it was a spectacular sight to behold.
We soon arrived to Ameer's home, and his house was even more lit than most of those we had passed on our journey there. On closer inspection, I discovered that the candes were actually small wicks floating around in oil contained within small clay jars. His driveway was tiled, so at each of the four edges of a tile, a small jar was placed, creating a lovely uniform design. All around his house, from the window sills to the garage was covered with the brightly lit clay jars.
His extended family was there too, and the small children ran around the yard, taking care to avoid the jars of flames which were apparently everywhere. I was nervous about this, but they did look adorable in their traditional wear. Brightly coloured garments covered them from head to toe and the Bindi mark on their foreheads significantly stood out in a bold declaration of their religion.
Dinner was then held in the common room, and we were seated around a very long table. Several bowls of food were alligned in front of us containing all sorts of Indian dishes including Dahlpouri, Callaloo, roti skins, white rice, curried Channa and Aloo. We were then given freshly washed fig leaves on which we were to eat from using only our hands. It was quite the experience, and I treasure the memory. Everyone passed bowls of food around, and we were shown the easiest way to eat rice with our fingers. The 'togetherness' of this type of dinner is vastly apparent.
Everything that I ate tasted incredible, and I even tried a few delicacies that I was unable to identify. I was so pleased about everything, that I totally forgot that there wasn't any meat involved! All too soon, the meal was over and we washed our hands and went out to the front lawn. Ameer and his brother set off a large amount of fireworks, and after a while other homes in the community did the same. The sky was constantly painted with colours, and loud booms echoed into the night. The little ones ran around with sparklers in their hand, as their parents and grandparents watched on.
I am really grateful to my friend for his generosity, as I celebrated Diwali with him and his loved ones. It was my first experience with the Indian lifestyle, and it was an enlightening cultural adventure.