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Diwali festival lights up the darkest corners

Update: November, 12/2015 - 10:32
Indian tradition: Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is a time for celebration in HCM City's local Indian communities, bringing with it an opportunity to share and celebrate others' cultures. — File Photo

by Luu Van Dat

HCM CITY  (VNS) — I was once in India during Diwali, the biggest festival in a land of festivals, and asked a local friend where I should go to see and take part in the festivities.

"Anywhere," he replied.

Some of my friends and I, who were in the sub-continent for the first time, were not sure what he meant.

We later found out that what he said was true. Ubiquitous does not begin to describe Diwali in India: Every house lets off fireworks and people light oil lamps everywhere in town, and this goes on for a few days; and a colourful country becomes even more colourful. But more about that later.

Soon after my friend told me I visited a nearby market with another Indian friend who wanted to buy a few things for Diwali. The place was bustling and so crowded that people were jostling for space.

Just like before Tet (Lunar New Year) in Viet Nam, lots of things were on display for people to buy to prepare for the festival. There were flowers, candies, candles, oil, colour powders, fire crackers everywhere in the market.

Another time at the market, a few days before the festival, people were dancing and invited me to join in. My first Indian dance was a lot of fun.

My friends and I eagerly counted down the festival. Finally it came, but we were confused about where to go despite all the advice we had got.

Getting a taxi on Diwali night was another challenge. The roads were deserted and the metro was closed; the weather was chill; everybody seemed to stay indoors to celebrate the festival with their families.

Fortunately, we got a tuk tuk. One of us told the driver to take us to the nearest temple, hoping people would congregate there to celebrate the festival.

On the way there, we saw people setting off firecrackers outside their houses. The driver explained that Hindus believe lighting lamps and bursting crackers drive away evil.

It was very noisy and dazzlingly colourful. At the temple itself, we saw people lighting lots of candles.

Outside, smoke from the fireworks mixed with the smog and could have been eerie if only it had not been such fun and the joy in the city had not been so palpable.

After witnessing my first Diwali, I returned to my hotel after midnight and went to bed but could not sleep as firecrackers continued to go off through the night.

The next morning I saw a banner headline on the front page of the Times of India saying Delhi "…celebrates Diwali with less noise…"

I wondered about the decibel levels in past years.

In HCM City, however, there will be no fireworks when Indians celebrate Diwali at GEM Center in District 1 on November 14.

The Indian Business Chamber in Viet Nam, organiser of the annual festival, brings performers from the Bombay film industry and authentic foods and drinks from the bewilderingly diverse country.

Tickets entitle guests to free food, unlimited alcoholic drinks and a raffle draw offering attractive prizes like flight tickets.

Abhijeet Sawant, the first Indian Idol, will perform at the festival together with Danielle Rebello & Silvina Fernandes of the Desi Swagg pop band.

Celebrate Diwali in HCM City

The Festival of Lights attracts more than 1,000 expats and Vietnamese every year, and part of the money raised from the festival is donated to charity.

Tickets for Diwali 2015 can be bought at the INCHAM office, 2nd floor, 52 Dong Du Street, District 1, HCM City, (08) 3823 8132 (Ms Ly or Thuy), or — VNS

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