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Sri Singametty | Used with permission

Medha Singamsetty (right) and her mother make rangolis, drawings made with colored sand, outside their house.

Kindling festivities

Students and staff describe their preparations for Diwali

In the weeks that lead up to Diwali, senior Atmaja Patil and her family clean their home and string up bright, festive lights. They also light diyas, which are little clay lamps, and make rangolis, which are drawings with colored sand, in front of the house. They decorate their home shrine and buy new clothes in preparation for the holiday.

Similarly, Attendance Accounting Technician Shilpi Jain prepares weeks before the Diwali celebrations begin. 

“I start cleaning and organizing each and every bit of my house about six weeks or a month in advance,” Jain said. “Another one is [to] put lights everywhere in the house. That’s where the whole family chimes in and [it’s] a fun project [for us].”  

Along with cleaning and decorating, for Patil, preparing food for Diwali is also a group event. She and her family often make a variety of sweets, including jalebis, gulab jamuns and various types of ladoos, as well as savory snacks like Chakri. 

Sophomore Medha Singamsetty often engages in community activities to celebrate Diwali. During the festival, Singamsetty usually visits the VEDA temple in Milpitas and watches various singing and dancing performances. She also visits her neighbor’s houses to exchange gifts.

Graphic by Sonia Verma

“Moms will generally [say things] like, ‘OK everyone, come to my house starting at seven o’clock and then I’ll be done at eight o’clock, [so] I’ll start going to people’s houses,’” Singamsetty said. “There’s a schedule and everything just to go visit people, which is kind of funny.”

Singamsetty recalls how different celebrations were when she first moved to the U.S. When she was 5 years old, her family would spend more time arranging plans for Diwali and organizing a huge gathering. Recently, a combination of the Bay Area housing crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to smaller celebrations. 

“Every year, our expectations and our preparations get more and more lax,” Singamsetty said. “When we first came, it was a big thing where we’d have boxes and boxes of firecrackers, but this year there’s a few boxes and sparklers and some pom poms, maybe a few flowerpots. It’s [also] sad because [my neighbors and family friends] all moved away so [my family] doesn’t have many people to celebrate with anymore.” 

Last year, Jain and her family celebrated with their friends over Zoom. Now that people have been able to get the COVID-19 vaccination, she hopes to be able to celebrate with more people this year. 

“[Celebrating] might be different, at least with my close immediate family members. I’m still not sure about [celebrating with] all of my friends,” Jain said. “[Diwali] feels like [a] celebration where everyone comes together. It didn’t feel that way last year, and I hope that this year is better.”

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