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Diwali, As Explained By My Brown Dad

These are all direct quotes except in the few cases where he used a word that was not in English or in Hindi.

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Hello! Meet my dad, Vijay. He's a Hindu-Indian who moved from Jammu to Calgary in the late '70s. He's retired, so now his hobbies include making bread, falling asleep at the mall, and calling me almost constantly. Here's a photo of him as a cowboy.

And today, if you don't know, is Diwali! It's a somewhat major holiday for Hindus around the world, where we all eat a bunch of garbage, light candles, and don't drink.

I do not know what Diwali means. I've never really asked.

So, I called my dad to explain it to us. It went exactly as I planned.

"Diwali (Deepawali) literally means lighting of the little Diyas to celebrate the arrival of Ram and Sita back to the City of Ayodhya after 14 years of banishment."

This is a great start! My dad is full of very useful knowledge but usually I lose him in a tangent about how they don't make potato chips crunchy enough.

"This king, he had given some sort of boon—do you know what a boon is? It's some kind of wish he had granted to one of his wives. He had a few wives. And Rama was his child from the oldest wife and he was heir to the throne.

"Meanwhile, one of his other wives, he had granted her a wish, and she had a son too. When the time came to put in a new king, she went to the husband and said, 'Okay, here is the time to cash them. Rama should be banished to the forest for 14 years and my son should be given the throne.'"

Rama was banished to a forest with his wife, Sita, for 14 years. His young brother, Lakshman, came with him. When they returned, everyone celebrated.

"It's allegorical to the fact that good defeats evil, all that bullshit that never happens in real life. You face trauma and nobody helps you."

Love our talks, Pop.

Navesh Chitrakar / Reuters

"So the local population is happy when he comes home and they celebrate by lighting up their homes to welcome Rama and Sita back."

I live across the country from my parents, but even now, my mom still calls to make sure I light at least one candle. Just in case.

"These stories are opiates for the masses. It's like mushrooms. It keeps the people in check, first by some religious heads who are mostly men of the higher order and sometimes it's co-opted by the governments to get elected."


"I believe it as much as I believe that Jesus turned water into wine. It must have been a cheap wine."

Please focus.

"Back in Jammu, we Kashmiris would also do the typical things; light the diyas (candles) and buy some sweets and my mother, as your mother, would also make crisp puries and do some puja."

This is what I remember most about Diwali as a kid: my mom would fry up puries, these oil-laden crispy rotis, and she'd say a few prayers—or do a puja—at the makeshift temple she set up in the guest room. We'd turn on every light in the house and light a few candles and I'd get to eat mithaies, or sweet meats: fat little ladoos and web-like jalabes.

My niece has taken my place in my parents' home, and now my mom stuffs her full of mithaies and mumbles little prayers next to her. My niece wears a new outfit every year. My mom likely slips her some cash.

"Diwali is a source of some consternation for some families as women insist on buying gold—as usual."

What just happened here.

"How come I'm not being paid for this? I got up at 6 this morning, I wanted to sit and read about that Flanders Field and weep for a minute, instead I'm writing you this big treatise."

My dad then asked my boss to pay him in scotch, which, I am pretty sure flies directly in the face of Diwali traditions.

"Kashmiris, they never did elaborate things. If you can believe that, there was no mithai shop in the whole of Kashmir. One shop came out, that was in the mid-50s, and this little shop they set up for the benefit of some of the Punjabis who lived in Srinagar. Some of the local populations just got hooked to these sweet things. And now, although all the Hindus had to run away from Kashmir, that shop is there. Still one. There is no tradition of eating mithai in Kashmir both for Hindus and Muslims. Kashmiris would make those puries.

"One thing I would do if I was the King of Hindus, I would restrict the sale of mithaies, as there is literally a massive bomb of Type 2 Diabetes ready to explode over India."


"Perhaps this is nature's way of culling populations."

I don't...

"I trust this helps."

It doesn't.

"I think not paying me for this work is predatory and akin to slave practice."

Have a nice Diwali.

And call your dad.

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