Top Image: Tey Liang Jin / RICE File Photo
The festive lights and vibrant decorations are lit at Little India. Shoppers navigate the narrow streets hoping to complete some last-minute shopping for Deepavali, while others are whipping up a feast at home.
As the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities celebrate the triumph of good over evil this long weekend, we ask them about their most cherished Deepavali memories.
“The best part of Deepavali for me is the lead-up. I love the holiday tradition of house cleaning because my parents would play A.R. Rahman’s songs while we swept and mopped the floor. Suffice it to say, there was way less cleaning and more singing after that. Despite the hard labour of cleaning the whole house, the activity has always been nothing but a fun time. A.R. Rahman is basically a member of our household at this point.”
– Sonya, 25
“Deepavali emphasises the spirit of giving and compassion. In my family, the holiday is a time for charitable deeds. When I was younger, I would shadow my Mum in the kitchen as she made snacks and sweets to give to our extended family or neighbours.
It was always a little awkward when I had to knock on their doors afterwards to exchange home-cooked food—mostly because I was a child and hardly spoke to them back then. Still, I’ll always remember how nice the gesture felt to me, even as a young kid. The memories of us in the kitchen while she taught me how to make murukku are still some of my fondest memories to this day.”
– Yahavi, 21
“Personally, my family does not really go all out to celebrate the holiday. But, before Deepavali, we will do a big house cleaning and make a few Indian snacks, just in case any relatives end up visiting.
We wake up early to do an oil bath on the day itself before heading to the temple to pray. It’s always super crowded and can get a little too overwhelming for me. Usually, we will return home after praying to sit in front of the TV and pig out on food. It’s more of an intimate family bonding time for us, I think.”
– M, 21
“The best part about Deepavali is definitely the food. My parents don’t usually cook, but I always taste traditional food like South Indian cuisine whenever I visit my friend’s house. The food is a lot more authentic and tastes different from generic Indian food. I can’t even begin to describe how good it tastes. The vibrant colour of the curry and the aroma is so strong that it never fails to make me salivate.”
– Shirly, 20
“Deepavali is a time for us to interact with the community. Although I’m studying overseas right now, whenever I return home for Diwali, I would see lamps lit up outside homes. I always took extra notice not to trip over any lamps that they placed in the corridors.
I still recall that my neighbours’ homes often smelled of curry. I’d patiently wait in the living room and hope they will eventually come over to pass us some goodies.”
– CJ, 22
“I really enjoy Deepavali. It’s one of the only times my extended family will get together at my grandfather’s house. The aunties and older relatives will gossip away, and we kids will do the same. I used to be really close to my cousins, so it’s unfortunate that we no longer get to see each other as often due to our busy schedules.
It’s nice that the holiday gives us an excuse to meet and fill each other in on our lives. Plus, there’s something comforting about seeing the same familiar faces you’ve known since childhood, even if I may not personally be that close to them.”
– Pranav, 24
“When I was a kid, I used to dread the holiday because I despised having my relatives over. I disliked having to hear them gloat about my cousins’ achievements and their luxurious lifestyles. Not to mention the incessant comments about my weight and PSLE results. But, it’s gotten a lot better since then although the comments have not really dulled in frequency.
Still, I’ve come to appreciate the holiday for other things like the good food, the company (my friends and parents), and the history of the holiday. Now that I’m older, I can’t help but find the celebration and culture beautiful.”
– Sarah, 23
“Some of the Deepavali traditions that my family and I regularly look forward to is the wide spread of delicious food that my Grandma would prepare for us. She would get up early in the morning and immediately start getting busy in the kitchen, occasionally recruiting my aunts and uncles for help.
Although we’re not traditional, I especially like looking at the traditional clothing our family will wear. We make it a habit to coordinate the colour schemes of our outfits, and the end product is always so pleasing to the eye. The atmosphere of the holiday, coupled with the lights that we would decorate the house with, is just unbeatable.”
– Sciran, 23