Have Yourself a White Diwali!

On the night of Diwali my friends and I went to the Hindu temple in Neasden to pay honor to the day and watch the glorious fireworks display. Diwali is the Hindu New Year and marks the beginning of a five day "Festival of Lights," which celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over dark; it's the start of an entire week of lamp lighting, gift giving, and indulging in pyramids of Indian sweets.

The festival is often likened to Christmas, not just because lights are strung and people exchange presents, but because the celebration is South East Asia's most popular and widely-celebrated holiday, cutting across both regional and religious differences. Usually, the trimmings of Diwali that evoke Christmas end somewhere between the outflow of well-wishing and the traditional overdose on sugar, but this year, London's weather had something else in store to give the holiday echoes of Noel.

Although the morning and afternoon had been crisply blue and clear, rain arrived in the early evening, and by 9 o'clock, when the fireworks were to begin, we found ourselves standing outside atop squishy grass in a freezing downpour. The show was delayed, and as the air got colder and the precipitation more fierce, the crowd's patience waned; treacherous sleet and the raucous wind made it almost unbearable, even for those of us decked out in ski-gear (me) and outright torture for the unfortunate souls without umbrellas.

After a particularly nasty gust of wind, the crowd began to shout "START!!" in Hindi. Although the overseers of the fireworks ignored us, something even more magical began to happen... the sleet turned white and began weighing down the jostle of umbrellas and sticking to hats and coat shoulders - snow! Never mind that it was London, or that it was October, or that such miracles are prayed for by Christmas revelers rather than those who were out that night for Diwali... wonder of wonders, there was proper fluffy snow showering down on all of us there to venerate benevolence and the possibilities of the Hindu New Year.

As we stood looking at the sight of the white stuff in short amazement, another magical miracle happened... the fireworks began - and they were far from timid. For an entire half hour, the sky glowed as six, seven, eight, rockets launched and exploded simultaneously in the pitch black before us, blossoming into rhythmic and ethereal cascades of glitter spiraling through the darkness.

It was a vision of such spectacular luminosity we forgot our feet were frozen and that the air was growing colder and we were getting even more drenched. Instead, there were stood, completely in awe, blanketed by aerial sparks and clumps of frozen water... a seemingly cosmic impossibility.

And as we trudged home in the full-blown blizzard, hearing exclaims of excitement from those who had never before seen snow, it was indeed a meeting of holidays and minds. You could feel the amazement and goodwill in the air. All of us like children smiling at the a truly unimaginable site we had just witnessed - that we were still witnessing.

Ah, witnessing the unimaginable... I love it when that happens.

Happy Diwali!

1 comment:

Dianne said...

Fireworks AND snow!! Sounds like a perfect, magical night!