Home CommunityCommunity Features Sumati Huber on what Indian celebrations like Diwali might look like in the midst of a pandemic

Sumati Huber on what Indian celebrations like Diwali might look like in the midst of a pandemic

by Ashima

Zoom Diwali anyone?

As the Covid-19 pandemic turns into Covid-20, 21, and god forbid 22, nothing has been more affected than the numerous traditions and festivals observed by Indians.

With Diwali taking place on November 4, Indians are forced to ask themselves how they will proceed with the celebrations in these unusual times. An event that requires large family gatherings, sharing of food, lack of social distancing and loud, boisterous conversations with lots of saliva flying in the air goes against every precaution advised by health officials.

Luckily technology is available to bring loved ones together virtually with this guide to hosting your perfect Zoom Diwali.

“What?! Zoom Diwali?!”, you may recoil in horror, still traumatised by the fact that this year you didn’t receive any money envelopes from being unable to see your relatives. But you’ll soon realise this is the best way to be with your family, without actually having to be with them (see where this is going?).

The first step to setting up Zoom Diwali is to teach your grandparents/parents where the camera is on an iPad so they are not making attendees look up their nostrils. Perhaps you could stick a picture of an Indian girl hugging a white boy next to the lens so you can be sure they will be staring there. Also make sure to remind them that everyone will be able to hear them once connected so refrain from making comments like “What is she wearing?” or “He couldn’t even comb his hair?” out loud.

The elders will certainly be defiant for having to do things differently this year — “What is this Zoom Shoom nonsense?” However let them know that not having to meet in person means they don’t have to cater 50 different dishes to picky family members. Plus there will be no need to spend days dusting and tidying the house because no guests will be coming over to sit on your chutney-stained sofa.

Now what should you actually do when the selected participants have all logged on to celebrate virtual Diwali? Well, expect some technical delays with video and audio issues, while everyone yells over each other about the best solution:

“Call True and upgrade your package! Why are you paying so much! Such a ripoff!”
“Move back from the screen so we can see you!”
“You don’t need to call us on the phone because we can talk here!”

Don’t be scared to use your power to press the mute button once things get out of control. For example, when you hear Masi Shanti inevitably tell you that you’re looking fatter from eating your way through lockdown, mute her without a second thought. It is the celebration where good triumphs over evil, after all.

Once that is sorted make sure no one tries to point a firecracker at the screen. Every attendee can light a sparkler at the same time to bring in the Festival of Lights. Designate someone tech-savvy to screen capture the moment so you can send it to the family WhatsApp chat. The different houses can host a rangoli competition to see whose colourful design receives the most votes. Arrange to send the winner a box of gulab jamuns via Line Man.

When the formalities are over, adults can join breakout rooms to commence card games online with their whiskey in hand, to further stay true to the festival’s sacred traditions. Before you know it, it’s 3am and another Diwali will be over. Wishing you a very laddoo-filled belly and a strong WiFi connection to honour this day!

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An unreformed party girl and mother of two, writer, editor and observer Sumati Huber tries to make sense of our unique Thai-Indian society and the aunties that she will one day become.

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