Monday, 12 November 2007

Divali Nagar

One of the most glorious things about living in a multicultural society is the chance to experience the sights, smells and sounds of another culture all within the enclave of home. Yes, we may be standing around paying homage to Hindu gods and goddesses, but it is all as Trinidadians. It is difficult to believe that the talented dancers, singers and beautifully sari-ed women are fellow citizens (in most cases). What an honour.
The Corporate presence was there in the form of FCB, the Ministry of Culture and Gender Affairs, TSTT, The Tourism Development Authority, the National Lottery Control Board, the National Gas Company and I saw a Mario's tent not quite next to Kampo Chinese Food and Pepper Roti but close enough. Divali Nagar's 2007 Yoga theme was highlighted by presentations and yoga sessions.

Divali or Deepavali, is an annual Hindu religious festival of lights. The sacred festival celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. Mother Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of light, beauty, affluence and spiritual wealth takes precedence at this event which takes place in October or November. The Divali Nagar Site in the borough of Chaguanas has taken on the character of a large fair with religious and cultural overtones. The main tented area has a large stage that features nightly entertainment and performances. While it is hot and sticky and rather plebian during the day; the nightly transformation into a magical, lighted bazaar is truly lovely. The lighting of deyas (small clay receptacles that hold the traditional coconut oil and wick) has transcended class, race and religion in Trinidad and is celebrated all over the country with much joy. It is usually the final usher of the full Christmas season in Trinidad and the characteristic "bursting of the bamboo" is a sure sign that the nights are shorter and Christmas is around the corner.
My sister in law is doing a work stint in Mumbai and she said that Trinidad is so similar. When she left Mumbai last week, the Tassa was starting up in the streets in preparation for Divali.

The ancient art of henna

When I discovered that we had arrived just in time for the Teen Miss Divali competition, I was slightly sceptical. Beauty contests are extraordinary. They often mimic the society in strange ways.
This one was no different. Each contestant was exquisite. But also exquisitely bright. All around 16 years of age, each one rattled off an impressive resume of academic qualifications. 8 O'Levels and onto a degree in Chemical Engineering was just one example.
I was touched and slightly startled by the extent that these girls were prepared. There was something of the midwestern little girl beauty shows. Anyone remember "Little Miss Sunshine"?

My very favorite photo. If I had to look at this everyday, I'm sure it would give me pleasure each time. Something about the elegance of an updo that implies both innocence and sophistication.