What Diwali means to one UAE family
Bharat Chachara's family has lived in the UAE for the past 70 years
Twinkling lights, bright lanterns and marigold flowers strung up in houses across the country mean one thing — Diwali celebrations have begun.
Residents on Friday began a five-day Festival of Lights celebration marked with pujas or religious prayers, family gatherings and fireworks.
For Bharat Chachara whose family has lived in the UAE for the past 70 years, the festival is about bonding with relatives and following traditions handed down by his grandparents.
There is such a festive mood here in the UAE and there are so many Indians around that you always feel at home
His Bur Dubai apartment is decorated with fresh flowers and lights placed in earthen holders as his family prepares to welcome up to 30 visitors each day.
“For me family bonding is the essence of Diwali. It has always been the time to reconnect with family,” said the chief executive of the popular India Club in Bur Dubai.
“In India or in the UAE, everyone is digitally connected on Facebook and WhatsApp but during Diwali people make an effort to mingle and meet face-to-face.”
In the weeks before the festival, Mr Chachara, his wife and children — like millions of Hindus across the world — rolled up their sleeves for a spring cleaning as each room is dusted off.
The festival of happiness, prosperity and light is spread over five days and celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists around the world. Many honour Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth during the festival. It is said that the goddess looks for homes where she will be welcomed, so people leave their windows and door open and light lamps to welcome her in.
Mr Chachara and his wife Deepa shop for silver on Friday for dhanteras, the first day of Diwali, when it is believed to be auspicious to purchase gold or other precious metals.
The Chachara family usually purchase a token coin, cup or bowl in which an offering to the gods can be placed.
“We usually buy something practical in which we can serve food or water to the gods,” the 49-year-old said.
"The family sits together and prays. We leave the doors open because it is said that you don’t know where Laxmi will come in from.”
Sunday is the main day of the festival when people pray to the goddess of wealth during Lakshmi puja, or prayer for happiness and prosperity.
Diwali is also a time to give thanks for Mr Chachara’s family who has lived in the UAE since 1949 when his late grandfather came in search of work.
During the Partition of India, the family lost their home and trading business in Sindh that remained in Pakistan. The family moved to Mumbai and then Dubai.
“My grandfather lost everything when they were uprooted from their home. He came here and started from scratch in Dubai. It was the same for many in our community,” said Mr Chachara, whose 80-year-old father and 76-year-old mother live with him.
The festival is an important time for stories of the past to be exchanged and memories relived.
In keeping with the family custom, Ms Chachara will cook up more than 30 different kinds of sweets, savoury snacks and food, much of these preparations she learnt from her mother.
The week is extra special because of the presence of their elder son Harsh, who is back from the UK where he was studying in university.
The 22-year-old starts his first job in the UAE on Sunday — cause for a double celebration.
“There is such a festive mood here in the UAE and there are so many Indians around that you always feel at home,” Ms Chachara said.
Across the UAE, jewellery stores and Indian sweet shops are packed with people queuing up to purchase orders placed weeks in advance.
“All our stores have seen increased footfalls in the past few days,” said Shamlal Ahamed, managing director, international operations, Malabar Gold and Diamonds, about people buying gold coins, traditional and contemporary jewellery as gifts during the festival season.
Music concerts featuring Bollywood singers, dance shows, food festivals and fireworks displays will take place at the weekend.
The Dubai Duty Free will join in with discounts, surprise raffle draws and promotions at the airport for visitors.
Ceremonies extend throughout the week with the Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi announcing prayers and festivities in a day-long event on November 1.
Updated: October 29, 2019 11:20 AM