Coronavirus pandemic mars Diwali celebrations of Indian Americans

Lalit K Jha
·3-min read

Washington, Nov 15 (PTI) The surge in coronavirus cases marred the Diwali celebrations of Indian Americans, who mostly remained indoors and avoided gathering with family and friends.

But for the over four million Indian-American population in the US, this year is special given the historic election of Kamala Harris as the country's next vice president.

Harris, 56, is the first ever Indian-American to be elected as the vice president of the US. She is also the first women vice president, the first Black and African-American woman to this position.

But for the coronavirus pandemic and the latest surge in the cases, Indian Americans would have celebrated this occasion with massive Diwali celebrations across the country.

“Happy Diwali! Sparkles This festival of lights celebrates new beginnings, the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. This year it feels even more meaningful. Happy Diwali,” tweeted Indian-American actress and comedian Mindy Kaling on Saturday, in an apparent reference to the historic win of Harris.

“Kamala Harris, set to be first South Asian American VP, sends out wishes for happy Diwali,” CBS News tweeted.

The annual Diwali celebrations at the US Congress has also been given a pause due to the social distancing and other measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Diwali on a weekend normally comes to large gatherings of Indian Americans across the country and also a visit to their nearest temples and gurdwaras. The festivities in the places of religious worship and community centres have been missing this year.

However, there was no lack of enthusiasm in celebration of Diwali by Indian Americans, as reflected in social media posts.

“Happy Diwali and celebration of the Festival of Lights to our Indian brothers and sisters. May this next year be a victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance,” tweeted Indian-American politician Nikki Haley, former US Ambassador to the United Nations.

“Today is the Festival of Lights (Diwali) in India. May our inner light stay strong and keep guiding us!” Renu Khator, president of the University of Houston, said in a tweet.

According to Los Angeles Times newspaper, in California's Indian American community, supporters of the Democratic presidential ticket see special meaning this year in a holiday that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness and the defeat of ignorance through knowledge -- themes used by both sides in the recent election. But with the win of the Biden-Harris team, some supporters feel a sense of victory made more poignant by the festival.

“Celebrating Diwali, some see Kamala Harris’ rise reflected in stories of good over evil,” the daily said in a report.

“This Diwali does feel a little bit more meaningful, especially when we have some hope,” Mallika Chopra, a Los Angeles author and daughter of prominent Indian-American writer and alternative-medicine advocate Deepak Chopra, was quoted as saying by the report.

According to California Assemblyman Ash Kalra, Biden-Harris win gives Diwali a new meaning this year.

“It feels like lightness is coming,” she told the daily.

According to Hindu American Political Action Committee, this year, more than ever, Diwali feels like an American holiday! “Happy Diwali to all!” it said.

Arjit Dutta, a Twitter user, wrote when he went to Walmart to buy some groceries, he was pleasantly surprised to hear Bollywood songs being played at the store.

“Don’t know if this is Diwali or Kamala Harris effect! In any case Happy Diwali to all!” he said.

Julian Castro, former Mayor of San Antonio said as we celebrate the election results and the Diwali festival, we must recognise the significance of this victory for the Indian-American community.

“In addition to being the first Black and female Vice President, Kamala Harris will be the first Indian-American VP,” he said. PTI LKJ SCY SCY