The Light You Hold Inside You

Two years ago, I was traveling alone through Malaysia when I chance upon a small, public Diwali celebration. Otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, this Indian holiday signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and hope rising above despair. As I walk into the crowd, someone tosses a garland of jasmine, rose, and chrysanthemum over my shoulders. A blessing in flowers. Women in saris hand out mithai sweets. Men, wearing lush pink and blue turbans, play music. Along with many others, I kneel against the ground and carefully scatter a handful of coloured seeds into the outlines of a peacock rangoli. At the ceremony’s end, a procession of men and women light their candles. All of the visitors, including myself, are also given candles, and we pass the light between us until it seems the whole crowd is aglow, tiny bits of starlight held briefly in our hands.

This year, Diwali couldn’t be more different. Instead of being surrounded by a crush of people, the air thrumming with the deep, resonate heartbeat of drums and a language I can’t comprehend, I’m sitting in a tiny, white-washed apartment in Australia with my beloved husband nearby; the two of us move quietly about the room, our socks shush-shushing as we slide them across the hardwood floors, and we speak to each other only in whispers, as the World’s Sweetest Baby sleeps nearby. In spite of the vastly different atmosphere, tonight I will light the row of white candles that rest on our dining room table. There is no more room for darkness in my heart, only light, only goodness and light.

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