Rakesh is my father’s eldest brother’s son. He is the youngest of three, the only son. His sisters are Nita and Shilpa and his wife is Anu. They are my first cousins and she is my sister-in-law. But in India they are my sisters. And he is my brother.
I remember when I was small, not knowing my family or history. Not knowing how to be. That when we would come to India, they would call me “didi.” I loved this word then. And love it now. It sounds like music to me. Lyrical and poetic, it speaks of love and respect. Of history and culture. Of belonging.
Translated it means older sister. “Didi,” she called. “Did you bring any Indian clothes with you? If not, you can wear something of mine.”
It was time for “puja,” a prayer ritual, for Diwali, the Indian ‘Festival of Lights’— the Indian new year and why we (my dad, sister & I) came to India now, at this time. My sister and I have never been here for Diwali. And for my dad it has been sometime.
I followed Anu, already dressed and “looking beautiful” (this is what they say when you are wearing something good— “you are looking very beautiful” or “this is looking very good”) into her closet. I emerged dressed in India red as the family gathered and waited for the puja to begin.
The earthen lamps or “diyas” were lit, there was tumeric powder and vermillion, betel leaves and betel nuts, sandal paste, marigold flowers, pure water, silver coins, and a sweet dish for the offering. Each family took turns sitting before these offerings to pray for happiness, prosperity and wealth. For themselves, each other and the world.
Wishing you and yours a Happy Diwali. From my family to yours.