by Shastri Maharaj
Trinidadad Guardian
Thur 22,October,1991

To most people in Trinbago, Divali is associated with deyas and Indian people. To be more exact and this is where many non-Indians get confused, it is a religious festival that has its origin in Hinduism and it primarily deals with the Hindu Indian, not the Muslim or the Presbyterian.

More so now than before, one can observe many non-Indians participating in an active manner in the preparation and celebration of Divali.

Two things in particular remind me of the coming of Divali: the first is the pre Divali activities in the Divali Nagar and secondly all those rum drinking fat men who say they have stopped drinking and eating meat in order to prepare their mind and body for such an auspicious occasion. All Hindu homes as a matter of fact that celebrate Divali normally insure that their homes are meat free at least one week before the big day or is it the big night!

I have always been amazed at the Hindu's propensity to adhere and commit themselves to some of the tenets laid down by Hinduism or should I say by the Hindu pundits. In all, the religious observances can only help to improve the religious dogma the Hindu has of his gods and goddesses. It is an oblation that must come from an early childhood involvement in puja, yagna, Hindu weddings and going to the Mandir every Sunday morning.

At times I wonder whether if indeed the Hinduism as it is practiced here in Trinbago has systematically set out to compete and model itself in a similar way with Christianity, to give Hinduism a Western flavour.
And if so...so what!

We are a Western people, with western tastes and education. India and its brand of Hinduism is and always will be an alien brand of Hinduism because it is steeped in an Eastern philosophy in an Eastern way of life and it has its origin in that country.

The Edinburgh Hindu temple, Divali Nagar, Annand Rambachan, Ravi Ji. and the Maha Sabha all now appear to be synonymous with Divali and of course, your average business man. Is it that one sector or faction is competing with each other for crowd participation or is it necessary that these factions pander and advertise to the society at large their particular persuasion or ideology. All in all, they are about the same sentiment, an Indian fundamentalism, something that was always there and has never really surfaced in the manner it has now.

Daily, one can receive or obtain information about something Indian and always it is necessary to invite an important politician to consecrate or witness the opening of some Hindu event.

I feel it is in these ways that my Hindu brothers and sisters may be becoming commercial, competitive and sensationalist. I always feel 'ah how' about the Jews and their propaganda about the atrocities of the Germans, always having to remind the world (a consummate hate). They need to drop it, mix and assimilate, forgive and share. Indians here have it good, there is no need for them to go to any extreme or dwell in the past. The task is to get on with the present, integrating, working hard, making money, loving each other.

Ken Ramchand said very nicely in his article on Walcott 'it is always Kanhai versus Sobers, Walcott Versus Naipaul. Why can't it be about You Versus Yourself . Divali signifies goodness, knowledge,love,sharing,forgiveness and honesty.It embraces all negativity and transforms it into positive energy and pleasant thoughts. It is a time for every one to share. It is not a time for ethnic biases. After all Divali is a national holiday,a national festival, a Hindu religious occasion. I find that to be a very great honour to be bestowed upon the Hindu sector of the society.

My belief is that Divali is here to stay, so too other Trinbaqo religious festivals like Eid and Christmas. Like all these festivals, it is hard work much preparation, sacrifice and selflessness. It should be like this all year round.Divali for me is the sun that smiles upon me every morning. It anoints me with knowledge and good intentions. My deya is always alight in my heart. May your heart from now on be alight with the radiance that comes from a lighted deya.

(Art Is Life salutes a true hero in the struggle for the rights of the working class man: Walter Annamuntodo)