Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 9th 2013 Contents A27
Saturday, November 9, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Divali, the festival of lights,
was celebrated last Sat-
urday by Hindus (and
non-Hindus) across the country.
This festival embraces the spirit of
universal love and trumpets the vic-
tory of light over darkness.
I ve been attending Divali cel-
ebrations in Felicity for the past
three years. Felicity, which is in cen-
tral Trinidad, is a remarkably close-
knit community and this is acutely
evident during Divali.
Early in the afternoon villagers
can be seen sweeping the streets
beneath the zig-zagging array of
coloured flags strung up in a pattern
from utility poles. Swish, swish go
the cocoyea brooms: elderly women
with bent backs are intent on clear-
ing all footpaths of dirt and debris.
Not far off, some young men are
working a backhoe like a whirling
dervish, clearing the streets of
offending deposits mined from
drainage canals. At differing inter-
vals, vendors wheel their carts into
place in preparation for the deluge
of people later in the evening.
One young lady liberally sprinkles
salt into her popcorn machine---
popcorn machine! I tell you! It is
no longer "on like boil corn" in
Felicity. You ve got to move with
the times see? Not everyone wants
to walk down the street gnawing
on a cob.
Every house is open. The gates
are open, the doors are open. Chil-
dren flit about in their yards like
charged humming birds. So eager
are they to start the fun that they
already have their sparklers going
in broad daylight
"Allyuh horry! We ha to full up
de deyas anh go anh bade fass!"
Divali is heaven for mischievous
boys. Slathered in grey mud, these
youths wearing their worst, slither
out of a nearby ravine with buckets
of mud used to bind deyas to bam-
boo display stands. First they get
to play in the mud, a little later they
get to play with fire; amazing!
Like an assembly line, residents
emerge from their homes and affix
the deyas to the bamboo frames.
As the sun begins to dip below the
horizon another group follows, fill-
ing the clay pots with coconut oil.
Before you can blink an eye the
streets are clear. Everyone has gone
One by one the villagers sashay
into the night. Young women with
faces painted as if set to be married
are swaddled in exquisite saris
woven with gold and colour stolen
from the setting sun. The men strut
in their kurtas, each one seemingly
handmade, as no two kurtas are the
Row by row the deyas come alive
as villagers light up the wicks. At
one house a family places a table
in the front yard, crowding it with
food and drink.
"Pallo, ah know yuh beezy, but
when yuh get ah chance come an
take something, nah!"
I m not as busy as I look, I m just
good at making it seem that way.
I sit down to a meal of paratha roti,
curried channa and pumpkin,
washing it down with a cold glass
of Coca-Cola as the fireworks pop
For three years I ve been invited
to the same home to partake of lov-
ingly prepared food. This is a very
special manifestation of humanity
and kindness. And the food? Twas
good. Very good.
Out on the main thoroughfare
the village has been transformed.
Sidewalks are overflowing with peo-
ple; both locals and foreigners have
thronged this epicentre of Hindu
Tourists are wearing saris and
drinking corn soup! A crowded maxi
taxi limps along in the traffic, and
a young man leans out of the widow
with his video camera capturing
images of this unique experience.
And it is unique.
This is a Caribbean island, yet
you can leave the beach in the after-
noon and immerse yourself in a
spectacular festival which echoes
the culture and aesthetic of the
Indian subcontinent. You have trav-
elled through two worlds in one
As is always our shortcoming, we
never truly capitalise on what makes
us special. The packed buses of
tourists simply pass through Felicity,
like people on safari. They look at
the action from their windows and
take what pictures they can.
That is just crazy. Visitors should
be encouraged to spend the entire
evening there. I m sure they would
love to help the people of the com-
munity light deyas. As an immersive
tourist experience it does not get
more authentic than that.
On Divali night there is a large
savannah in Felicity with absolutely
nothing going on. This space could
be brought to life with deyas and
bamboo sculptures to encourage
visitors to stick around. It would
provide a place that photographers
could get some fantastic pictures.
The authorities would also do well
to try to revive the art of bamboo
bending, which appears to be in
decline, even in Felicity.
Divali is an incredibly important
part of our national identity. It is
our gift to the world. We have to
treat it with the respect that it
To the people of Felicity, thank
you for the kindness that you have
shown me over the years. With
every visit, you top up my faith in
LIGHTING THE WAY
Divali is heaven for
Slathered in grey
mud, these youths
wearing their worst,
slither out of a
nearby ravine with
buckets of mud used
to bind deyas to
stands. First they get
to play in the mud, a
little later they get to
play with fire;
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