I have always felt that to lift the human spirit for the marginalized in our society, there needs to be a ‘light at the end of the dark tunnel’. A close friend of mine, Gilbert, whom I shared some of my thoughts with, joked cheekily, “There can be light coming out when you are coming out of the dark tunnel, but make sure there is no MRT train coming on in front of you.”
Our Chinese friends recently celebrated the Moon Cake festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival after Chinese New Year. The festival is celebrated when the moon is believed to be at its biggest and fullest and to the Chinese, a full moon is a symbol of prosperity, happiness, and family reunion.
The moon plays quite a big role in not just the Moon Cake Festival, but also in the Hari Raya. Hari Raya is celebrated when the moon is sighted after a month-long fasting period.
Two highlights of the Moon Cake Festival are the lighting of the multi-colored lanterns and the consumption of delicious, mouth-watering mooncakes. It is such a delight to see children getting all excited as they smile and giggle away when they carry their brightly lit lanterns in the gardens under a starry night.
And before you can say, Jack Robinson, Deepavali will see Hindus in many parts of the world welcome the Festival of lights. Just like Christmas, Hari Raya and the Lunar New Year, lights are always a common feature in the celebration of all these festivals, and Singapore is unique in that it all races get to celebrate the various festivals together as one nation, one people, one Singapore.
The annual light-up of our four unique festivals at various parts in Singapore is a dedicated commitment by the Government in partnership with The Singapore Tourism Board to actively promote religious and racial harmony.
Deepavali otherwise known as Diwali is a time when Hindus express their happiness and joy by lighting earthen 'diyas' (lamps), sprucing up and decorating the houses, bursting firecrackers and inviting near and dear ones to their households for partaking in a sumptuous feast. Whenever I visit my Hindu friends during Deepavali, you bet the first pastry I will grab is the crunchy murukku. Then, of course, there is nothing as tasty as the Chicken or mutton biryani, which is to die for.
The lighting of lamps is a way of paying obeisance to God for the attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, valor and fame.
Just like the other festivals, Deepavali is a time when people have the opportunity to reflect on their life during the past year and ask for forgiveness for any wrongdoings.
To the Hindus, darkness represents ignorance, while light is a metaphor for knowledge. Therefore, lighting a lamp symbolizes the destruction, through knowledge, of all negative forces- wickedness, violence, lust, anger, envy, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, oppression and suffering, etc.
Whenever I see the hardworking Indian nationals at the construction sites or when they clear the rubbish bins at the estates in our neighborhoods, I feel much for them. They leave their homes to earn better wages here and would often share their meals with each other to cut cost at the void decks or along makeshift areas near the sites where they do back-breaking work.
So let us appreciate them and extend a Deepavali greeting and handshake to them when the colorful festival comes around each year. And let there be light for everyone.
Raymond Anthony Fernando