My Deepavali: Favourite memories of the festival of lights

Lights and decorations in Little India to celebrate Deepavali, the Festival of Lights. -- ST PHOTO: T. KAVINDRAN 
Lights and decorations in Little India to celebrate Deepavali, the Festival of Lights. -- ST PHOTO: T. KAVINDRAN 

Sajini, 28, Vasantham actress and host

"These days, Deepavali is more precious than ever. The mad scramble starts just days before and that's when the festive mood kicks in, from purchasing simple decorations to getting savoury and sweet goodies. Planning my outfit is my biggest challenge as I still struggle to find one that fits because of my 1.78m frame.

The day begins with a traditional oil bath and prayers in the house before we head to the temple. Lunch will be at my cousin's place and the bigger party in the evening at my aunt's. However, if Deepavali falls on a weekday and the next day is a working day, like this year, then it is usually a quiet day as most Indian households will plan their parties on the weekends.

Our celebrations are very family-centric. I always look forward to the much-awaited and immensely treasured catch-up sessions with everyone - not forgetting the good food, eating guiltlessly and, most importantly, dressing up for the occasion.

It's a day to shine just like the lights.

This year's Deepavali will be a relatively quiet one for my family, though, as my maternal grandfather died in February."

Comedians Rishi Budhrani, 30, and Sharul Channa, 27, who are married to each other

Budhrani: "We get really busy during the Deepavali period as we will be either emceeing or performing shows. You could say that we are earning the prosperity while our families are back home praying for it. This year, we will be performing a stand- up comedy show, providing laughs to our nonIndian friends.

"Since last year, we have been making an effort to spend more time on celebrating Diwali with our families. We go to both our parents' places in the evenings to do the puja (prayers). We do some really off-key singing too. We used to go old- school initially and sang just the Diwali prayer songs, but now we play the YouTube video and lip-sync to it.

Diwali is meaningful to us because it's the only time of the year when our parents can't say to us, 'Why have you left all the lights in the house on! Is it Diwali or what?'"

Channa: "Both our parents have this ritual of preparing goodie bags for one another, which we help pass along when we visit their homes.

"My parents prepare all the goodies themselves, such as jalebi (fried pastry dipped in syrup), gulab jamun (deep-fried milk ball in sweet syrup) and muruku (savoury snack in twisted shapes), while Rishi's mother makes her special Milo pudding, among other goodies."

Tara Melwani, 49, director of lifestyle brands distributor Jay Gee Melwani Group

"Diwali kicks off for our whole family with a morning puja at our office on Dhanteras, which falls two days before Diwali. On Dhanteras, we offer prayers to the goddess Lakshmi to provide spiritual prosperity, abundance and well being.

In the evening, the house is decorated with rows of tea lights in preparation for Diwali.

My grandparents, mother, uncle and aunt have been hosting "Beer & Bites" on Diwali day for the last 45 years at my grandparents' home.

It starts in the late morning and the celebration goes on till late afternoon. We serve Indian and local vegetarian fare, and instead of Indian sweets, we serve ice kacang, a respite from the heat.

In the evening, our immediate family perform the Lakshmi puja aarti at home before going to my aunt and uncle's home where the whole family gather for a Diwali celebration dinner.

Though there are many legends about the festival, it's the inner significance that makes it meaningful for me.

Diwali is essentially celebrated to ignite the light of wisdom in every heart."

Haresh Sharma, 49, resident playwright of The Necessary Stage

"My family would usually gather at my brother and sister-in-law's home for prayers. There are specific timings for these prayers so we plan according to the almanac.

In certain years, Diwali also coincides with my nephew Nikhil's birthday. So the celebration gets bigger.

My dad cooks some of the best chicken and mutton dishes ever. That is always a treat.

It's really a time for the family to get together and celebrate. As for myself, I love lighting candles in my home and hoping that good will always triumph over evil.

This year, however, will be different as I will not be in Singapore. I'm participating in the inaugural Singapore Literature Festival in New York, after which I will be taking a short holiday in London. But I look forward to celebrating Diwali with my friends there."