Bukit Panjang family celebrates Deepavali with neighbours

(From left) Abia Farah, Shanya Suman, Noella Seah and Aahana Suman creating a rangoli at the corridor near their houses to celebrate Deepavali on Nov 3, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Covid-19 restrictions have not stopped pre-school educator Puvaneswarri Nagarajan from pulling out the stops to decorate her home for Deepavali.

"We put up grander decorations since we are not going out anywhere," said the 34-year-old mother of two.

These include colourful lights and flower decorations along the common corridor outside their Bukit Panjang flat, put up with the enthusiastic assistance of her husband, aircraft technician Menappan Suman, 35, and their two young daughters. They live with her elderly parents.

The family has also involved its neighbours in the festivities. Noella Seah, seven, and Abia Farah, two, joined Ms Puvaneswarri's daughters Shanaya, four, and Aahana, two, to put together a rangoli outside their home on Wednesday (Nov 03).

Noella said: "I learnt about the kolam in school and this is my first time making one. I enjoy putting the different colours together."

Her grandmother, Madam Soh Lay Keng, 61, said in Mandarin that Ms Puvaneswarri's family is very generous and friendly.

The curriculum planner added: "During the Mid-Autumn Festival, Ms Puvaneswarri's father would buy sparklers to share with Noella - everyone enjoys the festivities regardless of race."

Ms Puvaneswarri's family has put together gift packs for the neighbours' children. Each pack includes a mini rangoli art kit and Indian snacks.

To adhere to limits on household visitors, her younger brother will pick up lunch, cooked by their mother, 64, for his family of four for Deepavali on Thursday.

"Then he will go home to his family to gather with us on Zoom," said Ms Puvaneswarri. "We still get to talk and eat the same things, just that they are physically elsewhere."

Ms A.T. Sharnthinie's household is also celebrating the Festival of Lights. The 27-year-old financial planner is aiming to give her two nieces, who are three years old and 10 months old, a sense of normalcy with the full Deepavali experience.

Ms Sharnthinie, who lives with her brother's family, said: "Other than not having visitors over, we are pretty much doing everything else, like getting new clothes for the girls, baking goodies and making murukku."

Shoppers seen at the pedestrian crossing along Serangoon Road near Campbell Lane on Nov 3, 2021. PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

Community organisations have stepped up too, spreading cheer among the less fortunate.

One of them is Lighting Hearts Lighting Homes (LHLH), which was set up in 2013 to bring festive cheer to needy families during the Deepavali season.

This year, it has raised around $80,000 and recruited 70 home-based bakers to bake cookies as part of a gift pack.

The gift packs, which also include cash, grocery vouchers and festive goodies, will go to 700 low-income families.

Usually, LHLH's volunteers would go door to door to pass the gift packs to beneficiaries, said Ms A. Vigneswari, who is part of the exercise's organising committee.

This year, the organisation decided to work with family service centres to deliver the gift packs.

Ms Vigneswari said: "When we were planning for LHLH this year, we were worried the restrictions might become a lot tighter, so we took the decision to evolve our operations."

She said that 80 per cent of LHLH's beneficiaries are seniors, so it is important to keep them safe.

In a video message posted on Facebook on Tuesday, President Halimah Yacob noted that Deepavali is the celebration of the triumph of good over evil, hope over despair, and light over darkness.

"Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, I hope that the festivities will brighten the mood of everyone during these challenging times," she said.

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