Family takes Covid-19 pandemic in its stride for Deepavali festivities

Mr Thamil Selvan V.T. Govintharaju, his wife Ms Darshini Radha Krishnan, and their son Krishav Ram Thamil Selvan. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - With 15 people living under one roof in a West Coast terraced house, the last few months have been a flurry of hand washing and safe distancing for teacher Darshini Radha Krishnan and her extended family.

With Deepavali approaching, Ms Darshini, 37, and her family - which includes her husband Thamil Selvan V.T Govintharaju, 45, and their three children aged between four and 10 - thought long and hard about ways to celebrate the festival with Covid-19 regulations in place.

Ms Darshini, who teaches at National Junior College, said while some customs have been disrupted this year, the spirit of the festival remains unchanged.

She said: "We have been particular about not scaling down on celebrations this year.

"The decorations are still up, the goodies and snacks have been prepared and the children got involved in the preparations as usual. It was important for us that the kids know the significance of Deepavali day."

Ms Darshini and her family share the home with her sister Shanthini Radha Krishnan, 39, a teacher at Lianhua Primary School, her husband, 49, and their two children aged 12 and nine.

The sisters started living together after Ms Shanthini and her family moved in nine years ago. Their parents, two brothers, a granduncle and a domestic helper also live with them.

In the weeks leading up to Deepavali, everyone pitched in to help prepare for the big day - making traditional festive snacks, cleaning and decorating the house, and buying new clothes, said Ms Darshini.

Today, everyone will offer prayers at the family shrine in the house, and entertain close relatives throughout the day. All visitors have been told to stick to groups of five, in line with safe distancing measures, Ms Darshini said.

Mr Thamil Selvan V.T. Govintharaju (right, red) with his wife Darshini Radha Krishnan and children, and the extended family at their home in West Coast on Deepavali eve, Nov 13, 2020. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

For such a large family, the circuit breaker and the days that followed were a challenging time, but everyone remembered to wear a mask when they needed to, and made sure they took a shower after coming home from work or school, among other things.

Seniors in the family took care to stay home, whenever possible.

Ms Darshini said: "Everyone has been fully supportive of whatever measures we have taken at home. Adults took particular care of their health, so they were protected and the children were protected too."

Despite all the extra precautions and safety measures they had to take, Ms Shanthini said the family was grateful not to be living in isolation. She said: "It was really a gift because the children celebrated birthdays during the circuit breaker, and while it was difficult to get a cake, everybody worked together to keep the kids happy."

And in some ways, there were positive aspects to the pandemic, said Ms Darshini. Before Covid-19 struck, on most days she was able to catch only a glimpse of most of the family members, as everyone went about their busy lives.

During the circuit breaker, however, the family got the chance to spend some quality time together.

Ms Darshini said: "We did our best to keep the kids entertained and keep their spirits up because they were quite worried about Covid-19 based on what they had heard in school. We tried to live life as normally as possible."

For Deepavali, the sisters went to Little India to pick up festive goods, and got traditional clothes from a home-based vendor for the children, instead of trawling the stores for festive outfits.

For traditional henna designs, they hired a henna artist to come to their home, instead of braving the crowds in Serangoon Road.

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The family of Mr Thamil Selvan V.T. Govintharaju is preparing for a different Deepavali. Usually, the family would entertain close to 300 visitors. But while the pandemic means fewer visitors, the family keeps the same enthusiasm for the festival.

Ms Darshini said everyone in her family is waiting for the day when they can go back to celebrating Deepavali with all their family and friends, together in one place at the same time.

She said: "Deepavali is about sharing our culture with friends, people who are not acquainted with our culture, and of course, our loved ones. We hope everything gets better so that we can all return to the way it used to be."

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