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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

‘Homecoming will never mean the same again’

A Vadodara-based artist on celebrating the festival of lights while far from family

Updated: November 8, 2020 4:53:29 pm
diwali, diwali festival, indianexpress, diwali special, eye, eye 2020, sundayeye,Where we belong: Details from Land of Exile (2019) by Das (Courtesy: Gallery Latitude 28)

Sudipta Das

This year, for the first time, I was not with my family for Lakshmi puja. Until now, for me, going to meet my mother and brother in Silchar, Assam, just required taking a flight. It was the same for my husband, who teaches at Kendriya Vidyalaya in Lunglei (Mizoram) and takes a flight to meet me in Vadodara. But all of that seems near impossible now.

We celebrate Diwali to mark the return of Ram to Ayodhya, after 14 years of exile. The entire city is lit up and there are festivities. Yet, in some ways, we are also finding home away from home, celebrating our common culture and teaching others our family traditions. I was alone for Lakshmi puja this year and my neighbours in Vadodara were excited when I invited them. But they could not relate to it as they usually perform the puja on Diwali. I was clueless, too — usually, I assist my mother, but this time, I was doing it myself, while taking directions from her over the phone.

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As a child, I would listen to stories of migration from my grandparents, who moved from Bangladesh to Barak Valley in Assam before Independence and made it their home. I also remember watching people flee their homes whenever the Barak river flooded, only to come back when the water receded. Just as now, there was uncertainty.

In this month of togetherness, many of us are alone. It’s scary to imagine that if anything happens to us no one might be on our side. In June, when I suddenly developed fever, my husband managed to come but he had to stay in quarantine when he returned to Mizoram. I can’t go and stay with him, as his accommodation facilities don’t allow families.

Homecoming, perhaps, will never mean the same again — it will mean much more, now that we have been away so long.

As told to Vandana Kalra

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