B Prashant Kumar, India: European Master in Law & Economics (EMLE)
Diwali is undoubtedly the biggest festival for any Indian, whether religious or not, an entire week for fun, food, gifts, shopping and most importantly family fests and friends' gatherings.
I have been staying away from my family in India for more than 15 years. However, I always make sure that even if I don't go home during the rest of the year, I am home with my parents for Diwali. I am not a very religious person but celebrating Diwali rituals with my parents has been an unbroken tradition for me. But I had to break it when I began my Erasmus Masters back in 2016. My course had just begun a few weeks before the Diwali week and given the extensive course schedule and associated costs, there was no way that I could have returned to India from Hamburg for Diwali. I thus decided to celebrate it with my cousins in Weisloch, near Mannheim in Germany. Little did I know about their plans to help me get a completely different perspective of Diwali.
During the day, we went to the Diwali Fair organized by the Indian student community in the city of Heidelberg, as a part of the cultural experience and enrichment for the local community. Later at night, we attended the Diwali Night organized by the Indian Community at Walldorf, a town known for having the headquarters of SAP.
I got to celebrate Diwali in Germany, Yaayyy!! But more than that, it was amazing to see the zeal and zest of people, most of them celebrating their dearest festival away from their family. It was so much fun to watch the locals, who did their best to blend in, wearing Indian clothes and trying the Indian snacks and savories, home-cooked by members of the Indian community. The most heartening bit was those moments, where one would see various parallel sessions happening around where the locals were being explained by their friends about the meaning and importance of every aspect of the festival. Whether it was the Diyas (mud oil lamps) or the famous Gujiyas (sweet dumplings with milk & nut filling), it was ensured that the pictures being clicked had a lot of stories to be told later.
The guilt of not celebrating Diwali first time without my parents was soon eased out by a long Video Call by my cousins back home, who were with my parents celebrating a grand Diwali party with the entire clan, all of whom waiting for the midnight, to wish me Birthday (Yes, my Birthday coincides the Diwali season every year).
I hope you never miss celebrating festivals close to your heart in your city with your family, but in any case, trust me with such amazing experiences, while living abroad, there is a lot of learning and memories in store for you!