There’s this thing about festivals – even though rituals, practices, manner of celebration, stay the same (more or less), yet we never tire of them.  Year after year we look forward to them, to go through the motions – put up the lights, redo the house, stock up on sweets. In a world where trends have the lifespan of fireflies, a ‘tradition’ that has survived for centuries seems like a wonder.

I write this at a time when Diwali is just around the corner. You can smell the festive whiff in the air with the added punch of pollution, of course.  Like always, Diwali time invokes a volley of questions, a matter of choices really. Given the strange circumstances of this year, I find, the answers are somewhat tricky this time. So here’s what I’ve worked out:

How  to Celebrate?  Frankly, you don’t have much of a choice. Don’t even think crackers. It’s the return of the good-old family Diwali, with everyone joining in to make the celebration special. This year we have all come to value our near and dear ones and everyone is closer (literally since we were all bound to our homes and figuratively as well). So, enjoy at home with the return of desi nuskas and traditional homemade meethais.

Where’s The Party? Be it teen patti get-togethers or large Diwali galas – it’s a big no! With winter setting in already we are seeing a massive surge in COVID-19 cases and we must do our bit to keep the numbers down. Let’s find other ways to connect with friends and family with virtual meetings and games instead. Some might choose to venture out, but don’t let that waver your resolve.

How To Make It Special? Savour the other side of Diwali – festive food, sweets, decorations, flowers and lights. And a word of caution: keep sanitizers and disinfectant sprays away while lighting earthen diyas and candles – that is a disaster waiting to happen. If you want to make it special, try a bit of philanthropy. This Diwali, more than ever be kind, give away. Many have been hit by the pandemic and the lockdown that followed. Let’s make this season happy for everyone.

Are We Doing Gifts? There is a definite drop in mass gifting with people opting for innovative Diwali gifts, e-vouchers and gift cards over traditional gifts. It will be interesting to see how this affects the market. There’s also a shift towards ‘thoughtful’ and healthy gifting, so if you have to gift think in that direction.

What About Shopping? Of course shop. The Diwali shopping has already pushed markets back to pre-Covid levels. So that’s good. What is different is that Diwali time usually has seen markets being flooded with Chinese products. This time the consumers have a strong Made in India sentiment with people avoiding Chinese goods. So go with the flow, go local, go desi. Aatmanirbhar Bharat is the flavour of this year’s shopping season.

What About Corporate Celebration? Corporates too are seen adapting to the time, with gifting down by 30-50 per cent. Instead, there is a move towards other incentives to boost sentiment.  Companies can look at end year appraisals, cash against leave and innovative gifting such as Wi-Fi connections, whiteboards, laptop tables, flasks, masks etc for employees.

It has been a year of sickness and downturn, yet people are finding the strength to celebrate. Perhaps that was the purpose of festivals, to lift our spirits and fill us with new energy.  This Diwali comes with good tidings – the news that a vaccine is around the corner brings hope.  This is also a time for gratitude, and now more than ever it is a time to thank goddess Lakshmi for our blessings. The pandemic has made us value what we have and things that we take for granted. This festive season offers us a chance to spread happiness and positivity.