Elisha Pulivarti/Washington DC
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden celebrated Diwali or Deepavali festival in White House on October 24, Monday. US Vice President Kamala Harris too joined the celebrations besides participating in the festivities at her home earlier. This could’t have come at a better time this year as Indian Origin Rishi Sunak became the youngest Prime Minister of the UK on October 25, Tuesday.
Bidens were joined by many Indian Americans from the administration. Responding to Sunak’s elevation to the UK PM post, Biden said: “Pretty astounding, ..It matters”. The POTUS (President of the US) hasn’t missed the significance of Diwali this year, as it coincided with a Person of Indian Origin becoming the first non-White PM of imperial Britain.
Not just that, this year Diwali is celebrated with enthusiasm and style all over the US. “Diwali seems to be everywhere this year. More and more major brands in the US are recognizing the festival of lights, running ad campaigns and stocking products related to the holiday here. South Asian Americans who celebrate Diwali can now pick up fireworks from Costco, greeting cads from Hallmark and party decoration from Target.
This festival of lights is one of the most important occasion for Hindus, Skhs, Buddhists and Jains. This festival is celebrated not just in India,but also Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and several other South Asian countries. Diaspora from these countries are celebrating this festival in the US. A few years ago, these festivities were obscure, but now they are visible everywhere.
Growing visibility in the US
Soni Satpathy- Singh who runs the meal delivery review website, Meal Matchmaker, says: “The growing acknowledgement of the holiday on the occasion of Diwali in the US is a marked shift for many first and second generation South Asian Americans. Earlier they used to celebrate the festival at homes, now they are even outside communities. This is interesting change to see,” she told CNN.
Eight years ago, Satpathy-Singh wrote a pieces for Brown Girl magazine lamenting that Diwali hadn’t caught the attention of mass market retailers, despite the Indian American population’s growing numbers and high incomes. Today, the landscape looks much different. New York City mayor Eric Adams had declared Diwali a public holiday from 2023 in the city.
All this is a good for Indian Americans in the US and Indians back home in the country. But at the same time, this growing presence and acknowledgement of their services enhances responsibility too on them. Experts are writing that Indian Americans are hardworking and talented. They contribute a lot to the US economy and society. Diwali celebrations and the elevation of Sunak remind us of these greater responsibilities.