I have been a regular visitor to the Divali Nagar for as long as I can remember, but for the first time this year I can safely state that the Nagar and its activities can only lead to the detriment of the festival.
The Nagar now contains an aggressive commercial element, as well as a superficial arrogance which would only lead those who are looking for the true meaning of Divali to seek it elsewhere, or at least to practise the festival differently.
I refer to the increasingly commercial aspect of the festivities. Divali is not about making money or being popular. I have seen over the years where the commercialisation of Divali has met with resistance, but it seems to have gotten a foothold. It is all about business. From the illusionary entrance, which is so spiritual, as Hanuman presides over all that enters, perhaps feeling sorry for their soon-to-be-lightened purses, you are then greeted by the corporate temples displaying their goods for sales. The commandment: "Thou shalt buy!"
This is continued by the food sellers whose prices are $6 and up for items normally priced at $4 and up. Mind you there is no improvement in the product; in fact it leaves a lot to be desired. What is evident are the streams of customers who cannot seem to get enough of these tasty morsels, because they are at the Nagar. This is not what Divali is about, and certainly like her abused sister Christmas, I would hate to see Divali go down that point of no return.
Then there are the shows. Who chooses the performers? There seems to be a barrage of political messages, not-so-subtly disguised as greetings, awards and tokens.
It seems the stage shows are brilliant lures for those who need to make that extra dollar, or those who need to hawk their message, reinforce their mantras, shake a few hands and then be hustled into their waiting air conditioned vehicles.
The saving grace in all of this is the neatly tucked away folk theatre area that has some spiritual significance — a nice, small area filled with pundits, eager to share their knowledge.
It is such a shame that the masses are hoodwinked into thinking that the Nagar is actually uplifting and preserving our Indo culture. It is more correct to say that Indian culture is being carefully used to satisfy business and financial agendas. The marketing is effective, the creation of a pseudo cultural need that translates into brisk trade works for everyone. Of course this does not augur well for the true meaning of the festival since in time the message will be lost and it will become all glitz and glamour.
I can only hope that the intellectual base in our society sees the myopia in their actions, or have they been so dazzled by the bright lights that the business of Divali has become just that, business? It is so sad; with the erosion of our culture through commercialisation we would only be left practising one belief — the testament of the dollar! Happy Divali