When fall comes each year, my mind immediately turns to Diwali. The traditions my mother brought from India digging deep and sprouting within me. I remember how we would decorate the house each year; my siblings and I fighting over the honor of retrieving the box of decorations from the crawl space. A small task, but symbolic of our favorite time of year. Ammi would string the multi-colored lights around the porch as we placed deepams in every spot we could find. Colored pencils and crayons spilled all over the kitchen table as we tried to emulate Ammi’s perfectly crafted muuggus. She would show us how to make them symmetrical, show us some of her favorite designs, her practiced fingers expertly flowing across the page. Our shaky hands tried to be as meticulous as possible as we did our own muuggus. Ammi would hang the finished ones all along the fireplace. Nana would come home from work and we’d jump in delight, showing off all the preparations we had done. At bedtime, Ammi would read us the story behind Diwali. We all knew the tale by heart; Rama’s brave journey to rescue Sita and bring her home to a village alit with candles. No matter, every year we listened as if we were hearing it for the first time. We would fall asleep, dreaming of the celebrations, pujas, and gifts to come. And Ammi would fall asleep, too. Maybe thinking of her own Diwali celebrations as a child and remembering all of the traditions she learned from her mother. Maybe thinking of the way she and her siblings used to artfully arrange the deepams and muuggus around their tiny Bombay apartment and how they taught her, the youngest, to make a symmetrical muuggu. Maybe wondering if, now, she had successfully brought the east to her western children as she had hoped. Maybe wondering if it was enough.
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