My paternal grandfather passed away on the day of Diwali. I had never known him. He passed away long before my parents got married. Every time I think of him, I feel a soft gentle wave of love from his heart and a hidden smile on his lips. I have heard from a few relatives that he was a short-tempered person, but nevertheless a gentle one if you know what I mean. My paternal grandmother’s sister (who passed away just a few years ago, and she is another beautiful soul about whom I shall write another day) used to talk a lot about him, and all the wonderful stories I have heard about him are through her, and a few of course from my own father too.
However, I could never mourn my grandfather. Because I never knew him.
I only knew of him in a celebratory sort of way or as a legend, the way my paternal grandmother’s sister spoke about him. As a child, I did not understand why my (joint and extended) family never celebrated Diwali when all my friends did. My brother was more vocal about it. He asked questions and finally, our father saw through our confusion, and also our need to feel belonged to the community we lived in. My father also is a very soft, gentle, and compassionate person who puts the other person’s needs in front of his. He probably did not want to disappoint the family he was born into by disturbing their day of mourning. But now with two extroverted and high-spirited children, he did not want to disappoint them either.
So finally we started celebrating Diwali.
We burst crackers, hung out with friends, shopped till we dropped dead tired, decorated the house. Having done everything people did on days leading to, and on Diwali day, we felt better about the whole thing initially. We are not a religious family. In India, Diwali is all about a spirit. It is not about religion – well though of course it is a festival of lights, and signifies good over evil, the day the Lord won over the demons, and so on.
But Diwali is more about the spirit of community, celebration, unity, love, and light.
It is like Christmas in India – that is, you just celebrate it because it feels good, it feels happy and it is in the air.
A lot of times, on Diwali we used to travel to Chennai, and spend time with our extended Heartfulness community in the Heartfulness center because that was also so much fun for us as children. As we grew up, we did that more often, and that was more joyous, as we had a nice reunion with a lot of family and friends in Chennai in the Heartfulness center, where we used to spend a couple of days during and after Diwali.
After I got married, the idea of Diwali changed.
My husband’s family believed in celebrating Diwali more traditionally, and I felt I should honor that, to the best of my capacity. I did what I could in my wisdom and knowledge at that time. Earlier, our father went out of the way to make us feel happy, cherished, and give us a sense of belonging. I remembered our father making sure everyone felt the spirit of love, light, and kindness. And well, I felt inspired to emulate that, in my current small capacity, at that time.
This year and the past one have been tough for all of us including me. Today, our son, his friends, and our community refuse to burst crackers, and I appreciate that so much. He says he has taken the ‘green pledge’ in his school and refuses to pollute the atmosphere with the fumes from the crackers. I think I honor this more than anything else. Diwali is yet another day in his life. My son’s friends just hang out and play Minecraft or football. Or they just spend those extra hours of the holiday in their Lit-club or Debate-club. Or sometimes, just switch on the AC, close the door of the room, and make some music album covers. And what do we do as a couple? It is a day of rest and respite, a day for catching up with each other.
The spirit of Diwali stays on, in spite of things that have changed so much in our respective lives.
The spirit of Diwali, is about leading us from ignorance to knowledge, from darkness to light, from death to immortality. The Sanskrit verse which signifies this truth is from the Upanishads, one of the ancient texts of India. Once, I had this most inspiring moment of feeling belonged to this extraordinary heritage and rich culture. That was when I heard the lyrics of the background score from the movie Matrix. Those lyrics which signify the spirit of Diwali made me feel part of this ancient wisdom and evolutionary path too.
So, whatever you do on this Diwali day, enjoy the light in your heart, the love in the air, and peace in the universe.
And of course, listen to the background score from the movie Matrix!
Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here .
She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award .
She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page .
She also contributes to Huffington Post .
Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!
This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.
She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.
You might have noticed we were a bit quiet on our website this summer as we took our annual “Blogcation.” Well, here is what some of us, World Moms, were up to during July and August of 2017!
Tara Bergman, USA
“My family and I took a backpacking trip to an alpine lake in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, USA. It was a lot of work to get everyone on the trail with packs, but we made it to our destination and had the whole lake to ourselves overnight. The birds were chirping until 10pm and started up again around 4am, so I guess we had some company after all.”
Tina Rodriguez, Philippines
“No holidays here in the Philippines now. I’ve been trying to juggle many things like family and home life (including homeschooling the kids), work, advocacies, etc. By God’s grace, I’m surviving! ?My family and I were even able to squeeze in some bonding time with my parents, which made for many precious moments!”
Ketakandriana Fafitoson, Madagascar
World Mom, Ketekandriana Fafitoson, of Madagascar poses in front of the temple-pyramid of El Castillo in Chichen Itza while on a business trip in Mexico. The temple once served as an astronomical observatory!
“My kids have just finished school but I don’t know if we will have time to go on the seaside this year (we live in the highlands). The fact is that I am 6 months pregnant now, and still have to travel a lot for my job and my activism…But I will try to manage some time to take them to their favorite place, maybe in early September…If everything goes well”
Tes Silverman, World Voice, USA
“Summer’s was busy for me & my family! My daughter, Shaina, graduated from high school in June, and then my whole family headed down south to Virginia Beach in early July to celebrate my great-aunt’s 100th birthday! What an amazing reunion of aunts, uncles & cousins I haven’t seen in years, and especially for Shaina, who met a lot of them for the first time. My most favorite moment was going up to my great-aunt Pacing (the woman of the day in pink), and after being told who I was, seeing her eyes fly wide open after recognizing me and giving me a big smile. I then moved over so I could introduce her to Shaina, and her response was, “oh so pretty!” It was so moving for me that she recognized me after so many years, and that I had the opportunity to have Shaina & Micah see her again.
That weekend spent with my relatives made me realize how precious life is & how awesome it is to have an extended family. If l live to be 100, I hope to see as much family around me as my great-aunt had. As a result of this weekend, we are now planning to get together again next year, to make sure that the 2nd generation (mine) & 3rd generation of cousins (Shaina’s) keep in touch.
To-wen Tseng, USA
“Currently pregnant with my 2nd child, I had to take some time off earlier this year because of pregnancy complications. Now into 27 weeks, I’m feeling better and trying to catch up at work. I have a new book due exactly on the baby’s due date! Wasn’t aware of the pregnancy when I sign the contract with the publisher. A busy summer for me!”
Founder Jennifer Burden, USA
“We headed to the U.K. and Italy for a month to vacation and catch up with family and friends. Here’s a photo of the girls looking out over the ruins of the Forum in Rome.”
Bessma Bader, Saudi Arabia
“Summer has been both, slow and busy. Busy because I gave birth to my 5th child in June 18th, and slow because since then I have been stuck under or beside my 5th feeding or caring for him. All while trying to make sure the other kids get to various summer camps and activities to keep them busy considering it’s averaging 48-50 C degrees outside in the daytime, so outdoor activities are not an option! Feeling happy, tired and blessed. “
Cindy Levin, World Voice, USA
“I took my family up to the San Juan islands, a remote chain of islands in the pacific northwest of the U.S. We kayaked, canoed, hiked, and watched the orcas watching us. We also got to scramble around the “bottom of the ocean” looking for sea stars. In a rare tidal event, the moon was aligned so that we could walk where the water would normally be 10 feet over our heads!”
Piya Mukherjee, India
“It was a lovely summer and a bit of a milestone. My 18-year old returned home for his summer break from the hostel, and it’s been a sweet-sad feeling, cherishing every moment of family time, yet aware of the calendar telling us he will fly back to Delhi soon to his engineering studies. Best of all was the 8-day trip to Gokarna and Goa (India) – an off-the-grid, back-in-time kind of holiday, with entire days spent at the beach!”
Yolanda McCloud Gordon, USA
“I had a great summer. First in June, I went to NYC to participate in a story telling workshop with The Moth! Totally awesome. Then I joined Cynthia Changyit Levin in DC to fight for healthcare and led a Storytelling workshop at the RESULTS Conference! Back at home I prepped for the student that I took under my wings this summer.”
Elizabeth Atalay, Managing Editor, USA
“This was an epic summer for us, having both turned 50 this past year, looking forward to our 20th wedding anniversary this fall, and sending our oldest of four kids off to college in the fall inspired us to go big with our summer plans. It was a dream come true for me to travel to Tanzania as a family with Proud African Safaris, a small Tanzanian owned company that provided a trip of a lifetime. We spent 6 nights in the Serengeti viewing spectacular wildlife, and visited a Masaai village as well as several tribes in the lake Eyasi region. Then spent a few days at the beach in Zanzibar. Soon after our family trip, I did a week long women’s trip to Israel that was incredible. Then as a family we traveled into the path of totality in South Carolina to view the Total Solar Eclipse!”
We are excited to be back, to share the global stories that we have collected and dive into a new season together!
What did you do did this past summer? We’d love to hear!
Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.
Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
I live in Fort Mill, SC. I am from South Carolina. I was born and raised here, and I attended public schools here.
What language(s) do you speak?
I speak English. I can understand Spanish, however, I can speak very little of it. I also know American Sign Language.
When did you first become a mother (year/age)?
I first became a mother at the age of 19 in 1999.
Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work from home or away from home?
I work full time as a Licensed Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. It’s a wonderful job.
Why do you blog/write?
I originally started a blog because I had all sort of ideas in my head that I wanted to share. Then it became more than that. I was able to share the day in and day out of being a mom of three children with different disabilities. It also turned into a place where I could share about social good and being a single mother.
What makes you unique as a mother?
What makes me unique is that I am the mom of two children on the Autism Spectrum. In addition, my oldest child was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the age of 13. In spite of these challenges, I advocate for those who have less than I, for children, and for a variety of other causes.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
One of the biggest challenges of raising children today is not knowing my neighbors. People are not concerned with creating lasting relationships with their neighbors these days like they did when I was a child. Everyone knew each other back then even if we didn’t live in the same neighborhood.
How did you find World Moms Network?
I found World Moms Network through Jen Burden and Shot@Life.
This is an original post to World Moms Network by World Mom, Yolanda Gordon in the USA. Welcome, Yolanda!