Growing up, celebrating Diwali wasn’t a big part of my childhood. 

The cultural and religious holiday wasn’t widely known or understood where I grew up in South Carolina, and I didn’t know anyone who celebrated Diwali outside of my relatives. While this ancient festival of lights wasn’t part of my family’s religion, my immigrant parents made sure that my American-born brother and I understood and celebrated other Indian traditions within our heritage.

As I’ve gotten older, I’m realizing the value of representation as I navigate how to keep those traditions alive for my children while embracing both my Guyanese-Indian roots and American upbringing. 

My 5-year-old daughter’s favorite TV show is “Mira, Royal Detective,” an animated series following young Mira as she solves mysteries with her friends in a fictional town in India, usually celebrating their success with a lively Bollywood dance routine. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever imagined experiencing such representation in a CARTOON, an uncomplicated depiction of Indian culture for a young, American audience. 

Through watching the show, my kids have learned so much about our Indian culture, including Diwali – the festival of lights commemorating the victory of good over evil, light amidst darkness.

While I search for representation, I am also obliged to BE the representation.

As a woman, as the child of Guyanese immigrants and wife of an Indian immigrant, as the daughter of a U.S. veteran – I have a responsibility to represent my communities, to be the light amidst the darkness for others who need to see it.

It’s hard to be what you can’t see! We all need to see a version of ourselves reflected in places of power, in the workplace, in books, in our local organizations, and even on television for a sense of connection. And just as important, representation of all cultures is vital to removing stereotypes and conquering obstacles that may hinder understanding of other cultures.

In a world that is constantly changing, we owe it to ourselves and our children to take pride in our unique backgrounds and cultures, and share them for others to experience. 

On this Diwali we will celebrate at home as a family lighting candles, sparklers, and diya oil lamps as the sun sets and enjoy sweet treats. We may even re-watch the Diwali episode of Mira!

Light a candle and join us in celebrating light and love!

Nanda Jayaseelan

Nanda Jayaseelan

VP Communications

Chi Chapter Founder