Assimilate yes, but still retain and celebrate your culture. That was the message on Sunday, Oct. 13, when several hundred township residents descended on Buchmuller Park to attend the fourth annual Diwali Mela, or Asian-Indian “Festival of Lights.”
The free, all-day event was sponsored by the Indian Caucus of Secaucus. It included cultural performances and children’s activities. Also available were Indian food, Indian clothing, and other offerings of all types.
“This festival has big significance in our life,” said Kalindi Bakshi of Riverside Court. “It’s like Christmas. It brings people together. All differences are forgotten this day.
“It feels like being back home,” she said. “We want our kids to know our culture. The kids can get at least a glimpse of it. It is good that the Caucus is doing this.”
“You go out, celebrate, buy gifts, meet people, and enjoy the festivities,” said Sheetal Nagpal, Indian Caucus of Secaucus member, and one of the event planners.
“I think it gets the community together,” said Raj Pardasani of the Caucus and of Harmon Cove. “It’s the only goal we have. They come for the culture.”
“It’s about the tradition. It’s about the festival of India.” – Sankalp Trivedi
“My mom loves the culture. She works in a hospital and has a lot of Indian friends,” Zangaglia said. “And I’m a big culture junkie. I love all different cultures. I want to travel the world, and I’m big on that.”
Diwali is the combination of two Sanskrit words, “deepa” meaning “light,” and “avali” meaning “a row.” During this annual, five-day observation, each home in India is lighted with earthen lamps, which symbolize the dispelling of fear and darkness, and the awakening of spiritual awareness, according to a spokeswoman. The lamps also portend the visit of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.
The holiday also celebrates the garden of lights that appeared for Lord Rama at his entrance to the city of Ayodhya following his 14-year exile to the forest.
Authentic Indian food was served by local and area businesses for a nominal fee. They included Mausam Indian Cuisine Bar & Banquets of Paterson Plank Road and the soon-to-open Dhoom Restaurant on Route 3, both of Secaucus, as well as Clove Indian Cuisine of Route 17 in East Rutherford and Woodlands Pure Vegetarian South Indian Restaurant of Parsippany. In the covered picnic area in the park, attendees enjoyed various delicacies, including masala dosa, a rice-and-lentil filled crepe.
For the restaurants, the afternoon wasn’t just about making sales. It was about ethnic pride and being a good neighbor.
“It’s not just about the food,” said Sankalp Trivedi of Mausam. “It’s about the tradition. It’s about the festival of India.
“We’re also here to give back to the community,” he said, “and this is the best way to do it.”
Vendors and groups
Many area businesses and community groups were represented at the festival. Among them were the Art of Living nonprofit foundation, Kulture Kool, Meadowlands Hospital and Medical Center, Parikh Worldwide Media, LLC, People to People International, Riyahana Collection of Indian ethnic wear, and Tarot Reading by Nidhi Doshi.
In its fourth year, the festival is ready for bigger and better things, according to Pardasani.
“I told them (the committee) we have to upgrade now. Next time we’re going to step it up,” Pardasani said. “Next year is the fifth year, the big one.”
The Indian Caucus of Secaucus is not only a cultural group; it is a charitable one as well. The organization makes contributions to several local causes, including the Secaucus Animal Shelter and the town’s volunteer fire department.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.