Rangoli: beautiful artwork made with sand or petals, usually in the shape of a lotus, decorate entrances of homes on Diwali.

Every year, a row of houses are lit up on my street, twinkling joyfully and confusing most of our non-Indian neighbours. “Wow, they must decorate early for Christmas!” “Hmm…Happy November?” Undoubtedly, the best part about living in the ‘Little India’ that is my suburban neighborhood is the very timely and enthusiastic deliveries of mithai (sweets) by my neighbours’ kids. This year’s kaju barfi is as good as ever.

This weekend, I walked through the row of illuminated homes, seeing colourful clothes and family dinners through living room windows, and flashing trees and bushes everywhere. While my family is Muslim, being Indian has always afforded me the pleasure of being around wonderful and deeply spiritual Hindu holidays from a young age. Friends and Amar Chitra Katha comic strips recounted to me the dramatic tale of Prince Rama defeating the evil ten-headed demon of Ravana, while the city of Ayodhya greeted their prince and his beautiful wife, Sita, with illuminated lamps.

A depiction of Rama defeating Ravana in battle. Indian miniature. From Ranchor Prime’s Ramayana: A Journey.

There’s something to be said about the luminous villages, towns and big cities throughout the world on Diwali. There’s something about being compelled to pause and marvel at little twinkling lights. Perhaps it’s human nature — to be drawn to light shining in the darkness.

Looking at a little diya (lamp) twinkling in my neighbour’s home, I was struck by the virtual zero effort required to light the lamp, yet the intangible beauty, that, once lit, the tiny lamp provided to everything around it. It was a reminder to me to continually kindle the inner Light that shines within every human heart. It reminded me that darkness doesn’t truly exist of its own accord; darkness is simply the absence of light. And once you decide to take one small, virtually effortless task to light a lamp, the absence is gone, and the Presence is there.

Perhaps in the face of the great terrors of the world, all we really need to do to bring good to the world is to light our own inner lamps. Perhaps by lighting the diya in our own heart, our true nature as human beings will be victorious over our own ten-headed enemy. Whether that is an overconsumption of mithai or that perpetual lack of self-esteem, we can choose to let that eternal Light shine.

The lamp is waiting. Will you light it?

Favorite Diwali activity #2: Lighting firecrackers with the neighborhood kids

Wajida Syed is the Creative Designer at MIIM. When she is not taking pictures, designing graphics or wreaking havoc, she enjoys learning about the visual principles of traditional arts. Follow @MIIMDesigns and @Wajida_Syed on Twitter. Check out her photography project at facebook.com/AsSeenByWajida.

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