Ten-year-old Aaman had just had his quietest Diwali ever, and quite literally so. No illuminated streets, and certainly no dazzling, deafening fire-crackers during the festival of lights. And a world apart from the frenzied atmosphere back in his hometown of Jaipur, India. The snow and the bitter Winnipeg cold had further subdued his spirits.
The Diwali Mela, organized by the Hindu Society of Manitoba has put a smile back on the boy’s face.
“Just look at the huge floor! I have never celebrated Diwali together with so many people.”
Captain N Mathur, President of the Hindu Society of Manitoba was overwhelmed by the footfall at the Winnipeg Convention Center on 17th November.
“We had a 5000 plus gathering this time,” he said. “This is the largest ever in the history of the Mela.”
A part of Winnipeg’s event calendar for several years, the Diwali Mela has grown from strength to strength, just like the Indian community in the city. Dignitaries from the provincial and federal governments marked their presence at the event, with Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger lighting the ceremonial lamp at the inauguration. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and city Mayor Sam Katz also sent representatives.
The formalities done, it was time to set the stage alive. Little children, dressed as Indian mythological characters paraded to the cheer of the crowd. Beginners learnt some basic steps in an impromptu workshop of Indian dances. A devotional dance performance, fusing the two classical dance forms — Bharat Natyam and Kathak — was well acclaimed.
From the Giddha of Punjab to Bengali folk, it was an amazing kaleidoscope of Indian culture. And when the flavour is so distinctively Indian, could Bollywood be left behind?
“It is amazing how Bollywood manages to blend folk with rock, classical with popular, Indian with western” said Rupali Singh. “Somehow, the formula is always perfect to strike the right chord.”
Several dances choreographed to Bollywood hits had the crowd on its feet. But the adrenalin rush was saved for last, with a high voltage Bhangra-rock performance by the Maples Bhangra group.
As always, the food corner was a crowd puller, with the mouth-watering ‘dosa’, served by the Telugu Hindu Society, stealing the show. Vikas, a student from India stood in the serpentine queue for a good 45 minutes, and thinks it was worth the wait.
“The dosa at the Mela tastes just like one back home,” said Vikas. “Simply the best you can get in Winnipeg.”
And it wasn’t only Indians relishing the goodies. “The crunchy wafers, blended yogurt and sprinkled spices make a terrific combination” said Caroline, a university student. She was floored by the tangy dahi chat, a north Indian street delicacy.
The Mela proved Winnipeg is catching on to Indian vibes, and in a big way. The second generation immigrants have taken up the mantle to keep cultural traditions alive. But will Aaman look forward to another Diwali in Winnipeg? His only answer was a shy and silent smile.
More photos from the event can be found at http://www.soniimages.com/diwali2012