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Revelations: Happy Diwali

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Nov. 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.

Jennifer Preyss

When I returned from India in February, I never thought I'd meet so many wonderful Indians stateside.

My love for India - its people and culture - have remained with me all these months later.

With each month that passes, my desire to return grows stronger.

So, I was delighted to receive a rare and exciting invitation to attend Victoria's Indian Diwali festival, one of the biggest Hindu celebrations of the year.

The five-day Diwali event, which comes from the Sanskrit word Deepavali, meaning "row of lights," is celebrated worldwide by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs.

It's an observance with a spiritual meaning that loosely means to celebrate one's inner light.

But I knew nothing of the Victoria celebration until I visited my friend, Veena Patel, at her store Sammy's In N Out, a few weeks ago.

Veena was a reader of my "Land of the Gods" blogs, which chronicled my India travels.

A few months after my return to Texas, she called me at the Advocate and invited me to visit her store.

I finally had time a few weeks ago to swing by, and I'm so glad I did.

I felt at home with her. And I missed my Indian friends in Kerala.

Veena asked me what my plans were for the following Friday and invited me to participate in the Diwali festivities.

The next morning, I returned to her store and Veena greeted me with an oversized box of the most beautiful, beaded, Indian chunnis.

It was as if someone placed a box of Indian princess ball gowns in my hand and said, "They're yours, pick one."

I chose one of Veena's long, red, heavily beaded chunnis with a matching scarf, which I paired with a gold sari blouse, crystal and emerald forehead chutti and matching chandelier earrings.

I also wore bright red lipstick and heavy eyeliner.

I felt like an Indian Cinderella - off to the ball.

More than 300 Indians from all over South Texas met at the Victoria Educational Gardens Pavilion near the airport for an all-night celebration of dancing, vegetarian Indian food and cocktails.

Many drove in from Houston and other cities, including the live band.

After a few sips on a cranberry cocktail, I was invited to join the women on the dance floor, where I did my best to learn the steps quickly.

While swaying to the drums and twirling my chunni on the down beat, I couldn't help but feel blessed to attend such an event.

Dancing to foreign music, with foreign instruments blaring in the background - the only Caucasian face amid hundreds of darker Indian ones - I felt beautifully small.

I was reminded in that moment how little I must know of the world and how many more exciting moments like that await me.

Happy Diwali, dear friends.

Your inner light is shining ever so bright.

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or jlpreyss@vicad.com or @jenniferpreyss on Twitter.

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