The informant is a 20 year old girl. She is Indian and was raised Hindu. In this interview excerpt, she is talking about Diwali. She mentioned at the beginning that it is hard for her to distinguish sometimes what is Indian vs. Hindu.
Informant: There is this big book called the Ramayana. Basically it tells the story of this god, named Rama. The story of the Ramayana is very long. Like a lot of stories in Hinduism, it revolves around families and their kids and stuff and how the kids always do what the parents ask them to do. Because hinduism focuses around the idea, a couple main ideas, but one of them is that everyone has a duty and you are supposed to do it. So basically in the ramayana there are a lot of stories. There is like 4 brothers and their parents. And their parents are the king and queen. I guess the queen… I am pretty sure… was pretty evil. But basically, Rama was the oldest brother, the queen was like ‘okay, so because I said so, you have to be exiled to a forrest for 14 years.” and rama just did it. He was like “okay, well my mom said i should do this” so he just did it. There might have been another reason, but I am going off of what I learned in sunday school. and you know how much I paid attention in sunday school. So, I am sure if you googled quick synopsis of ramanyan… The general jist is that rama goes to the forest for 14 years, saves the world while he is in the forest and comes back.
Me: Go into as much detail as you can
Informant: Oh f**k, well I don’t really know that or have that for you. But basically while he is away he the forest he also kind of like takes down these demons because there is this bad guy named rabban, r-a-b-b-a-n, something like that. He tries to kidnap, cita, who is rama’s wife. He pretends to be a beggar and all this stuff and cita goes to give him a mango or something and she leaves this magic circle of safety that rama sets out for her. Just to feed this beggar because she is nice and everyone is nice. And he takes her and is like “muahaha now I have her” so rama has to go and save her. And also he goes to the forest with his younger brother, his second oldest brother, named luxxman, he is also a god. It is just like they are all stories of loyalty basically. Anyways Diwali is celebrated because that is when Rama returns back after 14 years of exile. So basically the way you celebrate Diwali is like you put a bunch of lights out because that is what they did when he came back. Diwali is the festival of lights. SO everything you do revolves around candles. We have these candles called diya, which i think is spelled d-i-y-a. And you light a bunch of candles all around your house. You obviously pray and stuff like that. It is almost… I don’t want to say it is like Christmas… The only reason it is related to Christmas because it is all about lights and stuff like that. So that is why you celebrate Diwali, because it is a happy time when rama comes back. Also, all Hindu holidays go by the lunar calendar, so it is not like christmas which is always on the 25th, it is more like okay, when the indian people who run the world say when the holiday is judging by the moon, that is when we all get the memo that diwali will ahppen. usually it falls around november/december.
Me: Wait, how exactly do you figure out when it is?
Informant: Whoever figures out the lunar calendar tells us. It all goes by the moon. Maybe it is a full moon thing, I don’t even know, but everyone gets the memo
Me: Do your parents tell you, ‘oh wait today is Diwali?’
Informant: You can google it, easily. You can say, Diwali 2015, when it it? everyone knows. You don’t have to go outside with a moon-scope thing and figure out. that’s not our thing, there is someone who does it.
My analysis: The informant makes some insightful comments throughout her telling of the story. Much of how I would analyze the festival, she already does. Growing up with the informant as my best friend, I have always been aware of the differences between Indian and American cultures. The informant always shows respect towards her elders. She has never truly taken all the gods and stories seriously, but rather takes them for what they truly are, which is means by which we are taught life lessons.