Ottawa’s annual Diwali Mela was held at Algonquin on Nov. 7 for the second year in a row and brought out all members of the community, including three local members of Parliament.
“This was fabulous,” said Karen McCrimmon, Kanata-Carleton MP of the Indian Holiday. “The energy, the excitement, the athleticism.”
McCrimmon sat in the front row of the Algonquin Commons Theatre with Nepean MP Chandra Arya and West-Nepean MP Anita Vandenbeld to watch the many acts performed by local singers and dancers.
“What I’m actually very pleased about is that this celebration, even though it draws people from all over the city, is here in my constituency, here at Algonquin College,” said Vandenbeld, who has celebrated Diwali for many years, even once in Bagladesh.
Arya has been coming to this event since his family moved from India to Ottawa 12 years ago, and he said the quality goes up every year.
Ottawa’s Diwali Mela celebration has been organized by the India Canada Association for decades.
“It’s a good show to come watch local talent, you get a good variety of performances,” said Vedprakash Maharajh, a member of Jannat Performing Arts, a local entertainment company that performed a dance number in the show.
The group used a combination of dances they’ve done before to create a Bollywood-style routine for the event.
“I’ve been in Ottawa most of my life,” said Maharajh. “It’s my home town so I always love performing for people. They’re all familiar faces to me.”
But even for those who aren’t from Ottawa, the event brought out a sense of community.
“This is our first Diwali that we’re not celebrating in our country with our family, but it feels like family here,” said Kripa Agarwal, a first-year human resources student who moved from India four months ago.
Agarwal’s friend Alisha Bhandari, another human resources student who is new to Canada, said the only thing the event was missing was the fireworks.
Diwali is celebrated by going to places of worship, spending time with family and lighting candles called diyas. Fireworks are also traditionally set off on Diwali, which is partly where it gets the nickname the “Festival of Lights.”
The actual date of Diwali this year is Nov. 11, the same as Remembrance Day, and will be a very eventful day for Indo-Canadians.
“One of the things that makes us such a rich country is because we can celebrate each other’s joy, we can celebrate each other’s cultures, and each other’s celebrations,” said Vandenbeld.