KUALA LUMPUR: Indian Hindus who have just set foot in Malaysia for the first time, expressed their excitement as they gear up for Deepavali celebrations.
Two housewives, hailing from the picturesque town of Kumbakonam, India, wholeheartedly embraced the joy of preparing for Deepavali in foreign land and shared their customary rituals and routines for the festival.
Selvakumari, 40, and her friend Indumathi, 39, had just moved here five months ago, to accompany their husbands for work.
Selvakumari, who has dedicated the past month to preparing for the festival of lights, firmly believes that the essence of Deepavali lies in the removal and reduction of evil, while promoting and amplifying acts of goodness and virtue.
"We start our first preparation with preparing sweets like Adhirasam (a type of Indian sweet), specifically those who are fasting. It is compulsory so I will do that too, I will make 21 Adhirasams.
"I'll make the Adhirasam and keep it below the altar to bless the sweets. Later, we will tie the fasting thread and eat them as prasada (food and water offerings for a deity during worship).
"However, the prasada is only for household members only, we won't give it to the guests. After we finish praying, we will begin cooking preparations for our guests.
"We will start the ritual by waking up every single person in our house, early in the morning around 5.30am.
"Then, I will lighten up the crackers to celebrate the festival but I usually do this in my hometown. Now that I'm here in Malaysia, I'm not really allowed to do it in the morning," she said.
Indumathi, Selvakumari's best friend, has a distinctive ritual routine during the festival. She and her family would apply sesame oil to their hair and scalp before taking a bath.
Following this, they would light firecrackers early in the morning- a common practice in India. Only after this, would they take a shower.
She also mentioned that non-vegetarians would prepare mutton curry, while vegetarian folks would make idli, a popular South Indian savoury rice cake typically enjoyed as a breakfast meal.
Indumathi added that they would distribute the food to their neighbours as well.
"However in Malaysia, it's a big celebration especially in Little India as it is filled with songs, firecrackers blasting up until 2am.
"In India, however, there are certain restrictions unlike here in Malaysia where they celebrate even bigger than India.
"Even though I miss my family back there, I am still excited to celebrate Deepavali in Malaysia. I wish everyone Happy Deepavali and be happy with loved ones," she said.
Another foreigner from Koyambedu, India who now works as an Indian jewellery seller at a stall in Little India also expressed her excitement for this year's celebration in Malaysia.
Shuba who is in her thirties said the sales this year were a bit low at first but it has been increasing for the past four days.
The stall usually opens at 9am but she usually comes later. Shuba really prioritises her customer's satisfaction, thus whenever they come and buy in large amounts, she would definitely give them discounts for the items.
"I'm new to Malaysia and I'm learning a lot in this country. There are numerous differences especially in timings, so I cannot sleep properly sometimes.
"In India the working hours are nine hours only but here in Malaysia I have to work for 12 hours. Regardless, I will take it as a good experience.
"I am excited to celebrate (Deepavali) in Malaysia and to see how Malaysian people celebrate. At the same time I do miss my mother. I miss you mummy," said Shuba.