COVID-19 has changed the way the world celebrates special days and festivals by restricting travel as well as spontaneous social gatherings. But where there is a will, there is usually a way. And that is exactly what Zee Theatre's artists believes as they prepare to celebrate Diwali amid the new normal.
Shweta Basu Prasad, the lead of Zee Theatre's teleplay Gudiya Ki Shaadi has nostalgic memories of making rangoli with her mother during Diwali, decking up the house with flowers, candles, diyas and fairy lights and stuffing sweets in clay bowls that were shaped like animals. She says, "Diwali is a festival of light and positivity and I want to wish everyone a very happy, prosperous and safe celebration but I guess, this year, we will be celebrating at home or over Zoom calls. I don’t think anyone of us will be stepping out and neither should we. We must follow safety protocols and not add to the pollution by bursting crackers, especially during the pandemic." She continues, " We must embrace the challenges we are facing now and emerge stronger as a society. As for me, I believe in sharing sweets and gifts with not just my family and friends but also with people who are in need. I think this year has been particularly hard on so many people that we must do what we can to bring some joy and light in their life by helping out. Find an NGO, help your staff, your watchman. So many people are out of work and don’t have enough money to go to their respective villages. Please help them because spreading some smiles will be more meaningful than spending money on crackers and inessentials. I hope the next year is wonderful for everyone.”
Shilpa Shukla, who stars in Zee Theatre's teleplay, The Big Fat City recalls childhood memories of celebrating Diwali in Ahmedabad when pollution was minimal and community spirit abundant. She wistfully remembers making rangoli with family and finding value in the simplest of things like welcoming guests, sharing goodwill and gifts. She says, "This Diwali, thankfully, I am with my mother and will be lighting a lot of diyas but yes, there will be no tiktok lights or firecrackers. The idea is to connect with the real essence of Diwali and to do the Puja, make offerings of sweets and heartfelt prayers. Of course, we will do some traditional cooking. Lots of video calls too!" She adds, "May you all be well and happy. May this day give us all the courage to drive away the darkness of the times. May we all rejoice in the goodness of life, make a note of climate change and cause less pollution! May we be sensitive to all sentient beings around us, this Diwali and always."
Rajeshwari Sachdev who plays the lead in Zee Theatre's Double Game, says, "We will of course light up diyas and do pooja and make sweets to create happy memories for children at home. I will wake up my son early in the morning, and give him a massage, just like my Nani did with us, and bathe him. Actually, I celebrate Diwali in so many ways. There's a South-Indian side to me and then a North-Indian one, so I take the most exciting parts from both cultures with the hope that the children will have the kind of wonderful memories like we did. I remember for instance my nani's idlis on Diwali morning and also putting henna on my hands. And in the evening, I used to celebrate with Dadi, and do Laxmi pooja at home and taste her special Khichdi. We try to maintain all these traditions but obviously there will be no visits to relatives, especially the elderly ones."
Rajeshwari’s message to her fans is, " I hope all of you have a very happy Diwali. I pray that all your near and dear ones are happy and healthy and that everybody starts their respective jobs soon and people have an abundant Diwali. Let's pray that the next year will make us forget all the worry and sadness of 2020."
Aahana Kumra, who stars in Zee Theatre's Sir Sir Sarla, says, "When you are away from home, you party and last year during a shoot, we partied in a small city hotel. This year, I am at home so will manage the decor and the lighting. There will be a small family dinner but nothing more as we have to be extra careful during the pandemic. I miss the old normal, especially my childhood in Lucknow, decking up in new clothes, lighting up the big, beautiful ‘kothi', enjoying a garden party with the fragrance of food all around. I did not like bursting crackers even then. Diwali pooja, falling asleep in the garden and somebody putting me to bed are some of my fondest memories." She continues, "Diwali this year is going to be a quiet one. Please don't indulge in heavy duty parties because we do not want to head towards a second wave of COVID-19 and a second lockdown. We can't afford it and neither can India. Your safety and that of your family, older people and children is really in your hands. Please don't be irresponsible and celebrate a quiet Diwali with only your family and stay at home. And please do not burst crackers because they harm the environment and the sick and also animals."
Gulki Joshi, the star of Zee theatre's teleplay Purush says "As is the tradition in our family, this year too, I will clean the house, pray, light diyas, dress up in new clothes and enjoy some quality time with loved ones over good food and sweets. Yes, for sure, this time is different from any other and far removed from the fond childhood memories of celebrating Diwali with abandon. I remember, how my mom would prepare and serve delights like Chakli, Chiwda that we would all sit and eat together. This time, we can still celebrate the essence of the festival but without the crackers as they lead to a lot of pollution. I want to wish everybody a very happy and safe Diwali and hope you all will have a great day, spend time with your family because that comes first and take care of your health.