On a crowded Deepawali or Hari Raya eve in Little India, we can observe a sea of humanity passing by, the excitement palpable in the air and faces gleaming with joy. Festivals in Singapore serve as cornerstones of a multicultural society founded on respect for different beliefs and cultural affiliations.Various communities and sub groups within it have observed festivals as days to mark their togetherness and to celebrate diversity as the cultural fabric of this city state. In that nuance, festivals are registers of memory, emotion and a past that a person tries to cling to as time fizzles away like sand in a glass jar. I remember spending Hari Raya eve with Bangladeshi and Indian friends at Usman, a Pakistani food joint at the intersection of Desker Road and the main Little India fareway over masala chai and pakoras will 3am in the morning chatting away in anticipation of something more than a public holiday.
The Thaipusam procession along Veerasamy Road to Bencoolen with packed devotees and bystanders is a spectacle of culture and faith for the Tamil Hindu Community in Singapore.
Pic: Thaipusam Celebrations 2016 in Little India, Singapore (Photo: Author)
Likewise, the Bengali Hindu Community from India and Bangladesh celebrate Durga Puja in differing ways but the cultural importance of the festival is salient.
Hari Raya or Eid Ul Fitr is celebrated by different communities in their varied traditional flair, with the values faith, community and family as the bedrock after a month of prayer, penance and fasting. As a perennial migrant who has lived overseas in Oman and Singapore for many years, festivals were days i looked forward to engage as spaces of culture and memory along with donning the traditional attire and digging in to good food. Festivals serve larger purposes of social integration in multicultural societies as nodes of interaction between the mainstream and the margins of metropolis.
At the human level, Festivals are about celebration of values and bonding.
This is the true essence of a festival.