The author, Tanmay Mokashi, appears in the center rear of this photograph with his friends.

Student Experiences: A heart-warming Diwali celebration with friends remedies international student's homesickness

By Tanmay Mokashi

Prior to arriving in America to pursue a master’s degree at Rutgers Business School, I was worried that I might lose touch with my culture and be unable to enjoy the festivals I celebrated in India. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was quite certain that I would have a massive case of homesickness when I eventually saw the photos and videos of the revelries and celebrations from back home.

A recurring theme in my experience as a student in America is that a community of people come together and make their own traditions and celebrate in their own special ways.

This year, I suffered from a severe case of the flu (Make sure to get your flu shots early in October!) and I was unable to participate in any festivities at the risk of infecting any of my friends. After fluttering through Instagram and scrolling through multitudes of pictures of people celebrating Diwali back home, it got me thinking about my first Diwali away from home and my loved ones.

When I got the midterm exam schedule in Fall 2022, I was already breathing a sigh of disappointment, Diwali 2022 came in a week littered with assignment due dates and midterm exams. I had resigned myself to the fact that I probably won’t be able to celebrate a festival that was extremely near and dear to my heart.

My parents were visiting my sister in California and were able to put up decorations, make a rangoli ( a decoration intended to welcome the goddess of wealth and luck into the household) and enjoy the delicacies prepared especially for Diwali.

In Harrison, some 2,900 miles away from the West Coast, my group of friends from the Rutgers Master of Quantitative Finance Program was celebrating Diwali in our own fashion. After a tiring day of classes, we organized an aarti at the apartment of my friend, where they hosted a few upperclassmen from our program as well as friends from different schools. My friend did a tremendous job of organizing the aarti and set up a beautiful mini temple. All of us were dressed up in our best Diwali garb and enjoyed the aarti with some overseas instructions from my friend’s mother via FaceTime.

During all my Diwali aartis in India, I was surrounded by my family. This was the very first time I was without them albeit this was also a family of sorts – people from different parts of India coming together as a form of communion and giving birth to a kinship of sorts.

All of us present enjoyed some Diwali delicacies that our parents had sent from India so that we could have a taste of home while we were away from home. After all of us had more than our fair share of delicacies, we headed over to my apartment to have a Diwali party where we had some more delicious Indian food!.

Although the flu prevented me from venturing out this year, I was able to live vicariously through the celebrations my parents had in India and looking back, I was glad that I was able to participate in Diwali festivities last year, and I intend to be healthy enough to celebrate Diwali next year in full garb and with many calorie-filled Diwali sweets!


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