Today (Oct. 19) is Laxmi Puja, the third day of the Tihar, also known as Diwali. Instead of finding a way to celebrate in a land thousands and thousands of miles away from my hometown, I sit on my desk with tears pooling in my eyes, slowly dripping down my cheeks with an array of books, notebooks, pens, pieces of paper, and long lists of assignments, papers, and exams that I need to complete and prepare for before dawn breaks in less than 5 hours. I sit, close my eyes, and recall all the different ways I used to mark this auspicious day. But here I am, attempting to power through the grueling week that is mid-semester.
Why am I crying you may ask? Homesickness? No. It is the fact that our school loves to claim to strive to be diverse and celebrate all the different cultures that have come together at Concordia and yet, fails to do what really matters—inclusion. How could I possibly be in an institution that claims its mission as to create “thoughtful and informed men and women” when I can be certain that most of the population on campus had no idea that a major Hindu festival was taking place? Are all the flags that have so proudly been hung up in Knutson merely decorations to parade around or do they truly signify that the different people from different backgrounds actually matter to Concordia?
You may think that I am hurt because I did not get the day off. Granted, a day off would have been a great opportunity for me to be able to celebrate with other fellow Hindus in the Fargo-Moorhead community, but what I truly wish for is to be recognized. I would like people to know that other festivals in different communities exist and they are celebrated differently. No, I do not celebrate Easter, but did I know it existed 6 years ago? Yes.
As a secular country, one of the first things Nepal did was enforce public holidays during the festivals of other religious and indigenous communities. It is optional for the private sector to grant a day off. Nevertheless, all these auspicious days are marked on all calendars, including those that are entirely in Nepali.
I do not expect nor even want days off during Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim festivals. What I need is to be acknowledged and accepted and not made to feel alone. Education is important, but sometimes, awareness comes first.