Some Hindus in Trinidad face dark Diwali after recent flooding

Asha Ali shows her damaged furniture caused by floods on Neeranjan Street, Sangre Grande, last month.

(Trinidad Guardian) Diwali in­volves a host of cus­toms, one of which is the ex­ten­sive clean­ing of homes and sur­round­ings. But this year, with the rav­ages of re­cent floods, many Hin­dus are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to clean.

Some of the peo­ple who lost all of their pos­ses­sions have no mon­ey to cel­e­brate Diwali and many say they have no choice but to scale down their fes­tiv­i­ties.

At Debe Trace, Gan­gadie Gan­gaper­sad said she usu­al­ly lights 20 dozen deyas around her home but this year all she could af­ford was three dozen.

Her daugh­ter Resh­ma Bachan said they al­so plan to light up their porch in the event of rain or floods. “We are al­so cook­ing our own roti this year be­cause last year we had to wade through floods to get the roti we or­dered,” Bachan added.

She said the Oc­to­ber floods had left many ar­eas in ru­ins and some felt Diwali 2018 was turn­ing out to be one of the most de­press­ing Diwalis in re­cent times.

Bas­so Singh, of North Oropouche, said Diwali was not shap­ing up to be a hap­py cel­e­bra­tion for her fam­i­ly and many of her neigh­bours who ex­pe­ri­enced the floods of Oc­to­ber 19-21.

“We have tried to clean up as best as we could. Flood wa­ter could have cov­ered me be­low our house. We had to throw away our fridge, wardrobe, stove and couch,” Singh told Guardian Me­dia.

“We pack up every­thing by the road­side and peo­ple came and took it. Maybe they have bet­ter use of it. We do not have enough mon­ey to buy the things we usu­al­ly buy so I am just mak­ing lit­tle amounts of food for when my chil­dren come to vis­it.”

At Fish­ing Pond Vil­lage in San­gre Grande, Sav­it­ri Phillip said al­though she was not a Hin­du, there could be no cel­e­bra­tion at her home be­cause of her loss­es.

Deokie Mahabir hangs clothes at her home in Harripaul Village, Debe, on Saturday. Also in the picture are her children Arien and Marlin.

At Har­ri­paul Vil­lage, Pic­ton, wid­ow De­ok­ie Ma­habir and her chil­dren al­so pre­dict­ed a dis­mal Diwali.

Ma­habir said her home flood­ed sev­er­al times this year be­cause the rivers and drains sur­round­ing her com­mu­ni­ty were in need of clean­ing.

“To make mat­ters worse, some­one broke in­to my house and stole my jew­ellery and even my gas tank. They took my food card and when I went back to the Min­istry of So­cial Wel­fare they told me I have to wait un­til next year March to get as­sis­tance. I de­pend on the food card to buy gro­ceries so we can­not re­al­ly buy much for Diwali,” Ma­habir said.

Her youngest chil­dren, aged nine and 12, are still at­tend­ing school.

At Gopie Trace, Pe­nal, res­i­dents said there will be no tra­di­tion­al street light up this year. Usu­al­ly, lanterns are strung across both sides of the streets and parsad is dis­trib­uted to mo­torists who vis­it to see the lights.

How­ev­er, Shan­ta Sam­path, of the Ra­has Man­dal Cul­tur­al Group, not­ed that their pun­dit, Ram­lakhan Soor­jan, died this year so they de­cid­ed not to light the streets out of re­spect for him.

To­co/San­gre Grande Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion chair­man Ter­ry Ron­don said in his area many Hin­dus were al­so find­ing it dif­fi­cult to clean up in time for the Diwali fes­tiv­i­ties. He said the cor­po­ra­tion was al­so not cel­e­brat­ing Diwali this year but in­stead us­ing the mon­ey that would have been chan­neled to this ac­tiv­i­ty to or­gan­ise clean-up in all com­mu­ni­ties.

“In San­gre Grande we have a lot of Hin­dus and we sup­port our Hin­du broth­ers and sis­ters,” Ron­don said.

“We are con­cen­trat­ing on clean-up and san­i­tiz­ing. We have stopped giv­ing food, wa­ter and cloth­ing. We are work­ing around the clock to clean up for Diwali. That is the lev­el of re­spect we have for our Hin­du fam­i­ly.”

He ex­plained that the ma­jor ar­eas in need of clean-up were North Oropouche, Ve­ga De Oropouche, Coalmine, Lemond and South San­gre Grande.

On Sat­ur­day, Ron­don said a mo­bile phar­ma­cy head­ed by Dr Vi­jai Bha­ga­loo went through­out the area of­fer­ing as­sis­tance to hun­dreds of peo­ple.

Mean­while, Navin Kalpoo, from Ibis Tours, said he was dis­heart­ened by the amount of de­bris still stacked in many of the flood-strick­en ar­eas.

“The cor­po­ra­tion has their hands full. I am hop­ing that con­trac­tors can come out and help with the clean-ups,” Kalpoo said.

“Many peo­ple have stacked their ru­ined ap­pli­ances out­side their homes. As a Hin­du, I know the im­por­tance of clean­li­ness around Diwali so I am hop­ing that more peo­ple can help.”

He added that ar­eas most in need of clean-up were Kel­ly Vil­lage, Sie­u­nar­ine Trace, Laun­dry Road and Madras Road, St He­le­na.

Kalpoo al­so said his team planned to do­nate at least 30 ham­pers with Diwali gro­ceries to flood-strick­en fam­i­lies.

“When we as­sist­ed fam­i­lies we did not take in­for­ma­tion about their re­li­gion so we have to go back in­to the com­mu­ni­ties and see who is most de­serv­ing,” Kalpoo said.

He al­so said that it was sad that Diwali was on­ly two days away and many res­i­dents were still in a dark hole.

The sig­nif­i­cance of clean­li­ness at Diwali

Hin­dus thor­ough­ly clean their homes, spruce up the paint jobs and fur­ni­ture and wear new clothes for Diwali.

It is a com­mon be­lief that God­dess Lak­sh­mi, the God­dess of wealth and for­tune, vis­its clean homes dur­ing this fes­tive pe­ri­od and be­stows health, wealth and pros­per­i­ty to the fam­i­lies. Diwali al­so marks the last day of the “King Vikram” cal­en­dar, so the day af­ter Diwali is said to be the be­gin­ning of the new year for some Hin­dus, who tra­di­tion­al­ly mark the new year by get­ting rid of dirt and old junk.

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