In Tamil we call Chrysanthemums Sevanthi.
Every year, Amma buys the whole bucket from the florist. She’ll snip away at the bucket over the course of the week.
For prayer, the vase in the living room,
and most importantly, for the uruli*.
You fill the uruli with water leaving only an inch at the top. Then you snip the flowers bare at their stems and gently float them on the water.
You repeat this until you have the yellow lake.
Deepavali is seen as the path in overcoming “darkness”.
The telling goes beyond the myths and is reminiscent of the belief that light ultimately triumphs over darkness;
and hence, the festivities are nothing short of light. The music? Only the classics. Ilaiyaraja on repeat. The colours? The yards of shimmering silks Amma wears, the crimson of a fresh Marudhani stain adorning my hands, and the vibrant hues in the Kolam my cousin drew the day before. Let’s not get started on the flavors. Being both Tamil and Southeast Asian, a lot of our identity is built around food.
Speaking of identity, there’s a collective understanding among the Dravidian diaspora here that you must leave when you can.
You are likened to an Aalamaram** and you must uproot yourself of your grand entirety and make the earth your home on lands unbelonging to yours.
Maybe you’ll grow better there; roots deeper and branches stronger.
You will be bathed in reverence and it will finally be safe to love.
But most importantly, you might not die before your written end.
I take these few days in with both wonder and worry.
The Festival of Lights, but not all light was lit in celebration.
Many in loss and grief.
Light, in its own absence, if you will.
If the past two years have taught me anything, it’s urgency. How I must unfurl my roots as I prepare to lay them elsewhere. A heart-rendering event of monumental change.
How much will change, I can’t tell.
Because you see, no matter where the Aalamaram is, its roots will always touch the ground.
From the skies to the earth.
Like my ancestors before me, leaving their bedrocks;
I will find my place there, here, and wherever.
I will tear at the crossroads and stitch myself back together
because in the end,
Sevanthi Lake is always there. And with it;