For some, a glum Deepavali as Covid-19 weighs on celebrations

Yiswaree Palansamy
·5-min read
People shop for the upcoming Deepavali celebration in Brickfields November 12, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara
People shop for the upcoming Deepavali celebration in Brickfields November 12, 2020. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — Deepavali, the festival of lights, will be celebrated with less merriment by some families this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and measures taken to contain it.

The pandemic has severely disrupted the economy and caused financial hardships to many, especially those who have lost their jobs as a result.

The various movement control orders also have made it hard for families living apart to celebrate the festival together.

For young mother T. Priyasagi, 29, this Deepavali was not she hoped it would be but she is trying to make the best of it with her children as her husband K. Sasidharan, 36, worked as an engineer in Singapore and was unable to return home anytime soon.

“For me it's a different experience, as after five years, I am not with my husband for the first time for the celebration. He is always here for all birthdays and family functions. I miss him too much, because if he is here, the celebration would be so much fun. He would allow me to go shopping to my heart's content,” the banker and mother of two told Malay Mail when contacted.

“This year, I did go to shops much. My sister and I went out, bought what we needed and came back home fast. There are not much options this year, as Covid-19 has affected many businesses and traders cannot afford to stock up given the uncertainties. There were poor selections for children here in Johor Baru. But whatever comes, life has to go on,” she said.

T. Priyasagi, 29, said one consolation was the family has had more time to make cakes and cookies this year at home but said it still missed the Deepavali air. ― Picture courtesy of T. Priyasagi
T. Priyasagi, 29, said one consolation was the family has had more time to make cakes and cookies this year at home but said it still missed the Deepavali air. ― Picture courtesy of T. Priyasagi

She said she hoped to see Sasidharan soon. He has not been unable to return since August.

“I posted his Deepavali outfit to Singapore and he will be wearing it on Deepavali during our video call session,” she added.

Priyasagi said one consolation was the family has had more time to make cakes and cookies this year at home but said it still missed the Deepavali air.

Smaller celebrations at temples

Malaysia Hindu Sangam (MHS) president Datuk RS Mohan Shan told Malay Mail crowds will be smaller at temples due to the conditional movement control order (CMCO).

He said temple management committees have accepted it and acknowledged the need to contain Covid-19.

“It is definitely going to be a quieter affair. Temples have also accepted this. The government already listed what can and cannot be done. We just have to accept it. That is the better way,” Mohan told Malay Mail when contacted.

He also called on families to hold prayer sessions at home, adding that it would also serve to strengthen their bonds.

“Deepavali might be a little different than what we have been experiencing, but what matters is that we are well and are able to celebrate it still, while knowing our loved ones are safe even if they cannot be with us,” he added.

Last week, Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that Malaysians residing in the CMCO areas will not be permitted to cross state and district borders during the Deepavali celebration on November 14.

For Hindu temples situated in CMCO areas, devotees are permitted to attend the prayers but only on the first day of Deepavali.

He said that devotees' attendance is to be recorded via the MySejahtera or an attendance book, while those with chronic illnesses, the elderly, and children under the age of 12 are not encouraged to attend.

No more than 30 people will be allowed into the temple at any one time, depending on its size and the ability to ensure adequate social distancing. Prayers must also be conducted from 7am until 12pm, divided into five sessions with 30 minutes per session, which will be accompanied by sanitation operations at 30 minutes each before the other session begins.

Ismail said that the prasādam (food offerings for devotees after prayers) must be distributed in packaging to those in attendance, and they must leave immediately once prayers have concluded.

Mechanical engineer Karthik Ram Lakshmanan was forced to take a 15 per cent pay cut, which led him to start baking and making Deepavali sweetmeats and murukku to supplement his income. ― Picture courtesy of Karthik Ram Lakshmanan
Mechanical engineer Karthik Ram Lakshmanan was forced to take a 15 per cent pay cut, which led him to start baking and making Deepavali sweetmeats and murukku to supplement his income. ― Picture courtesy of Karthik Ram Lakshmanan

Pay cuts force smaller festivities

Mechanical engineer Karthik Ram Lakshmanan, 31, was among the many who were financially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic that has disrupted businesses.

He was forced to take a 15 per cent pay cut, which led him to start baking and making Deepavali sweetmeats and murukku to supplement his income.

The part-time wedding photographer was also forced to bear losses, after some of his clients requested for a refund, after making changes to their wedding arrangements to follow government guidelines.

Karthik, who cares for his mother and grandmother, began his sweetmeat-making business just last week.

He used recipes from his grandmother and mother and made the delicacies after work, sometimes with their help.

“My wedding photography business was badly affected. Some postponed to next year, some cancelled because they simply could not stand the uncertainties caused by the pandemic and changed their wedding arrangements, keeping it small.

“Many had also asked for refunds of their payments and I was forced to pay them back. I did negotiate for a postponement and some did take the offer after we had discussions.

“This year has just been challenging from the start till the end. I fervently pray and hope that the Covid-19 pandemic would just pass by quickly and events are needed for people like me to survive,” he said.

Despite the gloom, Karthik said that his sweetmeat business has brought some cheer through orders from customers.

“I hope this time next year, we will all be able to laugh heartily and not have to worry too much. This too shall pass. That is what I am truly hoping for. As for Deepavali this year, I am just glad I get to still celebrate it, and it is of course a very, very low scale affair, compared to how things were before,” Karthik added.

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