Festival of Lights: Let’s talk Diwali

Virgin Media

Empower Network

November 16, 2020

At Virgin Media we take pride in sharing insights into different cultures, through talking about our different experiences and educating each other, and ourselves, on what is important to our people and peers.

Last week, many of our employees celebrated Diwali, and our Empower network (which represents our people from underrepresented ethnic groups) held a variety of fun yet educational sessions internally – from a live cookalong, sharing some spectacular South Asian dishes, to our very own ‘Strictly come Diwali’ bhangra-based dance session. The aim was to celebrate this religious festival in true Virgin Media style, educating the wider business along the way.

If you didn’t know, Diwali is the five-day Festival of Lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Newar Buddhists across the globe. We wanted to find out a bit more about Diwali, so we caught up with Sharan Dosanjh, from our People Team, to learn more about the Festival of Lights…

What does Diwali mean to you and your family?

Diwali is a very special day in our house with the children getting all dressed up and going to the temple to celebrate. They love all the lovely food we cook to lighting up the house together with all the lovely Diva’s and candles. We usually have a very big firework display at the temple, which we love to go watch. They get some lovely gifts and love all the Indian sweets we eat (Jalebi) is their favourite. It is the Festival of Light and literally illuminates our homes with its brilliance, brightness and dazzles us all with joy.

Sounds just wonderful, what kinds of activities do you take part in around this time?

What we usually do during Diwali, when we are not in lockdown, is get together as a family and there is fireworks; we attend light displays and decorate our homes with lights too. The kids also love making rangoli patterns out of coloured sand, rice and even flowers. It’s just such a fun few days with the family that connects us together.

What kinds of food do you typically make or eat during Diwali?

Oh where do I start? For me personally, Diwali is just about eating haha! We eat so many different types of food. My mum traditionally starts preparing weeks before, so we have everything from Samosa’s to Bhajis…. Followed by Biryani and lots of other curries. Another big part of Diwali is eating/enjoying lots of different Indian sweets, which are gifted to us by friends and family.

For those who are unaware of what Diwali is, how would you summarise what Diwali is all about?

Diwali is celebrated by a variety of different communities and religions, such as Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Newar Buddhists. But for Sikhs, Diwali is particularly important because it celebrates the release from prison of the sixth guru, Guru Hargobind.

What did you do differently this year, to stay connected during Diwali – whilst in lockdown?

Diwali was very different for us this year, as we were all stuck at home. It is very similar to celebrating Christmas for me, as all my family would get together to celebrate. However, this year we had a small and intimate celebration in our homes and we all got dressed up to do a massive Zoom video call, so we could share our outfits, foods, fireworks and gifts but in a virtual way rather than in person.

I also posted special gifts to my nieces and nephews and we all opened them together, alongside doing a “family” rangoli competition, which the kids took part in to see who created the best pattern. We didn’t want to let these unprecedented times affect our celebrations, so we may not have been with one another in the same house but we can all have a Zoom session to bhangra dance and celebrate.

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