Understanding Diwali: Three Stories & Two Recipes

Diwali, the festival of lights, is one of the biggest celebrations for Hindus around the world and it’s coming up this weekend. In a world where there is more judgement, intolerance and hate rather than acceptance, co-existence and love, I feel it’s important to understand the culture and celebrations of those around us. There is no expectation to embrace the beliefs of others but merely to get informed, find out more and be amazed by the diversity of the world we live in. So read on to learn about Diwali through three stories and two recipes to go with them.

(Photo credit: http://www.mapleandmarigold.com/celebrating-diwali-mydiwalistory/)

I’m always very excited to talk about the celebration and spirit of the Muslim festival of Eid (here and here on the blog). As Diwali comes up this weekend, I’m trying to find out more about this festival celebrated by so many in Canada, India and around the world (Read this post by The Almost Indian Wife for a quick introduction to Diwali).

Both sets of my grandparents moved to Pakistan from India, after the partition in 1947. My parents were born in Pakistan as was I, before I moved to Canada in 2008. My Nani (maternal grandmother) is my only surviving grandparent, so I decided to give her a call in Pakistan and relive her Diwali memories from her childhood in India. Her family was the only Muslim one in a Hindu majority neighborhood in Rajhgar. She remembered the days of Diwali as full of lights, festivities and amazing food. She had many Hindu friends and she loved the Diwali treats they shared with her family.

(Photo credit: http://www.mapleandmarigold.com/celebrating-diwali-mydiwalistory/)

My friend Shema, now lives in Calgary and was born and raised in Indore, India. She remembers Diwali as a time of shopping, lavish dinners and fireworks. As a Muslim family living in India, they were invited to Diwali events by their neighbors and friends. She fondly remembers the special laddoos, barfis and moong daal halwa as her favorite treats. They would decorate their house with lights on Eid and Shabebarat, while their Hindu friends did it on Diwali. The most lasting message she remembers from Diwali is that light will find its way even after a dark stormy night.

Diwali in Indore

Soumya Shetty was born in India and moved to Canada seven years ago. To her Diwali means India, home, family and celebrations. Her father was a religious Hindu and she remembers the many stories he told her to explain the meaning behind the festivals. As a child she would wait earnestly for Diwali. It was a time to buy new clothes and receive gifts from elders. It wasn’t just about the fireworks and lights but about meeting family and friends. Now she really misses India at Diwali. She tries to arrange a small gathering for friends every year as she doesn’t have family in Calgary. She wants the tradition to carry on in her family.

I found it interesting to talk to these three ladies and hear their recollection of Diwali from their unique perspectives. What stood out for me from the festival were the gatherings of family and friends to rejoice, celebrate and make memories.

Any southasian festival is not complete without a wide array of food. Talking about Diwali and the lavish menus made me crave some Chana Masala. Thanks to Shan Chana Masala Mix I was able to fix this craving super quick with an easy recipe.

(Disclaimer: I’m a brand ambassador for Shan Food)


Chana Masala Recipe


Chickpeas: 1 cup, Shan Chana Masala Mix: 2 tablespoon, One small onion: chopped, Oil: 2 Tablespoon, fresh coriander: to garnish, lemon juice: to add on top

How To:

  1. I used the precooked canned chickpeas. So I added them to a pot with half a cup of boiling water and Shan Chana Masala mix. Cooked it till the water dried and the Masala had mixed well.
  2. If you use uncooked chickpeas, soak them for 2-3 hours (after cleaning). Drain the water and add them to a pot with 8 cups of water and boil on low heat for 2-3 hours. Then add Shan Chana Masala Mix and cook on low heat for around 45 minutes or till chanas turn a darker color.
  3. Heat oil in a pan and add the onions. Let them turn brown and now add the chickpeas.
  4. Fry till the oil separates.
  5. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander and squeeze some lemon juice on top.

Enjoy Chana Masala with some fresh naan or parathas!

If you’re in the mood for a non-vegetarian dish, here is a great video with the recipe for Shan Bombay Biryani Mix:

Hope you enjoyed this post and learning about Diwali and some special recipes to go with it!