Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Diwali Less Sweet in a Hard Year

A good pair of item from National Public Radio this morning reports on how recent bombings cast a pall over India's Diwali celebrations, with a terrific follow-up commentary bringing it home by New America Media editor and occasional featured contributor on Asian American Village, Sandip Roy.

In his audio commentary, Diwali Better Minus The Fireworks, Roy recalls celebrations of years past, both in India and in San Francisco, and how the fear of violence had cast a shadow them at times.

Adding to the gloom of this year's celebrations, a commentary on Reuters reports, is the shaky economic condition of the stock market.

"Diwali, the festival of lights, is here but do we see a pall of gloom with the
BSE Sensex crashing more than 50 percent since January 2008? Things have
come to such a pass that some people have simply stopped looking at their
portfolios. They think it’s too late now to cut losses."

Meanwhile, reports Gavin Rabinowitz of the Associated Press, it's another sign of the times that mithai -- the sticky sweet treats that are a traditional highlight of the festival of lights -- are also losing their allure.

In his article posted in the Asian American Village AP News Headlines section, Rabinowitz examines a heightened waist consciousness in an India whose "economy [is] booming, and its people's waistlines expanding."

"[Mithai] have long been central to this Hindu festival of lights -- sweet,
fudgy goodies rich with cardamon, pistachio and saffron, often coated with an
ethereal foil of pure silver. They are eagerly eaten, given as gifts, offered to
the gods. [But] increasingly, the nation's growing urban middle class wants
holiday presents that better reflect newfound wealth. And an explosion of
obesity and related health conditions has many Indians -- some 35 million of
whom are diabetic -- thinking twice about treats."

It's hard not salivate, though, over the accompanying sidebar recipe for Pista Badam Mithai (Pistachio Almond Sweets). The recipe, adapted from Tarla Dalal's Mithai, features a relatively modest dosage of honey, and promises a preparation time of 15 minutes start to finish.

A little sweetness may be just the thing to momentarily lift the spirits after what's been an anxious year everywhere.