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Outsourcing Tradition: My New, Globalized Diwali

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Outsourcing Tradition: My New, Globalized Diwali

Opinion

Outsourcing Tradition: My New, Globalized Diwali

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

It's Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. For years when he was living in California, Commentator Sandip Roy missed the Indian holidays. Now he's back home in Kolkata, but the holidays are not quite what he remembered.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMS)

SANDIP ROY, BYLINE: Nothing says festival more than the sounds of drums, except it was two weeks early, and the drummers were outside a cell phone store. Once that sound meant the mother goddess was coming home to earth. Now it's selling mobile recharge options.

SANDIP ROY, BYLINE: In the new India, the holidays from Durga Puja to Diwali seem to be all about selling, selling, selling. Special Diwali offers on flat screen TVs. The sweet shops are groaning under the weight of giant gift trays of sweets and cashews and almonds. At my gym, they are already advertising post holiday weight loss specials.

Super star Shah Rukh Khan showed up at our local mall to sell his big Diwali blockbuster release: Ra-One. My nephew and I went to see him and almost got crushed by thousands of delirious fans. TV and radio are blasting the big hit song from the film. Who's the singer, I ask my nephew? Oh Akon he tells me. That's the American rapper Akon - singing in Hindi.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC AND SINGING IN HINDI)

BYLINE: Help, my Diwali has been outsourced. Things are just not the same, everyone complains. All the sweets are store bought. Government regulations mean even the fireworks are less noisy. But then I see the man selling clay lamps at a makeshift stall. Rows and rows of the same little lamps I've seen all my life.

ROY: Diwali is about coming home. Lord Ram came back from 14 years of exile on this day. And all the good citizens lit little clay lamps to welcome him home. Somewhere in the middle of all these sales that's the flickering spirit of the festival I knew. I've been away even longer than Lord Ram. So I'm hoping one of those lamps out there on the night of Diwali is for me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC AND SINGING IN HINDI)

ARI SHAPRIO, HOST:

Commentator Sandip Roy is culture editor of firstpost.com in India.

ARI SAHPIRO, HOST:

It's NPR News.

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