By: Ravi Philemon
A Channel NewsAsia’s Deepavali special got my attention today for two reasons. One the news presenter said: “Deepavali also known as Diwali”, and secondly because the presenter also referred to Deepavali as a “Hindu New Year”.
(You can view the entire segment here: http://bit.ly/2e3oc2T)
Just like a friend who commented on my Facebook post on the topic, I too have an issue with our national broadcaster needing to translate Deepavali (as it is said in Tamil) into Diwali.
My friend said: “Tamil is one of our National Languages. I would rather they stick to Deepavali. I am not Tamil myself but grew up with it. I know many don’t see it the way we do and that is their right, But i would like the media to stick with Deepavali.”
I think my friend is absolutely right when she added: “I don’t think the sudden use of Diwali has anything to do with the considerations of the Singapore bred North Indians…It has to do with the new citizens from North India who have come here.”
Responding to my post, another friend asked if it was offensive to say ‘seng jia jiu yi’ instead of ‘xing nian kwai le’ (Happy Chinese New Year). I think it is different.
Yet another friend chimed in and said that CNA did mention ‘Deepavali’ as well as ‘Diwali’ and so it is ok. He said that if an organisation totally replaces ‘Deepavali’ with ‘Diwali’ it would be wrong and that Jurong Point Shopping Centre has done precisely that.
Considering that Jurong has Tharman Shanmugaratnam as its anchor-Minister for the constituency, I am surprised that Jurong Point Shopping Centre has done that.
Some in the Singaporean Tamil community have felt unhappy and sidelined by the non-inclusion of Tamil in certain prominent spaces (like the Changi Airport), which has also made international news. CNA’s production has got to be called out at least for that – because if we keep quiet then it may be accepted as a norm.
My friend Gangasudhan writing on the same topic last year said that he felt like a second class citizen in his own country.
“In recent days, many in the Tamil community have had their panties in a bunch because some shopping centres and even Changi Airport have started putting up Christmas decor even though Deepavali is right around the corner – in other words, not a single F was given for this festive occasion. While there is good reason to feel marginalised by this callous attitude in multiracial Singapore that champions racial harmony – complete with a special day each year to wear ‘costumes’ and ‘celebrate’, I am surprised that anyone is surprised by this.”
The larger issue of course is how uninformed the majority in Singapore is despite 50-years of the Government promoting multi-racialism and multiculturalism. If the national broadcaster can be confused if Deepavali is a Hindu New Year, is it any wonder that local websites like The Smart Local will try and tease a laughter out of its audience by comparing laddoo (a popular Indian sweet) to diarrhoea?
Yes CNA, Even if the Marwari, Gujarati, and Nepali of the Indian community celebrate their new year around Deepavali they are not the majority even in India.
Deepavali is not a Hindu New year.