In a Flash: New Beginnings

Cara Tran, Staff Writer

On any given school day, Aadya Nayak (11) can be seen wearing the classic attire of a high school student—sweatshirt, jeans and a t-shirt. While she always wants to wear something more personal to her, she typically opts for clothes that are more common. After all, it’s pretty daunting choosing not to blend in with your peers.

However, today, Nayak has chosen to live her life a bit differently. Today, Nayak chose to be a little bit braver and a little bit more confident. Today isn’t just a normal day.

It is Diwali, a traditional Indian holiday that celebrates the triumph of good over evil. For Nayak, Diwali has always been treated as the new year. Every Autumn means cleaning the house, getting new clothes, starting anew. After all, Diwali represents new beginnings.

For Nayak, this rang true now more than ever before.

As a child, it was always disappointing for Nayak to see that none of her peers or teachers knew about Diwali. While all of her non-Indian peers openly celebrated their special holidays, she wasn’t really able to do the same. It was then that the idea of keeping her traditions and culture at home began to take hold. After this, Nayak chose to celebrate behind closed doors with family and close friends instead of at school. The few times she did share her culture and traditions at school were limited to Heritage nights.

For the most part, Nayak had shied away from wearing anything that wasn’t considered “normal.” Outside settings like Heritage Nights in elementary school, she avoided sharing her culture with others. But, since Diwali is all about new beginnings, and after the stifling year of social distancing that COVID-19 brought, why wouldn’t Nayak take every opportunity now to live life to the fullest and do the things she wanted to do?

So today, she dons her traditional Indian attire as she goes to school—something she wouldn’t have ever done before. She put on a fancy lengha that consisted of brightly colored fabrics and intricate embroidery designs. She put on an outfit that not only represented her culture and heritage, but herself. She grew up wearing this style of lengha at home, at parties, and during previous Diwali celebrations. It was just as much a part of her and as it was a piece of clothing. Wearing these clothes was something that Nayak was intimately familiar with and yet this experience was entirely new and different.

As she navigated the school day draped in the red and orange fabrics so reminiscent of home and her culture, she had never felt more seen. She had never felt as recognized or appreciated. As she shared her culture and traditions with anyone who asked, Nayak couldn’t help but smile.

After all, this was something different— something new. This was Diwali.