The unmistakable sounds of South Asia flood over Main Street in the Village of Sandalwood Park as it’s transformed into Diwali Mela, a festival to honour one of the world’s most celebrated Hindu traditions.
Some of the many residents who line the street have a cultural connection to Diwali tradition, while most do not, yet that makes no difference as the music plays and the deep fragrance of samosas and Indian sweets mingle in the air. This is a celebration of a diverse community, and all are welcome. The event on this Wednesday morning is prepared through a budding partnership between The Village and Nutritionwize, a small team of registered dietitians who promote health and well being through nutritional education and the promotion of physical activity.
The celebration this day, say organizers with Nutritionwize, is a new idea – a means of appealing to some of the people who live in long-term care whose rich history and culture isn’t always represented. “Well being is not just eating,” says Nutritionwize co-founder Manmeet Behl. “It’s happiness from within you, so that’s what we want to bring. It’s just to make them happy, and once they’re happy their health will definitely improve.”
Adaora Oguine, who danced alongside Manmeet as a fellow Nutritionwize founder, says the music and the atmosphere they offer has a way of connecting people to the past. She explains that in another long-term care home a week before where they offered a similar Diwali celebration, a gentleman living with dementia could barely speak before the music began. Once it started however, he recognized a song and sang along for more than five minutes.
“He remembered all the words to that music and it was amazing,” Adaora says.
To see different cultures come together in a shared celebration is one of the greatest benefits to all involved, for honouring cultural diversity is a big priority for the team at Sandalwood Park.
Harmit Bajaj’s mother Santokh moved into Sandalwood Park in June and for the most part, she’s adjusted quite well to the move. In the past few weeks, however, she hasn’t been entirely herself, Harmit says, but when she heard the familiar music along Main Street, her face lit up and her hands clapped along in time.
“It’s absolutely fabulous to bring people together to celebrate their own traditions and their own events,” Harmit says. “People like me, we also learn and people like my mom, who is not in a learning mode so much; she enjoys the gathering.”
“Music,” he adds, “would make anybody come alive.” As the faces light up with smiles and people come out of their chairs to move the songs of south Asia, Harmit’s point is perfectly clear.
Life is vibrant in the celebration of light.