When Expatriates Magazine received an invitation to attend the Diwali festivities with Infosys there was great excitement for several reasons: Firstly, Infosys is home to two regular Expatriates Magazine contributors. Secondly, it was one of the first corporations to begin distributing the publication back in 2013. Thirdly, we had never attended a Diwali celebration, and finally, if anyone could show us how to celebrate it had to be one of India’s largest service providers!
With Infosys transferring up to 250 expatriates from India to France at any time, their works council has great resources for putting an event together. Leading the event organization were Sanjog Jolly (Senior Sales Manager, originally from Goa) and Sumit Roy (Technical Consultant originally from Kolkata), in the build-up to the event, Roy enthusiastically told us “This is going to be a great event; you must see how we celebrate Diwali. We will eat, drink, be entertained and dance”.
Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is India’s most important holiday and is celebrated by all of its religious and ethnic communities during the latter part of October. The festival, which lasts five days, symbolizes the victory of righteousness and the triumph of spirituality over the powers of darkness. This involves the illumination of homes with electric lights and candles, new outfits and the sounds of laughter, music and firecrackers which reverberate throughout this joyous holiday.
The celebration was held in the cafeteria of the Paris office in “Tour Opus”, at “La Défense”. Invitations had been sent out companywide and employees and friends came from all over the country.
As it was a mid-week celebration, the organisers may have been worried that the festivities wouldn’t live up to expectations, after all, a hard working day preceded for most, but spirits were high and undeterred! Like many of the guests, Subarna Ganguly (Senior Hr Associate) came straight from work that evening, though no one would have known. She looked ravishing in her outfit which she described as “make-shift”.
Infosys staff put aside their daytime roles to enjoy the occasion together. As we approached the bar to enjoy a glass of champagne, Programme Delivery Manager, Gerald Ashokan was joking “All the champagne must go tonight!”
The evening began with the symbolic lighting of a candle in a clay pot; followed by a traditional concert conducted by an Indian duo performing fusion music on a Sitar and a percussion instrument known as a Tabla. A fabulous buffet of Indian delicacies including kebabs and samosas accompanied with chatnies was served along with Gajar Halwa (sweet carrot cake) for dessert and a glass of mango lassi. The evening concluded with a laser light show during which revelers, many in traditional saris, danced the night away, including Pankaj Singh and his wife (USA), who attracted a lot of attention with their creative and inspiring dance moves.
Throughout the evening, everyone enjoyed introducing us to the true meaning of Diwali and sharing their stories with us. Veerajith Mahabalappa, Senior Associate, wearing a traditional dhoti and kurta, told us how he had recently returned from his wedding in Bangalore, a 7-day celebration attended by 1000 guests! “It’s quite normal for weddings to be big in India.” he assured us.
Having enjoyed a wonderful evening, the guests departed wishing each other “Happy Diwali”, which translates to wishes for health, happiness and prosperity. As this evening so aptly demonstrated; Paris, the City of Lights, was a very fitting location for this Festival of Lights.