BATU CAVES, Oct 11 — While most Malaysian Hindus gear up to celebrate Deepavali with family, lights, fireworks and sweets, Mani Danraj can only wish he could be doing the same with his loved ones in India.
This will be the 22-year old’s third Deepavali in Malaysia on his own.
“Deepavali back home is so much more different than here. We have a different variety of meals that can’t be found here, and our snacks and sweets are freshly made unlike here where people normally buy them from shops,” he said.
“The festival only lasts two days here but back home we usually celebrate between a week and 10 days.”
The food and beverage worker at an eatery here arrived from Anandur village in Karnataka, South India, three years ago.
Danraj studied up to Tenth Standard in India (equivalent to Form Three) before he was compelled to drop out to help his family financially.
“We have financial issues. It was hard to see my parents struggling to make ends meet. I quit school and started working to ease their burden,” he said.
Having worked at tea stalls and restaurants back home, Danraj was happy when he was offered a similar job here.
“I need to earn more. The celebrations can wait. I don’t mind the struggle as long they are in their good health back home,” said Mani, who earns about RM1,200 a month.
As for his plans for Deepavali, Danraj said he would be working on the auspicious day.
“Like every other year, I will start the day by visiting the temple, have my breakfast and head to work,” he said.
“When they are fewer customers, I will make a video call to my family and spend some time talking to them.”
Likewise, Danraj’s fellow workmate, Natarasal Santhiran, 28, has yet to celebrate Deepavali with his wife and his twin children in India.
He has only managed to visit his family in Eraiyankudi,also in South India, once in the eight years he has been in Malaysia.
“My wife was pregnant when I left her to work here. Six months later, I received a call from home saying she had safely delivered twins,” he said.
“I did not have enough money at that time to fly home, although many offered to help I felt bad burdening them so I started saving.
“As my children were growing, there were so many expenses which made me postpone my trip. After clocking in extra hours at work, I finally had a chance to visit them in 2014. It was a short but memorable trip.
“I want to accumulate as much off days as possible so I can spend quality time with my wife and kids. It will be a quiet Deepavali for me here once again but I am used to it.”