It’s Not Diwali Without Mithai

“Gift” link so hopefully not paywalled:

Oddly, there is absolutely no mention of Diwali being a Hindu festival … a point brought up (with some great anger) in the comments.

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Yes, not just odd but seemingly deliberate. Also the use of “South Asia”.

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Surprising given the NYT is usually tries hard to be culturally sensitive. I note the author is an Indian-American food writer/cookbook author. So maybe to her it’s so ingrained (“well of course it is”) without needing mentioned.

Also thanks for the gift link - worked fine for me.

I’m fairly ignorant of Diwali myself (prototypical oldguy white American). But my daughters got invited over for festival in their high school years from various schoolmates. They always had a splendid time and their friends’ moms would help them pick out clothing and get dressed properly, and they’d do each others’ hair etc. - nearly and all-day affair. They’d come home with hennaed hands and gift recipes for me from the moms.

Me, I’m just in it for the fireworks. Good way to get to know neighbors who are farther down the street or around a couple of corners.


Probably being inclusive of Nepal which is a Hindu country (until recently a Hindu kingdom) and the Hindu/Sikh/Jain/Buddhist communities (however small) in all South Asian countries.

No, it’s a media thing to do with mentioning india. I had not noticed it until someone pointed it out to me a few months ago, and now I see it everywhere.

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I went to my first Diwali party last night. (Mostly) home-cooked vegetarian food, plus lots and lots of mithai, some of which we brought from a local Indian grocery store (no South Asian sweet shops close to us). Sadly, we had to leave before the fireworks and sparklers were brought out.

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I am not sure I fully agree. I recall when the South Asia wording was emphasized more, to be mindful that everything desi was not Indian only, and to highlight some cultural commonalities across national boundaries. Also to distinguish from Southeast Asia.

Lately the usage may have morphed into other meanings though.

I first encountered the term mithai at a local shop called Dilpasand Mithai. There have been three such shops, each independently owned, so far as I know. I looked it up online and discovered a famous sweets shop in Karachi called Dilpasand. (I remembered it as Dilpasand Mithai but what I find now is Dilpasand Sweets). I assumed, until now, that the term mithai only applied to Pakistani sweets; I didn’t know it was used for Indian sweets, too. The first shop was also where I first encountered the Bun Kebab, which I also have assumed was a Pakistani dish.

Has the media been avoiding mention of India???

My favorite, ahem, ‘South Asian’ sweets shop locally is Bangladeshi.

‘Mithai’ is a Hindi/Urdu word meaning sweets. Similar words are found in other South Asian (see, the term is useful in such a context) too.
India/Pakistan/Bangladesh etc. are post-colonially created nations, which have a lot of sub regional cultural and linguistic similarities.
I guess in some contexts we could say ‘subcontinental’ instead of South Asian. Desi is sometimes used too, but people in the southern part of the subcontinent relate much less to that word because it’s a Hindi/Urdu word and the Southern languages are different.


FWIW, the party I went to was hosted by a South African Indian woman, married to an Indian-from-India man.

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