Bringing Diwali to Cape Breton Island: Prateek Kumar Yadav

Prateek Kumar Yadav knew he wanted to get international exposure while completing his studies. With Canada being number one on his list and Cape Breton University’s Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Business Management ranking one of the best in the country, the choice was easy. Travelling from his hometown Gurgaon, India, known for its social and luxurious lifestyle, Prateek was excited to experience the beautiful landscapes and views Canada had to offer. 

Arriving in Cape Breton was a bit overwhelming for Prateek at first. “It was my first time in a foreign land being away from my family and friends,” he says. “But the people here were so welcoming. I made friends quickly and was glad to see how open the Cape Breton community was to international students.” Prateek quickly began to fall in love with the Island’s beauty after experiencing Cape Breton’s sunsets. 

In addition to the beauty of the Island, what Prateek has enjoyed most about his time at CBU are the people he has met along the way. “My professors are so great and so many of the staff members at CBU have had a positive impact on my experience,” he says. “Lynn MacLean, Joanne Pyke, Doug Connors and Christine Harrietha have always been there to help me. And Denise White and Jason Bailey made my experience so much better during lockdown, without them I don’t know what I would have done.” 

Now, in his final year of the Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Business Management program, Prateek is able to compare living just 15 kilometres from the capital of India, New Delhi, to living in Sydney, Nova Scotia. Though Gurgaon is a big city, Prateek says it lacks the natural beauty that Cape Breton has to offer. While adjusting to the colder temperatures, Prateek enjoyed his first few snowfalls but after that was pretty much over the snow. One of the largest differences for Prateek was the food. “The food is different; I really like spicy food so I miss that when I am in a restaurant,” he shares. Despite the cultures being very different, Prateek has enjoyed finding some similarities. He relates the heavily celebrated Christmas holidays with India’s largest festival, Diwali. “Everyone lights up their homes, has a big family dinner and gifts are shared. Both festivals spread joy and happiness,” he says.

Prateek is looking forward to celebrating Diwali this coming weekend on November 14. Diwali,  the Indian festival of lights, is the most important and biggest holiday of the year in Indian culture. Diwali is celebrated to honour Lord Ram. “It is observed on the fifteenth day of Kartik, the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar,” explains Prateek. “It is celebrated when there is a new moon, which usually falls between October 15 and November 15 every year. On this day, Lord Ram returned to his Kingdom, Ayodhya, after 14 years of exile in which he fought an army of demons, led by the demon king, Ravan. It was dark the night Lord Ram returned home with his wife, Sita and brother, Laxman since it was a new moon. The people of Ayodhya lit up the entire kingdom with rows of diyas, traditional oil lamps, to celebrate their return, which is why Diwali is also called Deepavali. Deepavali is a Sanskrit word meaning, ‘rows of light.’ Diwali is a symbol of victory of light over darkness, good over evil.”

In India, Prateek would celebrate Diwali by helping his father and brother light up the house with lights, diyas and candles. He would help his mother and grandmother in the kitchen and light diyas in the temple with his grandfather. Prateek also loves to make rangoli, an art form where patterns are made on the floor with coloured sand. Lastly Prateek would enjoy a big family dinner. Although Prateek is unable to celebrate Diwali in India this year, he will light up his apartment and cook food with his friends in residence. They will share gifts and sweets in their social bubble, while maintaining social distancing guidelines. 

We would like to wish a Happy Diwali to Prateek and all those celebrating this weekend!