Malaysian Indians Celebrate Deepavali with Sense of Normalcy, Southeast Asia News and Top Stories

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KUALA LUMPUR – Ethnic Indians in Malaysia will celebrate Deepavali on Thursday (November 4) with a sense of normalcy after a year of intermittent shutdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than two million Malaysian Indians will mark the Festival of Lights, the first major celebration for an ethnic group in the multicultural country since the lifting of domestic travel restrictions and the easing of other measures last month to boost the economy .

Ms Rathimaithily Silvanathan said Deepavali’s preparations for this year were similar to the days before the pandemic – including shopping and returning loved ones to their hometowns for the weekend.

The 32-year-old dentist has returned to her hometown of Perak, about a four hour drive from Selangor where she works.

“This year is more festive,” Ms. Rathimaithily told The Straits Times.

Likewise, Ms Ranjini Anndy, 34, a Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer, returned to her hometown of Perak after eight months away from her immediate family.

But her family chose not to hold an open house due to current concerns about Covid-19.

“It will be a calm and calm Deepavali again (similar to last year). But I am happy to celebrate the Festival of Lights at home with my immediate family,” she told ST.

Unlike last year, Ms. Ranjini said, there were Deepavali shops and home decorations.

Likewise, Mr Sriniwasrao Ramanaidu, 30, a banking executive, said he felt “almost like a normal Deepavali”.

“But there are some of my friends whose businesses have been affected by the lockdowns, so it’s a muted celebration for them as their future is still uncertain,” he added.

He is based in Kuala Lumpur and had traveled with his wife to Bagan Datoh, a coastal town of Perak, a three-hour drive from the capital.

Last year, Malaysia imposed a partial lockdown across the country just before Deepavali. This was after a state election in Sabah in late September caused an increase in Covid-19 cases across the country, negating its early success in handling the pandemic. Interstate travel was then banned.

The wave of Covid-19 that arose from state polls never really abated, increasing exponentially and becoming deadlier this year, fueled by the Delta variant.

Malaysia has spent much of this year with much of its economy at a standstill. It was under full lockdown from May to August, but it didn’t do much to curb infections.

Batu Ferringhi in Penang during partial containment on September 8, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

The country has chosen to prepare Malaysians to live with the fact that Covid-19 will be endemic. The high vaccination rates have finally led to signs that the number of cases will decline further.

Malaysia reported 5,291 cases on Wednesday, less than a quarter of the record 24,599 cases recorded on August 26.

Deaths have also declined, with 70 deaths recorded on Tuesday, compared to 592 reported on September 11.

Malaysia has fully immunized 75.2% of its population and 95.7% of adults.

Most restrictions were lifted for those fully vaccinated, and the interstate travel ban – which had been in place since mid-January – was lifted on October 11, allowing people to travel freely, giving a blow boost to the local tourism sector.


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