Indian culture is one that is known for its hospitality and warmth. It brings everybody in one big blanket and comforts them like its own. Many individuals from across the world have built a home here in India and have become a part of this land. Paula McGlynn, the CEO and Creative Director at BhaDiPa is one such person who has been living in India for close to a decade now. 

#MeriWaliDiwali with Paula McGlynn

Originally, a Canadian, Paula moved to India and experienced a culture very different from her own. Slowly, she built her own traditions, borrowing and few and spinning some. As the auspicious Diwali season is in full swing, the team at Social Nation spoke to Paula McGlynn to know about  her understanding of the festival of lights and how it feels to celebrate Diwali in India being a Canadian. 

SN: You have been living in India for almost a decade now. How do you feel about the culture here? Have you fully imbibed it? 

Paula: I would say no. Whatever I’ve seen, I mostly love, but I think talking about India as a culture is very difficult. One thing I’ve learned is that I don’t know anything. In terms of what I’ve seen I am the most comfortable with Marathi culture because I am familiar with it 

SN: If you had to describe India in three words what would they be?

Paula: Three words about India would be vibrant, Khichdi and jugaad. (Haha!)

SN: Since the Diwali season is here, do you have any memories of Diwali in India?

Paula: Yes, I first discovered Diwali properly with Sarang, my partner and co-founder at BhaDiPa. We were working on a film together in Pune, so he took me on this bike and drove me around Pune during Diwali. We went and bought Aakash Kandil (lanterns) and visited Old Pune so I could see Laxmi Poojan. All the firecrackers bursting there scared me but that is a part of my first Diwali memory and every Diwali after that has been memorable.

Social Nation celebrates #MeriWaliDiwali with Paula McGlynn

SN: Is there any tradition or custom that you follow on Diwali?

Paula: As a household no, but I think Aakash Kandil is a must and I didn’t know this until last year. Last Diwali when I was in Delhi, I could not find any lanterns and that’s when I realised Aakash Kandil is not an Indian thing but a Marathi thing. 

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SN:  What do you find different in Indian festivals and the festivals back in Canada?

Paula: I don’t think there’s much difference nowadays between how people celebrate their festivals because everything now has become super commercial. There’s a lot of decorations, food and gifts as well as spending time with family. Whether it is Christmas or Easter or Diwali or Eid, it is a very human thing to want to celebrate your traditions. It is an excuse to get together and honour the history and the religious stories. Festivals are really important for Unity.

SN: How do you celebrate Christmas here in India?

Paula: I love to throw a Christmas party for all my friends even though I am not religious because they all look at me hopeful. We have Wine and Whiskey infused Eggnog. I’ll make gingerbread cookies and we decorate them.

SN: Diwali is also a festival  full of snacks and sweets. Is there something that you make or something that you love eating?

Paula: I love Chakli, it’s fantastic! Ever since this meme came a few years ago about two kids fighting in a village and one kid calls the other Shakar Paara, I find it very funny and Shakar Paare has a special place in my heart. I’ve tried my hand at modak but not anything for Diwali. 

#MeriWaliDiwali special with Paula McGlynn

SN: If you have to explain Diwali to somebody who is not from India how would you?

Paula: Diwali is already a global Festival and most people I know know about Diwali and Holi. Internationally they call it the Festival of Lights and it’s the battle of light winning over dark. 

If I had to explain it I would say that in India it’s 4 days of Chutti so everybody gets to hangout with their family and friends. 

SN: Tell us a little about BhaDiPa and the content we might see in the near future. Do you have something special for Diwali as well?

Paula: Yeah, we already put two Diwali videos- Kande Pohe in which we collaborated with Bhadipachi Aai and that video has done really well. We have also made a short film about a mother and daughter called Anarsa. We have one more video coming on Saturday which is a short animated film that I have directed called Kolhapuri Chappals. It is the second part of Bathroom Chappals.

To look at India and its culture from a foreigner’s experience has been a delightful experience for us as well. As Paula McGlynn continues to navigate the intricate mosaic of Indian life, her journey stands as a proof to the harmonious coexistence of diverse cultures. Through her stories at BhaDiPa, she has tapped into the universal power of storytelling that connects her to a larger audience.