INDIA, November 15, 2020 (SBS News): Fear of the coronavirus and chronic pollution spoiled the party Saturday as hundreds of millions of Indians celebrated the biggest Hindu holiday of the year. Diwali is meant to be the festival of light, but the pandemic has clouded the future for many in the country of 1.3 billion. Some people defiantly set off traditional firecrackers in Delhi in spite of a ban imposed because of sky-high pollution levels and markets were filled with holiday shoppers. But traders said Covid-19 had scared them off spending amidst the muted revelry. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US president-elect Joe Biden and his deputy Kamala Harris, whose mother was Indian, were among world leaders to issue Diwali messages. "May everyone be prosperous and healthy," Mr Modi told his 63.5 million Twitter followers.
In Nepal, a predominantly Hindu nation, people appeared to be responding to a government appeal to celebrate the festival indoors with immediate family and avoid large gatherings or public celebrations. Australia's Indian community, which usually hosts big fairs and events, is celebrating with more subdued affairs this year as concern around the virus lingers. Dr Yadu Singh, President of the Federation of Indian Associations of New South Wales, told SBS News members of the Indian community were being especially cautious and responsible with social distancing requirements this year. "This year we do not have any fairs, we don't have big dinners, small dinners yes. We don't have 400, 500 people going to dinners, but we do have celebrations at home," he said.