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Case Western Reserve University professor partners with American Greetings to create Diwali cards sold all across the country

Deepak Sarma collaborated with the card company to create Diwali cards that are now available in Target stores.

CLEVELAND — For many, walking into a store and picking up a holiday card can be a quick and even last-minute errand. Faced with row upon row of cards adorned with warm greetings and festive colors, many holiday card choices seem endless. 

But for some holidays, that same array of choices can be harder to come by.

That is one of many reasons why Deepak Sarma, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, is so proud to partner with Northeast Ohio card company American Greetings on several new greeting cards. 

In February of 2021, Sarma was asked by the company to lend their expertise on holiday cards for Diwali, a festival of lights widely celebrated in India. 

“American Greetings approached me and asked me if I would do consulting work with them on a series of cards concerning India, Indian Americans, Indian festivals, Hindu festivals, and I just welcomed the opportunity,” Sarma said. 

Sarma, who uses they/them pronouns, and has Indian roots, initially began teaching Hinduism and Indian religions at CWRU in 2004. From there, they forayed into bioethics, expanding their horizons to art history, cultural theory, and even guest curation at the Cleveland Museum of Art. 

Their network and expertise have positioned Sarma as a cultural consultant, working with television shows and major companies.

“There's been a kind of growing need for someone who does some kind of cultural consultancy, where there's some kind of media presentation, and the people who put it together want to make sure that they're not being inauthentic, that they're not offending anybody, that they're not making any mistakes in the process,” Sarma said. 

Sarma and American Greetings worked virtually during the pandemic, sending ideas back and forth and identifying language, themes, and colors that would be appropriate across different Indian religions and geographical spaces. 

The end result was four different greeting cards, all celebrating Diwali but with sentiments Sarma said are universal. 

“Diwali means the garland of lights,” Sarma explained. “It has so many different meanings in the Indian subcontinent. Different religions have different explanations of why Diwali is celebrated, so there are lots of narratives about it within India. What’s so wonderful is that it’s a unifying festival.”

Sarma said Diwali, which can also be viewed as the triumph of good over evil, or knowledge over ignorance, can be celebrated with lights and sweets. Sarma is hoping that these cards make it easier to recognize and celebrate the holiday. 

“When I think about growing up in America, it was isolated being a South Asian, being an Indian,” Sarma said. “There were no cards, you couldn't buy a Diwali card.”

Now, in Target stores across the nation, people can buy four different Diwali cards, something that means much more than just a holiday greeting to Sarma. 

“I walked in there, and I saw them, and I wept. I just cried. I just cried because I couldn't believe that my work was suddenly going to be in 1,900 Targets in America, and that more importantly, that Indians, Indian Americans across the country, were going to use these,” they said. “It meant something to me about assimilation, about becoming an American, becoming part of the American landscape. It's just overwhelming.”

American Greetings’ Diwali cards can be found in Target stores. 


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