GEORGE TOWN: Little India in Lebuh Pasar, here, is abuzz once again with Hindus shopping for Deepavali after some flexibility has been given under the National Recovery Plan (PPN).

A Bernama survey found the festive spirit abounds again in Penang this year with those making early preparations to celebrate the Festival of Lights on Nov 4 after nearly two years of the country being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teacher K. Rajeswari, 40, said she and her husband together with their three children started making Deepavali preparations last week. It would be an extra special time as her sister and family from Selangor will be celebrating the festival with them in Butterworth.

"This year's celebration will be more joyous than the previous two years as it will be the first time that we can gather together especially with my mother and siblings. But, of course, we will adhere to the set (Covid-19 prevention) standard operating procedures (SOP).

"We bought lots of clothes and foodstuffs last week, so today we are here in Little India to buy sarees as I would like to present gifts to my family members when we get to celebrate together," said Rajeswari when Bernama met her in Little India.

Meanwhile, T. Suguna, 49, said she was unable to celebrate Deepavali with her family last year due to the COVID-19 situation. This year, she began making early preparations for the festival after the government lifted the interstate travel ban.

''Today, I have come here (Little India) to buy new clothes as well as delicacies such as muruku and sweets to serve to guests when they visit,'' she said.

Clothes merchant Pervinder Singh, 40, said he was happy and relieved that even though it was not a weekend, there was an increase of customers after the interstate ban was lifted. Business for him has increased to 80 per cent in contrast to last year and he is also seeing customers from out of town.

Food trader M.Thanaraj, 38, who has been selling muruku, peanuts and sweets for the past 20 years in Little India, said last year and previously his sales dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This time it seems that Little India has become more lively over the past two weeks as people are making early preparations to celebrate Deepavali. I hope sales will increase," he added.