Hands folded in Nameste and head innocently bowed in front of Goddess Lakshmi’s in our small temple in the living room, I am sitting next to my Grandma. Now, dressed up smartly in black achkan (indo-western jacket) and white churidar pajama with a white pearl necklace around my neck, I am putting tikka on my grandpa’s forehead. And here at our terrace with my beautiful mom smiling in her yellow chiffon, holding a phuljhadi (sparkler) in my hand from behind and asking me to look towards my dad taking our picture, but looks like I am more into that phuljhadi than the picture. Thank you dad for capturing these memorable moments and many more, for these are the ones through which I still, after so many years, cherished my childhood Diwali celebrations.
As a child, I was madly fascinated by Diwali – the festival of light, though for me it was more a festival of crackers. I don’t remember my age then, just old enough when kids are allowed to step down alone to the nearby market. That street near our house is very narrow, and during the festival, with the crackers and sweets shops stretched almost to the middle from both ends, it used to become crowded, noisy and “lively”.
My crackers shopping used to begin a week before Diwali with pencil bombs and taabeez (triangle shape bombs). They were 100 for five and 2 packets a day were decently budgeted in my pocket-money. All that week, morning to evening, mostly alone at my terrace, except a few times with my friend Varun, I used to blast those bombs. Crazy isn’t? Divyang, my younger brother, was least interested in joining me. I am still not sure why he never enjoyed crackers. In this case, he is very much like grandpa who always refrain us from bursting crackers. His reason is pollution of course which I am sure is not Divyang’s. But grandma always use to give me money for crackers (the expensive and fancy ones). She is simply the best.
A few times I got light burns but no one knows about them yet. After that “bomby” (to avoid writing “bombing”) week, the terrace used to look like a dirty pit with busted bombs, ashes, burnt papers and match sticks all over. On the Diwali afternoon, I used to sweep clean the terrace by myself with the same enthusiasm and excitement. Then after putting a folding bed for everyone to comfortably sit and enjoy the show of fancy crackers, I used to light hundred of candles on all around the terrace boundary to brighten up our Diwali house some more. The very next morning, I would be the first one to go upstairs to gather the melted wax of those candles for making the hand-made different-shapes candles. Recycling, you see.
I had a similar passion for greeting cards then. I used to handmade Diwali cards for all my close relatives and friends – trying to make all different and as beautiful as I could. Then with my Grandma’s help, I also used to prepare envelopes for them, matching the color with the card (those were the days when we didn’t have loose envelopes in the nearby stationary shop).
I loved to watch my mom making rangolis and painting on our doorway the little footsteps, white and beautiful, welcoming the Goddess Lakshmi to walk through our house on that auspicious evening to pour her blessings on us. We also used to hang a kandil, with an electric bulb inside it, high on the television antenna, so that at Diwali night, it lit colorful inside the kandil. At every house, there used to be at least one Kandil of some weird shape and bright color. In this cable and internet era remain no more television antennas and no more kandils on them, but still we buy a kandil and hang it somewhere inside the house.
Dad used to take me along with him to greet relatives and friends with Diwali sweets and gifts, and eventually, as I grew up, dad handed over this responsibility to me. I never enjoyed doing it alone except for visiting some close relatives. And so I handed it over to Divyang as soon as he grew up a little more. I think he, being an extrovert, loved it, except when not lazy.
Amidst all these beautiful blessed memories, I have a memory which is not pleasant but equally blessed for no one was hurt. I was very small then. My mom-dad, uncle-aunt, Divyang, all were there on terrace celebrating the Diwali evening. Someone gave me a sparkler and after a few seconds, scared of getting my hand burned, I just dropped it completely ignorant of the fact that I am standing next to the box full of crackers. The only scene I remember is that the rocket bombs going all over the terrace, my mom running towards the staircase holding Divyang and dad rushing towards me to drag me inside our terrace store-room. Thanks Almighty, no one was hurt. BE VERY CAREFUL and SAFE THIS DIWALI!
For the Diwali pooja, everyone in their best outfit sit next to each other, bow and pray. A few times, we used to celebrate the festival together with our close relatives and the joy was manifold. I pray to feel that joy again. After the pooja, we used to dance on the loud music and run towards the terrace for the fireworks. One time along with Nishtha and Suketu, I had this crazy fun of having a bonfire with piles of old newspaper and throwing bullet bombs in it causing the ashes and pieces of burnt newspaper to blew up creating beautiful images and we used to dance around that. After getting tired with all the dance and fireworks, we used to play cards together till the wee hours of the morning.
And this is how I celebrated my Diwali as a child, as a teenager, and a few times as an adult. The best of times and celebrations! I miss that. I miss my family. I miss that fun. Well, I am going to attend Diwali pooja this year with my lovely family…over FaceTime.
WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY, SAFE AND PROSPEROUS DIWALI!