The blessed memories of Diwali

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”.

DiwaliMy 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!

Say “Thank you” to those who changed you and feel “Awesome”

“Do you have people in your world who changed your life positively?” asked me the morning, when I stepped in the balcony rubbing my eyes.

“Of course I’ve!” I replied, surprised why it is asking me that suddenly.

“Did you ever thank them for that?”

That question made me think… many times people changes our lives forever with their actions, words or just by their presence, and often we forget to thank them for what they did, taking their love and care for granted. I was no different, I am now… from this very moment…

So go ahead and thank those who really have changed you, your life and the way of think… It feels AWESOME!!!

Nishtha

Thank you Nishtha for always there in my life. I am so grateful for that. You are the bestest sister ever. I remember vividly when I saw you for the first time, a little more than my palm, I felt an angel has entered my life. And after so many years, I feel exactly the same…just never knew my little angel will grow up so fast!

I know you miss me the most when I am away from home. I miss you too but I am a little poor in expressing. You’ve taught me many things in your own way. The way you believe in me makes me more confident and responsible. You make me go for knowledge by relying on me for answers, making me more aware. Your trust in me makes me a believer, affirming my belief that I will always be there to hold you, to support you in all times, and the way you listens to me makes me feel I’m a good speaker. And, I go to gym to look like a handsome brother of such a gorgeous sister ;)

I LOVE YOU and want the best of the bestest for you in all the spheres of life.

Sonal

I am so thankful to you Sonal for being such an amazing and caring sister. The way you care about me and the way you are a little possessed (in fact, for everyone you love ;-)) shows and reflects your pure love.

Our childhood memories are so precious – long summer vacations, playing hide and seek, going to the park for orange bar, and running from p l sharma to begum bagh for no reason. But even though we have our busy lives now, I want to thank you for always making me feel that you are always there for me.

I am really grateful that you introduced me to Isha, the best thing happened to my life. I am really thankful to you for that. You have changed my life.

The way you go an extra mile to take care of Nishtha is commendable. I never mentioned this but I really appreciate (I know you must be thinking now, ughh…isn’t she my sister ;-)). You left your work pending to attend my roka-ceremony on such a short notice made me feel really special.

I can go on and on saying how grateful I feel for having you as my sister, but I want to finish it short by saying, I LOVE YOU SIS !!!

Abhishek

Thank you Abhishek for many reasons than one. First of all for always being my best friend, standing on my side in good times and bad, in right and wrong. For always listening to my stuff patiently and always believing in me. For never shouting back on me even in our fights. For making me think I am much better than what I think I am, and that I deserve the best in life.

For leaving your college classes to support me during dad’s abduction. For making me calm and strong when I was at my lows. When we’ll meet again, and I know soon, we will follow our tradition of mall road and hariya ki lassi ;)

Thank you for being my bestest friend. You’ve changed me and my life in many ways.

Friends Forever!

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PS: There are so many other people whom I want to thank equally… Surely will, on some other beautiful morning :-)

The colored memories of Holi

Festivals hold a very special place in our heart, for one they always carry us back to the colorful lanes of our childhood. And when the festival is of colors, those lanes become more vivid. Those were the best of the times, isn’t? Together with siblings and friends, impatiently tracking the Holi countdown. 5 days to go… 4 days to go… and with every day getting closer, making and remaking the plans of celebrating the main Holi day, also known as Badi Holi or Dhulandi or Dhulendi, to its fullest. Visiting friends and families, throwing on them scented colored powder – famous as gulal, running behind to soak them in colors, and eating a lot of Dahi Papdi and Gunjiya with spicy Kanji were a few mandatory.

Enjoying dahi papdi with Mom

On the eve of the festival, also known as Holika Dahan or Choti Holi, many people get together, lit bonfires, say prayers and praise each other. But, my siblings and I were always more interested in getting our colored water balloons ready for the Dhulendi morning. It was no less than a team work and we used to take pride in calling ourselves Holi ki Toli. One preparing the colored water in a container, another filling that colored water in the balloons using his pichkari and yet another, the experienced one and usually me, making knots in those filled balloons, keeping them in a safe container and counting them back and again. I am not a morning person but on Holi I was the first one to leave bed. And my first task was to count those balloons, which always used to become less over night.

Colored water balloons

After getting into an old dress, and soaking hair, face and neck in oil, we used to take blessings from all the elders by putting some gulal on their cheeks. After which we were all set for the best part – balloon attack. We used to throw balloons from terrace on the people passing by, on the neighbours, on the visiting friends, and when no outside victim around, on ourselves only. In addition to our balloon attack, we used pichkaris and even the entire bucket filled with colored water to drench the other person completely in colors. And the worst but most enjoyable was attacking friends and coating their face, neck, hands, hair, back and what not with very strong colors, which will not go off the skin even after several bathes. Again some friends used to surrender themselves for this color coating while others were chased down.

Blessings from Grandma

One more and much bigger Holi ki Toli was of my grand father. He and his more than 20 friends used to come over on every Holi. Their tradition was to play only with gulal. No water colors. No strong colors. We used to serve them our Holi special food preparations, and they used to enjoy singing songs and cracking jokes, some of the best I’ve heard, and after every song or joke they used to shout in chorus – bhadiya bhadiya bhadiya bhai, uttam uttam uttam bhai. This was their tradition, and our tradition was to break their tradition by splashing the colored water on all of them and making them Holi ki wet Toli.

Nishtha and Suketu playing Holi

After all the friends are gone, we used to eat stomach-full and lie under the sun on our terrace. I remember that feeling of tiredness and those rays of sun were so much satisfying. Then after taking bath and sleeping till evening, we used to dress up in our new clothes and meet friends for dinner.

Nishtha and I - Holi of 2008

This is how the fun-filled colorful Holi festival used to end. Those were the times. But now life away from home in US is so different. Isha is at home. I am in office. No one here even knows it’s an Indian festival today. Holi celebration this year is just wishing your family and friends over the phone or Facebook, and may be writing this blog. That’s one of the many trade-offs of being outside India. But hey Holi won’t be that sad even today, for my lovely wife is preparing Dahi Papdi and Gunjiya with spicy Kanji and we are going to enjoy them stomach-full with few Indian friends coming over after office.

And after that I will again lie under the sun, tired but satisfied. Just kidding, it’s 2 degrees celsius out here ;-)

May this Holi color your life in its beautiful colors!

Does forgiveness help?

I have heard and read many wise people preaching forgiveness. They say forgiveness is not something we do for other people but we do it for ourselves – to get well and move on. They say forgiveness will shed the unwanted burden of hatred and unpleasant memories and make us feel light and free. Is it possible to forgive someone who had hurt you deep inside?

After being my close friend for four years and then my girl friend for two, she just left me one day by giving a vague reason. I tried convincing her a lot but she treated me like everything between us had never existed. All my efforts went in vain. Finally, I decided to let her go respectfully. She joined MBA school and later I would know that she got involved with a guy and later broke up with him as well.

Its been more than two years now and we haven’t spoken even once since then. She tried several times to contact me through emails and messages, seeking my forgiveness, stating that she is living in a guilt and wants to get free from it. I never replied. I never forgave. I drafted a forgiveness mail but something always stopped me from pressing the send button. I was enjoying her plea for forgiveness. It was giving me some weird happiness and a sense of importance. I used to plea exactly like that to convince her to come back. I was also enjoying my silence, which I realised was much more powerful than any of the words I would have spoken in response.

Today is her birthday. Just a few weeks back, through a common friend, I heard her engagement news – an arranged setting. Coincidently, I also got engaged around same time. But somehow today I am feeling to forgive her and let her go off her burden, if she is really carrying it. But would this forgiveness help me? Or would this forgiveness help her more than me?

I am in love with an amazing girl and going to get married to her soon. I am all well and have moved on completely. The pain was gone long back. Her absence is no more a void in my life. I don’t miss our pleasant times nor I got disturbed by the unpleasant ones. I am not living with any burden except some hatred for her, though I never even think about her. In fact, I feel that if I had forgiven her earlier, I might not have felt that weird happiness and that sense of importance which had somehow helped me move on. So, I don’t know how this forgiveness would help today. May be it would free me from that left hatred.

Well, I just pressed the send button!