This would be first Diwali when I am not at home. It’s a trend set by elders, each and every member of the family would make sure to be at home during Diwali unless something really unavoidable task come forth. Sitting today on the eve of the festival, memories goes back to those childhood days of Diwali.
Questions would be aplenty. Some questions would be answered, some not. As each day progressed, the excitement would mount; the air would fill with the fragrances of sugar, cloves, cardamom and saffron. The pans would sizzle with hot oil and goodies would appear from the pans, as though by magic. The buildup to Diwali used to be magical!!!
One could actually feel the festive air, so much so that the celebratory air was almost palpable. It was almost as if one could just reach out into thin air and touch that feeling of cheer and joy. It was everywhere. It surrounded things; it encapsulated feelings and encompassed one and all. People could be seen visibly caught up in the festive atmosphere as the cheer lay claim to minds – young and old alike.
One of the main highlights of Diwali during my childhood days used to be the paper lanterns called Kandil. It used to be a paper lantern which could be folded up once the Diwali festivities were over. Indian Origami at its best!! I remember waiting with bated breath for my Bhaisa to climb into the loft and take out the kandil wrapped in a plastic bag. Dust would still have managed to seep in through those layers of plastic onto the kandil. I would wait, ready with a cloth in hand, to restore the kandil to its pristine condition. Once the kandil – all nooks and crevices of it included – was dusted and fresh, Bhaisa would climb up on a long stool and open the kandil and it would unfurl itself in a blizzard of colors. The strings tied, bulb fixed in position, being the youngest in the family, I would have the honor of switching on the light which would herald the beginning of the Diwali festivities.
I distinctly remember the mouth watering aromas that would begin to filter and waft through home and fill the whole house with its fragrance – tantalizing the taste buds, teasing the olfactory senses, tempting and alluring those fingers into attempting a steal from the dishes before the whole dish even got done, tormenting those brain cells which would, by then, be firing away in a rather manic manner, knowing very well that a whole load of goodies lay in store.
Maasa and my Aunts, Bhabhi’s, all would be busy in the kitchen, their faces all scrunched up in concentration so as to ensure the right consistency of the sugar syrup which would ensure absolutely delicious laddoos. Maasa and her team I’m sure, was blissfully unaware of the kind of provocation these culinary masterpieces evoked. It would send all five senses into frenzy!!!
New clothes donned, crackers in hand, I would rush out to meet my friends and from then on it would all be a flurry of sounds and lights. There were times when we would literally jump out of our skins when one of the cracker bombs went off but in no way would that dampen or hamper our little coterie of friends. By the end of it all, our hands would be smeared with gunpowder from the crackers and they would look as though we had been digging through a coal mine of sorts. Yet, it was all a part of that charm, that appeal and allure that the festival brought along with it. Diwali had its own charisma; it weaved its own magic and never failed to fascinate us kids, year after year after year after year. It was an enchantress of sorts, totally mesmerizing us kids and captivating us. In the very simplicity of the festival then, lay its appeal. In the very simplicity of the festival then, lay its pull, its attraction, its magnetism that drew one and all into a cosy embrace of love, oneness, friendship and camaraderie.
As I grew older, that penchant for crackers slowly gave way to the more sedate aspects of Diwali. Soaking the clay diyas in water a day before Diwali and laying them out to dry would be the beginning. Evening of Diwali I would fill them with oil and with Bhaisa and other cousins place the diyas at appropriate places. As soon as the kandil is lighted, its now turn to light these diyas. It was an enchanting process, one that I hold very dear and close to my heart even today.
Asato Ma Sadgamayah
Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamayah
Mrutyor Ma Amrutamgamayah
So this Diwali, dear friends, as nostalgia takes me rolling down memory lanes, let me wish you and yours a very Happy, Peaceful, Prosperous Diwali filled with cheer, good health, love and happiness.