There is something magical about Diwali. No matter which part of India one is in or one is from, Diwali is that time of the year people associate with everything colourful, delicious and nice. It is a time when large families all come together to celebrate, all misgivings forgiven and forgotten, albeit for a short span of time. It is a time when even weight watchers, people who are extremely calorie conscious, give in to the festive urge and indulge in the mouth-watering deliciousness of Indian mithai and the hordes of fried goodies that are pretty much a hallmark of the festival.
Diwali usually falls in the month of October / November every year – depending on the whims and fancies of the interstellar Moon. The soggy days of the monsoon and the fieriness of the October heat would have mellowed by the time Diwali sets in.
The whole house would be cleaned, dusted, mopped, swabbed and swept before Diwali. I’m pretty sure houses are left more sterile, cleaner than the operating rooms in hospitals. Elders walk around the house with discerning eyes, eyes which wait to narrow at the tiniest speck of dust anywhere in the house. The idea of all the frenetic, intense cleaning sessions being that Goddess Lakshmi likes to visit and reside in houses that are clean. With all the air pollution around nowadays, I’m pretty sure even the Gods are used to particles of dust just about everywhere.
All through my childhood days, I remember Diwali as the festival that heralds the start of the mild coolness that we know as winter in Bombay. The temperatures would drop that wee bit, making it even more difficult for children to wake up early in the morning for the traditional oil bath that officially marks the beginning of the festivities on Diwali day.
It would still be dark when I woke up, as did my friends back then. Not even a weak ray of light would be found breaking through that dense layer of darkness which would still be encompassing the sky, pretty much like a blanket that wraps its invisible arms around a sleeping child. Now looking back, it was almost as if the darkness waited patiently, anticipating, wanting even to be dispelled by the lights of Diwali. It would be completely silent in the morning – a silence that would unequivocally embrace the darkness. This very silence would send out silent invitations to people to create noise and herald the start of the festivities that usually accompany the colourful, boisterous festival of Diwali.
I remember being able to wake up on Diwali very early in the morning, without much prompting. This had even lead my mom to remark once “I wish it were this easy to wake you up on school days or exam days”. It was a task, an uphill one, just to down a glass of milk on Diwali day because there was lots of good stuff waiting, just across the threshold – new clothes, yummy snacks and the quintessential favourite – firecrackers.
Impatience would reign supreme, bubbling away under the surface of normalcy, as children strained on the imaginary leashes that held them from laying their hands on all the goodies. Oil would be applied to the children’s heads and we would rush off to the bathroom for the traditional head bath – for once, not quite caring if the water that day was warm enough or whether it still retained enough coolness to supplement the nip in the air and make things uncomfortably cold. All these would be pushed to the fringes as the only aim at that point of time would be to be the first one out of the house. The only objective would be to greet the first rays of the sun, that shimmering hazy hue of pink as it burst through the darkness of the night sky, with the noisy abandon and the colourful recklessness of firecrackers.
Diwali embodied all this and much more. It was much more than just a festival. It is much more than just a festival. It is an entity that springs to life, it spreads cheer and goodwill and re-establishes the strength of good over evil. It renews ones faith in the goodness of heart, it reintroduces the joy of simply being.
The only light on Diwali mornings in most houses would be the light of the oil lamps or the diyas, which would be lit everywhere. There is something intrinsically magical about the smell of the wicks burning, spreading light and warmth and the oil providing the diyas with that mystic encouragement and fuel for it to burn. I’ve seen these little diyas bring down walls which had hitherto been erected between family members and it is almost dreamlike – the feeling of seeing dislike or animosity between people being dissolved by the soft shimmer of the diyas. That little arc of light illuminates the mind, paving the path towards mending and growth.
Despite all the noise and abandon, despite all the glitter and shimmer, Diwali brings with it a kind of serenity that makes one pause peacefully. There used to be a time when I used to light the diyas at home while my mom would be busy making yummy food and snacks to serve all the guests who came home. Now, on Diwali, I take immense heart in watching Macadamia and Pecan light the diyas with an innocence of heart that only childhood bears testimony to.
Come to think of it, Diwali is a riot. Yes, it is.
It is a riot of colours, of sound, of festivities, of guests, of goodwill and of hearts brimming with cheer and optimism. It is a portent of all good things in life, a harbinger, a precursor that wills people to invest their faith in all things good, noble, worthy and virtuous. Diwali is a festival that illuminates not just the confines of the four walls at home but one that enlightens the mind as well. At the very heart of celebrations, Diwali is all about prayers, of rejuvenation and of new beginnings.
This Diwali, I do hope you watched your children giggle with unabashed glee as they lit firecrackers, I do hope you watched the faces of your children illuminated and bathed in the purest of lights emanating from the arc of the flames in the diyas they lit, I do hope you felt the serenity and the strength of the festival seep into you as you revelled in good wishes from family and friends.
May these pictures of festivity, goodwill, happiness, joy and love – captured in the frame of your mind, always be yours.
Gauri Venkitaraman dons many hats – a wife, a mom, a teacher and many more. Working as a full-time English teacher in HongKong, Gauri also raises and nurtures two terrors, affectionately known as The Nutty Siblings a.k.a Macadamia, a teen and Pecan, the ten-year old who behaves like he is fifteen. Gauri’s family means the world to her. Life is a lively roller coaster ride and we, as a family, aim to enjoy the ride together. http://tiny-tidbits.blogspot.hk/ is where Gauri pens down her thoughts and musings, in an attempt to preserve memories for posterity