As I ride behind my husband in the bike, with the son sandwiched between us, I gaze at the twinkling lights dotting the houses lined along the road. Homes, shops, even chai-walas, are adorned with rows and rows of serial lights, all dancing to different tunes, and huge paper lanterns in different shapes hanging in the middle. It is Diwali time, and the lights that came up a couple of days prior to Diwali are bound to remain put at least till the New Year. A whole month of happy lights!
That is what I like best about my life in Pune. People burst crackers here too, yes, but more importantly, they light up their homes in such an amazing fashion. All these light decorations and diyas cheer me up to an extent, making me fall in love with the city all over again. Not that I don’t love Chennai, but in the twenty years I had been there, I had hardly seen any household taking so much effort to light up Diwali.
Diwali, whenever celebrated in Chennai, was mostly early morning Ganga Snanam followed by a visit to temple, and back in time to see the “Indiya tholai katchigalil, muthan muraiyaga!” (First Time on Indian Television… you guessed it right, the special movie for the day). The couple of years before my marriage were the most lonely for me, for that was when friends had drifted apart, and there seemed generally nothing to look forward to. At that time, the festive season, Navratri to Diwali to New Year, would always cheer me up. I especially loved to see the magnificent lights put out by the five star hotels and huge shopping malls that fell on the way to work. Those were the only places I could find such elaborate lighting in Chennai. That is why, when I witnessed my first Diwali here in Pune, I gave my heart to the city.
Our Diwali was a simple one this time. Just one box of flower pots and a couple of boxes of sparklers, all of which my husband and I burst as my son screamed his head off with fear in background. No sweets, but 3 days of eating out, and going on day trips to scenic spots and temples. And yes, new strings of LED lights and new Chinese lanterns. While we did include the patti mandram (the Tamil debate conducted by Solomon Pappaiyya in Sun TV) and the special movie (Vishwaroopam), we left out the Ganga Snanam (for simply, we could not find any Ganga water samples) or the customary Diwali legiyam (a sweet-sour-hot herbal medicine partaken to digest the heavy sweets and savories that are part of Diwali). Although we kept the Diwali simple by choice, I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic about the Diwali I used to celebrate when I was a kid, in the 90s.
The best of my Diwalis have been celebrated in my maternal grandparents’ home, in Coimbatore. We would arrive the day before, and mother, granny and all my aunts would get together in making the sweets and savories. In the evening we would put on new clothes and burst crackers, all the cousins, neighbors, uncles, aunts, uncle’s friends, all together. The dinner would be a great feast, with the customary vada-payasam. After we have all been fed, mom and the aunts would get on to the next daunting task – a huge rangoli covering the whole of the courtyard. Then we all would lend a hand in cleaning up the boiler, filling it with water to boil the next morning and smearing it with chuna and kumkum. By the time all this would be done, it would be midnight, and my grandpa would start growling, urging us to go to bed, just as the elders would contemplate watching a movie since anyway we would have to get up at 3 am.
The next morning would come no sooner than we closed our eyes, and all bleary eyed and zombie like, we would line up and sit on the mats grandma would arrange for us, where she and mom would take arti for all of us, then dab oil on our heads with a flower. A proper oil massage for the head would follow and one by one we all would visit the bathroom for a hot water bath with shikakai. Everyone would be bathed and dressed in their new clothes by 5-5.30, and by that time the crackers bursting would be in full swing. After getting the blessings of all the elders, it would be time for a sumptuous breakfast, a temple visit maybe in a hired van, to accommodate nearly 15-20 people. Ah! Those were the days!
Now I don’t know if S will ever get to experience such joy during our festivals, with families growing nuclear every day. My mom had five siblings, I have one. So even if we all come together to celebrate a Diwali, we will make only 6 or 7. And that too in the cramped metropolitan space of cities we now live in, for nothing can beat the beautiful house that was once my maternal grandparents’ home. I do miss the chaos and the delirium of my Diwali, and can only hope that one day, life will work itself out in such a way that S will also experience the fun of celebrating Diwali amidst innumerable lights and among a huge gathering of family members.
Yamini is a software professional turned work-at-home-mom. Amidst her domestic responsibilities and a very demanding 2.5 year old son, she snatches time to write academic papers, freelance content, fiction and poetry. Her stories and poetry have been published in various online literary magazines and anthologies by Penguin Books and Cyberwit Publications. Yamini voices her thoughts now and then at http://myexpressionsandme.