Diwali. The festival of lights. I have written countless school essays on this festival. But this is not one of them.
Diwali is a season.
Diwali is not a five-day festival. It is a season. The season that begins with Diwali ki safaai (similar to spring cleaning) something that I share a love-hate relationship with. Just the thought of it makes me nostalgic while writing about it. Rummaging through your old stuff and reliving those memories. The ritual polishing of the silverware. Rearranging the entire house, adding new pieces that you convinced your parents to buy for your room. And then sneezing and coughing for the next few days (Hello dust allergens!). Oh! the joy of discovering things that you thought you lost and were reprimanded for. You want to proudly tell your mum, “See! I didn’t lose it.” But before you can turn around and do that she comes from behind takes that from your hand and says, “See! how careless you are, you didn’t even know it was here and I thought you had lost it.”
But Mumma…… and so the banter ensues.
Diwali is Homecoming
India celebrates the returning of Ram to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. For us, it is a festival that brings the family together. The entire family gathers at our ancestral place to celebrate the joy of togetherness. More than anyone else, I think my grandparents have been an integral part of these celebrations. Their month-long planning and preparation before the kids arrive. The constant tiff between the two over letting the grandkids do a certain thing or not. Their non-stop warnings of staying away from firecrackers. C’mon its Diwali how can we stay away from firecrackers. But that’s their love for us. My grandfather finding humour in everything happening around and sharing anecdotes while I laze in my swing. My doting grandmother literally running after us all day making us eat all the sweets she prepared in spite of our vehement protests that we are full. She would indulge in our silly whims and ensured others followed too in the spirit of Diwali.
Now that I am typing this, I realise that Diwali in my home has never been about Laxmi puja (the puja was only a 5-minute thing.) It has been about the rangolis and mandnas (a type of wall and floor painting), the setting up of diyas (oil lamps), getting dressed up and just being in the moment. How can I miss the super delicious food for the entire week? The sweets that no one on this planet can make the way my grandmother did.
Beyond the festivities
I remember my dad and uncle used to buy loads of firecrackers. And we were too young to burst all of them. Out of all that, we were just handed a few packets of sparklers and the rest were distributed to all the kids in the village. Honestly, the first time I remember that happened I felt betrayed as if my precious things were being taken away. But then when I saw the other kids lighting up the crackers and looking at us with big smiles, hoping for us to join, I forgot all about it. I was happy and I’m thankful that my parents did that. There couldn’t have been a better way of teaching us at such a young age how sharing something so little can bring immense happiness to others and to you as well.
Diwali like no other
Each Diwali has been different yet same. Every Diwali has a story. The Diwali when a creepy crawly bit my hand and everyone went hysterical. The one after the demise of my great-grandmother when I didn’t understand why we weren’t doing what we did every year. Not to forget the Diwali when we filled the entire verandah outside the kitchen with different rangolis that there wasn’t a place left for people to walk around and then we had to sadly remove a few to make way. Or when my grandfather handed me cans of paint and asked me to go ahead and paint whatever I felt like (I’m not very proud of what I did though. He is). The one when we decided not to burst crackers. Our eco-friendly Diwali started much before it became a fad. The one when my grandmother was ill and the one after when she was no more. That was the last Diwali at my ancestral place.
Eighteen years of my life this festival has been a tradition that has taught me to value family and relationships. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. Even though I have been away I have now realised why I do things a certain way because that tradition has always unconsciously been a part of me. So this one is about remembering the essence of Diwali, being grateful and carrying the legacy forward. I guess that is how we celebrate life.