Reliving those childhood diwali moments
‘If winter comes, can spring be far behind'? This is the last line of the famous poem “Ode to the West Wind”, written by PB Shelley. If Dussehra comes can Diwali be far behind.
'If winter comes, can spring be far behind'? This is the last line of the famous poem "Ode to the West Wind", written by PB Shelley. If Dussehra comes can Diwali be far behind. Of- course as children we knew nothing about this optimism but eagerly awaited the festival of lights. We, children named it as 'King' of festivals.
As the day inched closer, the heartbeat was faster, there was tremendous excitement in the air and hectic planning went into our discussions with friends. It was all about what sort of crackers to be burst and which one would make the loudest sound. Neither there was any fear of being complained to the police by neighbours for bursting crackers nor we heard of pollution. There were just a handful of cars, scooters and a negligible number of bikes.
Mostly bicycles, cycle rikshaws and state transport buses were used for commuting. In fact, all kids used to get together and challenged each other who'd burst better and louder crackers. The haze created by the crackers used to feel so exciting! Loud explosions reverberated all through the night. Everything, was fun and was taken with a pinch of salt.
For Diwali the first purchase for all children in the age group of 5 to 15 years, irrespective of the gender, was the small pistol and its 'capes' that made minimum possible sound. All of us played 'chor- police', with those small wieldy pistols. The chor was caught and 'pumped' with 'bullets' till he or she raised hands up and surrendered to the 'police'.
This was one time of the year where all homes brighten up with happiness and hearts ring up with hope. The first and the most important ritual for Diwali was the house cleaning, which most kids and some adults too unanimously despised and hated. Much, before the D-Day we were chased to clean up our room and help the parents in the cleaning and dusting of the rest of the house.
Those days every house was a villa with a small patch of land around, where every possible tree was grown and many plants were accommodated within that small patch of land. So, our job included cleaning and pruning the 'garden' around and making it look presentable for visitors during Diwali. If the job was well done, we were bribed with a 50 paisa coin, sometimes it was just 25 paisa coin too and were allowed to indulge in buying crackers, a luxury that we all enjoyed.
One of the most exciting childhood Diwali memories was preparation of delicious sweets and snacks. There were not many sweet and snack shops to buy. Money was a scarce commodity. Every Diwali my grand- mother, hired a 'Halwaii', to prepare a variety of sweets and namkeen at home that lasted for at-least more than a month. Two or three days before the festival the halwaii would land with his 'cookware', the Pots and Pans to make the crispy murukku, boondi laddu, burfi, kaaja, gujiya and the list was unending.
There was no worry about our calorie intake back then. Sadly, we do now! We children used to gather around him admiring his expertise and his quick hand movement. He used to make a large sized angeethi with bricks and mud and made a big bellowing fire with the fire-wood. The children were warned to keep away from it lest we might fall and get burnt. The thought and the hot oil scared us and we maintained our distance.
As the sweets were prepared, we would often pester the halwaii to try them out but we could not escape the watchful eyes of my grandma only to be reprimanded and reminded that we must first offer it as prasad to God. What could we have said except sitting there with the saliva dripping and assuming that the mithai had an out of the world taste. For all that back breaking labour, at the end of the day the halwaii received a 5 rupee note, which was a big amount in those days.
There were no malls or bazaars or ready- made apparel shops for buying new clothes. Every parent was a renowned economist. So raw material of the same print, was bought for all children. The dresses were either made at home or made by a tailor at the end of the street and on the Diwali day we all got dressed up in similar clothes as if we were working for a band, baaja party, my brother in a floral shirt and we both sisters donning in floral frocks. Girls had the luxury of buying a pair of ribbons and a few bangles.
For these an extra rupee was doled out. Of-course it never bothered us. What we were interested in was the amount we were to get for buying the crackers. Two days before we were called and given 15 rupees, sometimes it went up based on the monthly expenses. We always wondered why they were more important than our crackers! We ran to the end of the street where the fire cracker shops were lined up and bought the fire crackers of our choice with a lot of excitement. For 2 days we kept them in the Sun for giving them a better bursting sound.
We controlled our temptation till the actual day. Apart from this, there was something super exciting about Diwali was colourful rangoli patterns and lighting our home with sparkling diyas or oil lamps and decorating the sacred Tulasi Kota in the backyard of the house. That was how the festive Diwali was welcomed in 'style'.
The day before Diwali that is choti Diwali was being celebrated as Naraka Chaturdasi. I remember my grand- mother waking us all up by 4 am on that day in the shivering cold for oil bath. Every year while preparing us for bath she narrated the importance of this ritual and the story of Narakasur vadh. Narakasura was a demon king. He was very cruel and hated women and imprisoned them.
This was because Narakasura had a boon that only a woman could kill him. He tortured and troubled all Gods and people on Earth too. Indra, the king of the Gods, unable to bear the atrocities of this demon king, requested Lord Krishna to kill the demon and save the world. Lord Krishna decided that time had come to eliminate the demon and goes into the battle field along with his wife Satyabhama, the incarnation of Bhudevi.
In the fierce battle that ensued between the two, Lord Krishna fainted. When Satya saw that she courageously positioned herself in front of Lord Krishna and killed Narakasura with a bow and arrow and saved the world from the demon and freed all the imprisoned women. In his death bed Narakasura requested Lord Krishna and Lady Satya to forgive him and that his death be celebrated and not be mourned. Even today the day is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdasi.
My granny always convinced us that the bath was important to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Good over Evil and also that an oil bath in the morning on that day, was equivalent to taking bath in Ganges, which was referred by her as Gangasnan. The tale was made interesting every year with extra information, but less attention was paid as we were too eager to burst crackers, after the traditional bath and were allowed to lay our fingers on the sweets. What can I say, the taste is still lingering in my mouth, Diwali mithai always has an out of this world taste.
Finally, after all that over eating and sharing the excitement of bursting the crackers, a few of deafening sound, we would pass out on the mattress, already planning on the crackers and to improvise over what we had missed out or couldn't do and the things we would do for the next Diwali.
Before every Diwali while preparing for the festival, sitting on the couch and reminiscing the childhood memories is priceless. Diwali definitely brings lots of cheer and happiness and makes our childhood memories etched in our minds forever, a special one. It is these small moments of joy that guide us through our darkest times.