Thursday, 31 October 2013

Deepavali Jitters and What not ?



Diwali!!!!  a k a Deepavali. 

I am supposed to say Deepavali because I hail from the southern part of India, Diwali sounds a little inappropriate for me... Well, it does not matter anyway.

I am penning this post to have a written track record of my relationship with Deepavali, the festival of lights and how we have evolved over the years.

Why write about it?  The reason is I want to... I do not have a better logic to beat that.

I am an Indian living in France, the land that does not enjoy the privilege of Indianess.  
Living in a country where I have to go to the next town to purchase a bag of coriander powder, I have discovered my own unique way of celebrating festivals .

But before talking about that, I just cannot stop reminiscing about how we celebrated Deepavali back home in Bangalore.

The night before Diwali, I spent all my time arranging and slotting the crackers I was going to burst for the next 5 days. 
Simultaneously taking a quick walk to the kitchen to check the Chakkalis, Adirasam, Obattu and other delicacies mom was preparing. 
I had this faint innocent smile on my face, with my fingers stealthily trying to wriggle through the steel dabbas right behind her to pick one of those sweets , not one but all.
My small hands never failed to expose my  greed , I would stand right there with hands full of sweets , a bountiful in my mouth  and my mother would take the ladle in which she was cooking and chase me.               
The worse nightmare for a 21 year old is getting caught red handed by mom while you are stealing sweets. “No sweets until tomorrow ", she would say.
While all this drama is going on in the kitchen, my brother would take some crackers from my box and keep it in his.

The smart girl I am, I know how much the box weighs just by holding it. So whenever I found it lighter my brother and I would have our bloody fights as if we are almost going to kill each other.
After our fights, I would indulge in the most intricate task of arranging all the new outfits’ dad bought me in a chronological order so that I do not get confused about what to wear on which day.
I have never ever slept the night before Deepavali .It always seemed to me that the essence of celebration had driven my sleep into oblivion.
Finally, I was right there staring at the most awaited festival.

My day  usually embarked on at Five in the morning.
Mom used to mix three oils- sesame, coconut, and castor oil to give my brother and I, a light hair massage.
We gathered near the bathroom just like the ants lining up near the sugar jar, waiting for our turn to have a wash. I never wanted to, nor did he. We always pushed each other into the bathroom and ran away. Mom used to run behind us, push us inside, and latch the door from the outside.

After a hot water bath and a delicious breakfast of Idli and Dosa's with mutton gravy and Deepavali sweets and snacks, we would run around the house in our new outfits.
My brother and I would divide our crackers and warn each other about stealing each other’s boxes.Nevertheless, most of the time he would do it. So to prevent this war dad was around us all the time. He decided what we had in our boxes...

I usually got docile crackers and my brother got good ones...
His boxes were brimming with Rockets, Lakshmi bomb, Atom bomb (not the Hiroshima, Nagasaki one), 10000 wala and all the walas ... (we are not terrorists; they are Indian names for crackers)
 I used to get Flower pots, Bhoomi chakras, Bijili packets, Duplicate cracker gun, and the small snake coil one.. precisely the ones kids can play with. (I still get them)
Here I would like to point out the eminent role of Bijilis (small cigarette like crackers), they are small and in plenty...

My brother spent all the 5 days bursting them one by one.. whereas I was busy helping mom cook umpteen numbers of dishes she had in her menu...
Around mid-morning mom, brother and I would go to the temple with sweets and flowers, take blessings from our deities and would return home to have the best lunch of the year.
After a scrumptious lunch and a 3 hour happy nap, I would freshen up, wear a new dress that I had assigned for the evening, and run out with my box of crackers.

The city during Deepavali was, is, and will always be a delight to watch. The streets are so pleasantly lit, they seem to be adorned with chandeliers’, with so much of refulgence, exuberance, and happiness everywhere.
Everybody is out, smiling and sparkling in their new outfits, with people greeting each other and walking into each other’s house carrying a plateful of sweets, the noise of crackers and laughter all around...

Mom always sent me to our neighbor’s house to distribute sweets. My brother and I would fight about that too. “You go, why don’t you go? Just shut up and get lost “. This was how we spoke with each other and in fact this is our polite best.

With the decrease in the quantity of sweets, my brother and I would stock sweets in a cover and hide it in our bags. We had this competition of who finished first..
He used to pretend as though he ate all his sweets and wear a sad expression on his face.
But I ,as an older sister would sit right in front of him and relish the sweets one by one to make him cry.
He would pretend to cry, for the brat he is, giving me my 5 minutes of happiness.
Once I am done, he would wait until the next day to unravel his pack of sweets.
When he did that, I would pounce on him and we would fight like mad dogs.. Finally mom would take away his pack of sweets. Mission completed :)

We had guests and extended family coming over to our house as well... and the best part is My Mother always had a big pack of sweets for the less fortunate people .
Our domestic help, the garbage collector, the lady who sweeps our street, the kids who come to our doorstep asking for crackers and sweets. She always says “They are Gods in disguise”.

After bursting all the crackers allotted for the day, playing and running around I used to be so tired and ready to fall anytime with the tiny bit of energy to mumble, “I don’t want dinner Amma, I am full” ,and then she would retort with a plate full of food in her hand, “Children should not sleep on an empty stomach" and feed my brother and I, like we had never seen food for centuries.Despite all the food and a huge tummy, I would sleep like a baby for 12 hours.

To summarize Deepavali was my 5 days of heaven. :)

With the efflux of time and my exodus to the French land, I have persuaded myself to devise a new approach to celebrate Deepavali in the NRI way. Like I have a choice ( sense the sarcasm please )
This plan does not encompass too much work because now, I have to do it. No mom no dad... Running the show is too difficult. I never realized that it takes so much effort to celebrate a festival.
No early wake up, No heavy breakfast, No leave from work, Not too bothered about wearing new clothes at home, No elaborate cooking, No crackers, No star studded streets, No distributing anything to neighbors ( they will put me behind bars if I knock at their door without prior notice)…
For me this Deepavali will be a modest one just like how it has been since a couple of years.
However, I endeavor to make a difference by being more elaborate much to the dismay and bewilderness of my clueless husband. I do that because I do not want my child to miss out on the moments I enjoyed.
I try my best to replicate the atmosphere at home... being completely aware that, out of the confines of our home she is not going to find any Indianess.

Indians living here get together at a friend’s place or they have community parties to celebrate the festival and spread the aura of Indianess. They also invite the ones who do not know where we exist, to show them who we are and what we do…
In a nutshell, it will be an evening of color, gibber, great food, and dance until midnight... but I think I shall let this pass.
Like my dad used to say “Early rise and early to bed makes Preeti a smart girl”.
 An absurd stance for the present times but I prefer to celebrate it in a “South Indian, My family way...”  This keeps me nostalgic, something I miss being...
Rise early and sleep early... No dancing at night for me... never ever danced... I will not let my daughter dance at night... I mean how you can dance at night… I am delusional now .. :)

Back home we were so exhausted by 9 PM that nothing in this world could keep us from sleeping.
The thought of remaining out of the house at midnight during festivals was and is unusual to me. It amuses me.
Blame my old school of thought; Anyway, that is not the point…
Wherever we are, whatever we do… we have our own way of showing respect to our culture, tradition, people, food, and the spirit of Indianess.
So Happy Diwali, Deepavali, or whatever names you may identify the festival with...

Disclaimer-Pardon my typos…. This is more of I am bad at grammar and Vocabulary type disclaimer than I am sorry I have overlooked type . I tend to end the sentences with a preposition and misplace tenses and What Not…???
Nobody can beat me in honesty though. 
Now take that :)