Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Festival of Lights

Up till 10th standard, we would write essays in Hindi class about our favourite festival. I would always pick Diwali, mostly because I knew that essay by heart. But when you pause to think of it, A festival of lights... how wonderfully evocative that sounds. Even if I was a foreigner who had never seen Diwali before, that description alone would let me picture it. Homes lit up with glowing lamps, skies brightened with sunbursts of colour, music, laughter and sweets.

This is a really wonderful country we live in, isn't it? We have festivals of light and colour, of harvest and rain. We have music festivals that last for months and dances for every one of our thousands of Gods. We have more languages than states, and poetry in all of them. But, I digress from Diwali.

We celebrate our Diwali in the Indian style, with some allowances for Army traditions. We wake up early in the morning and bathe. Amma does her puja while K and I take turns ringing a little brass bell. Amma then force feeds us Diwali marundu (A mixture of herbs sweetened with jaggery, said to help digestion. This is served during Diwali in anticipation of all the feasting to come) We then sit about over a leisurely breakfast, wearing brand new clothes and awaiting our guests. Amma and I will have spent the past week slaving over the stove, and as a result the kitchen will be full giant plastic and aluminium tins holding fascinating things. Then our guests will come and we'll wish them and make small talk and exchange sweets.

Afternoons will generally be spent by K and me in a sugar coma, while Appa and Amma go about doing their social rounds. In the evening will be the military fireworks display, an event that takes weeks of preparation and planning. The first fireworks are timed to go off with the last rays of the sunset. They will be closely followed by wheels and snakes of fire, giant flowerpots and multi-colored sparklers. While the display continues, we delicately nibble on cakes and sip lemonade while trying to make polite conversation over the explosions.

Night time is my favourite though. When we return home and have seen off the last of our guests, we go to the roof and stand there watching the fireworks, just us four. It's like a giant show especially for us. We point out sunbursts to each other and exclaim over misfires. Gradually, we fall quiet and simply watch.

Happy Diwali everyone!

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