Diwali or Deepavali is my favourite festival of the year.I come from a very conservative and traditional Hindu, Brahmin family so festivals are a one too many in my house.Almost every alternate day demands a big lunch and endless vermilion applications.Coconut breakings, garland offerings, aartis, poojas, homas and havanas are a routine thing.But Deepavali, despite following the same scheme of events is very refreshing and different.
As a kid, it was definitely the best festival because all my cousins came over to my house and we had quite a 'blast'(forgive the pun!).The endless exchange of different versions of the same memory between my aunts, the going out with appa and uncles to buy firecrackers, late night gossip, ajji's laddoos, ajja's stories...it was like an alternate universe.We bought new clothes the previous day despite knowing that the market place would be swarming with last minute buyers.It never occurred to us that we could buy our Diwali stuff in advance.We'd be tired walking around the market and crib about our aching legs till we got sent to bed with stern warnings.The next morning, on Narak Chaturdashi was the aarti.We'd wake up as early as possible, usually around 5 30am, dress up in our brand new clothes, wear bangles(which we hated on the other days of the year) and sit in line with our brothers and uncles for the aarti.Our mothers performed the aarti, sang the same aarti song every year as we hummed along.They'd apply a little oil(a fragrant one.This point too made Diwali an exciting thing for us.) on our hair with a gold ring.Then we'd bow to God and our elders.We'd accept the prasad and then we'd all walk to the nearest Hanuman temple.After visiting the temple, our mothers would oil us and give us a nice, hot bath.The Deepavali lunch was always heavy.Payasa(sweetened porridge), kosambri(salad),chutney,chitranna(lemon rice), my ajji prepared all varieties of delicacies on a coal stove.I can still remember the taste of the lunch just by reminiscing about it.The heavy lunch was followed by ice cream bought from the street hawker.My brother would finish his off quickly and beg for a bite from mine.We'd fight over it, I'd usually end up crying.He did it every year though, just so he could tease me.A siesta ensued after the dessert.Evenings were again dedicated to dressing up(for the girls) and firecrackers(for the guys).We'd block our ears and close our eyes as my brothers lit patakha on patakha(or as we call it, patakshi).In the end, we burst firecrackers too, with our mothers' warnings about fire safety ringing in our ears.This went on till almost 10 in the night after which the younger siblings got to light a special rocket or a special flower pot under the careful supervision of an elder.We'd all be exhilirated with the gorgeous display of colours and fire and go to sleep late in the night, still thinking about the evening.
It's quite different now.My cousins don't come over.They celebrate the festival in their own homes.My brother works in Bangalore, he cannot get off work for too many days.The few days he is here, he spends half his time catching up with old friends.Ajji wasn't in town this year, so amma cooked instead.Amma cooks well too but not in ajji's league.Diwali has been a quiet festival for the past seven years because I banned firecrackers at my place.Just the traditional lighting of the diyas and we're done with the display.Diwali shopping was low key too.I wasn't interested in clothes this year.Yet, the aarti was something I looked forward to, I lit the diyas at twilight and wished for everyone's well being.The chill in the air was the same on Diwali morning as it was ten years ago.The mist that hung was a little smoggier though.I made quite a few bucks.In the end, it was a very normal festival.The charm of it lay in the remembrances this time...
I know two stories that relate to Diwali.One being the return of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita to Ayodhya from Lanka.And the other one tells us how Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura. Whatever may be the reason for celebration, Diwali is by far the most significant and symbolic festival.The whole concept of lighting lamps to symbolise the light engulfing darkness, knowledge winning over ignorance is very enlightening(again, unintended!).I hope people realise, at least by next year, how bad firecrackers are for the environment and do away with them entirely.Wishful thinking na?I don't know why we have to maim nature on every occasion, in the name of God.Anyway, without further digression, my favourite festival of the year went really well.Here's wishing you a very Happy Deepavali.I sincerely hope all the festive greetings come true.Have fun!:)