Here comes Diwali or Deepavali as we call it down south!
In Singapore thanks to the huge populace of Indian origin, Deepavali is one of the well recognized festivals. It is a public holiday and everywhere one can find banners wishing all Hindu residents a fantabulous Deepavali. Numerous fairs get organized where sweets, savouries and clothes are sold. So in a way, we don’t miss home that badly during the festival.
I have fond memories of the Deepavalis of my childhood. For women like my mother , it used to be the best occasion to try their hand at various delicacies. There would be two categories of eatables made. One at which they were adept, and there was a very meagre chance of any goof ups. Then there were the first time experiments which would enter the ‘for-distribution-to-friends-and-neighbors’ category depending upon the outcome. And Boy! A variety of delicacies would be made at home. Half of the telephone lines in the city would be buzzing with dialogues like ‘Oh you made 7-cup-cake? I made laddoo this time.What exactly is the proportion needed for that one?’ etc. Unlike today when they have been replaced with ‘Hello, Grand Snacks? Please pack three kg of ladoos distributed in 5 boxes!’
I remember I once caught Conjunctivitis (‘Madras’ eye) at school and happily passed it on to my mom just before Deepavali. Determined lady that she is, despite the sore eyes, she completed the mission at hand - making three big dappas(tins) of murukku(a savoury) and two three varities of sweets. I remember that time I did not know the word ‘sore’. I thought its called ‘soaries’ a new disease!
Another inseparable component of Diwali – well, do I have to say it? Firecrackers of course!
As a kid when I was in Kerala, ours was the only home that celebrated Deepavali in a totally Mallu neighbourhood. We used to gain the wrath of all our neighbors bursting 100 and 200 walas, in the wee hours of morning. God knows how many curses they would have directed at us for interrupting their early morning dreams!
I remember one occasion when the shopkeeper sold us a latest firecracker called ‘Super atom bomb’. It was almost the size of a cricket ball. My older cousin was about to light it and I got so scared, I went and hid somewhere along with the dogs and cats. It was a super blooper! It peeled itself slowly like an onion and finally when it was the size of a sticker bindi emitted a tiny ‘plop’ and died.
There was one Diwali which I will never forget. My family and I were standing outside and lighting the flower pots and chakras along with our neighbors. After some time, some smell seemed to come from inside the house that hit our nostrils strongly despite the chemical odours that floated in the smoky air. My dad went in to check out and came rushing out , with blood red eyes, gasping for air , suffocated and almost choking. My mother had left the kadai with the oil on the stove after making the snacks. There are long agarbathis(incense sticks) that the firecracker shops sell. These are used for lighting the crackers that burst a.k.a the lakshmis, hydrogen, bijili etc. My little brother who had gone inside to light that one, had turned on the stove to do so. Happily forgetting to turn it off, he had walked out in glee. The oil had become hot, extremely hot, smoky and had finally caught fire. The kitchen was a small one with limited ventilation and there was little escape for all that smoke. I still clearly remember the way my dad looked after inhaling that. Bloodshot eyes and deep gasps for breath - Almost like an asthmatic attack!
I am sure all of you would have some memory or the other…Do share them in the comments section !
And yeah, Wish you all a Happy Diwali. J