Diwali is special in India. Diwali is special for my family. Diwali holds a great significance for me personally.
The days of my childhood, when we used only ‘diyas’ and wax candles for illuminating our houses, are filled with fond memories. My father loved this festival and always mentioned it, beaming with excitement.
My paternal house had a courtyard in the centre on the ground floor. Our tenants occupied the ground floor. From the first floor, where my family lived, we could look into the courtyard from the balustrade railing that lined the four corridors of the first floor. The other side of the corridors was lined with rooms.
I, along with my father, brother, and uncles, would go around the house, lighting candles and ‘diyas’ on the railings of the terrace on the second floor, and the balustrade railing on the first floor. We would also fill the balconies of the rooms, looking out on the street, with candles. The stairs, the entrances to each room, and the elevated corner outside the kitchen, would all be filled with lighted candles. I remember the strong breeze and a nip in the air on Diwali each year. Filled with exuberance, I would run across the entire house, relighting the candles that would blow-off by the strong winds.
Then, there were some Diwalis at my maternal grandparents’ house, with my cousins, aunts, and maternal uncle. The family occupied the ground floor of the house and their tenants occupied the first floor and the apartment on the terrace. The entire neighbourhood would come out on the streets to burst crackers. I particularly remember a couple of Diwalis there, just before we lost my maternal grandfather; the Diwali where we fired crackers till the wee hours, and fired rockets at the cars on the road. Then there was that one car which was having trouble with the accelerator. A young man was driving it and trying to avoid the rockets. The fun part was that he got it functioning and turned around to drive past our house, hooting with joy, racing and defeating our rockets. We had the best laugh ever, having strangers enjoying with us. Another Diwali, in the following years, was with my future husband, in the same house. We were not sure if something was brewing in our hearts, something must have been because within a year we were married.
Some memorable Diwalis were with him, at various air force stations of our postings. My zest had no bounds. Posted away from Delhi, at places where Bengali sweets are not easily available, we would make our own sweets. I loved making chocolate fudge at home. However, the focus was on preparing some good savoury dishes for the visiting officers, families, etc of the unit and the station. Invariably, the day would end with a round of the station, visiting every household, a gathering at the officers’ mess, a firework display, and some good food and wine.
After resettling in Delhi, my Diwalis did not lose their sheen. I have stayed as excited over the last nineteen years, buying endless candles, putting up electric lights for over a week, buying Diwali gifts for family and friends, decking up on Diwali, and passing the bug of exhilaration on to my two children. It is my favourite festival too. Maybe, because it was my father’s favourite and is my tribute to him. I hope that my children will remember my love for the festival, and wherever they are, they will celebrate it with as much fervour as a remembrance for me.
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||