It’s the time of the year when there is so much hope, joy and festivity in the air. I have beautiful memories of Diwali. This was a festival we looked forward to as children and we would count the days to Diwali and await it with great excitement. I keep asking myself what is it about Diwali, that makes it so special.
Diwali caters to all our senses. It suggests bright colours and lights, the lovely fragrance of flowers, the sound of music and crackers, and of course the aroma and taste of great food. We used to stay in an independent house. The road which lead to our house was a dead end and I remember practising rangoli so that I did justice to my half of the road. My neighbour was really artistic and would effortlessly make neat, large rangolis in front of ours. The camaraderie we shared planning these rangolis brings a smile even today after twenty years.
We had marigold torans on the doors and the rose petals soaked in rose water in a mud “urli” lent a beautiful touch. And we would deck our hair with fragrant jasmine, without which no festival is complete down south. Diyas were simple and made of mud, not painted and nothing fancy, but the string of diyas on the compound wall made the whole house come alive.
The food is altogether another story, preparations would start days earlier with one sweet or savoury item being made in decent quantities every day. I remember the days when Amma would scream her lungs out and expect us to come and help. Both my brothers and me would help her for all of 15 minutes and the moment the first batch was ready we would scoot with our spoils. The coconut burfi, thenkuzhal, murukku, ribbon pakoda and karanji were made only on Diwali and we would attack the food with complete enthusiasm.
The crackers would be purchased at least a fortnight in advance and split equally amongst us under our watchful eyes, we would not budge during this exercise lest the sibling gets a better deal. Once this was done our trading would start can you trade your rockets from some flowerpots? The list would go on. New dress was non-negotiable. The rustle of silk and women in their beautiful kanjivarams is so intrinsic to Diwali.
Forward to today, I struggle to create similar memories for my children. They do enthusiastically help in making the rangoli, and help me string lights on the windows. But they are kind of taken aback by my excitement to make all the traditional sweets at home. Dutifully they do their bit and help me in preparing the same. My son asks “why are you making so much? Who is going to eat them?’’ They are not really interested in the traditional sweets or savouries unless I think of a way to incorporate some cheese, chocolate or some such thing into it. My defence that Diwali is not the same with store-brought sweets falls on deaf ears. The kandils and flowers are in place and so are the rangolis and diyas. What is needed to bring a smile to our faces and warm our hearts is the getting together of family and friends in the old-fashioned way.
This is a time when realization dawns that happiness and memories are formed from small inconsequential things and with meeting and greeting loved ones. It is truly like the ad “there are somethings money can’t buy”. So true! Think back and you will agree that your happiest memories are not about your material acquisitions but about experiences that have brightened someone else’s day along with yours. May the spirit of Diwali live in us all year through and help us value the simple things which bring so much joy.