October. The month that inaugurates an extravaganza of festivals until the new year kicks in. I couldn’t help but travel back to my teen epoch to reminisce how my favourite festival engraved its fingerprint on my life.
When I was a kid, Diwali was the festival, my brother L and I always looked forward to. The two of us had spent nearly half of our lifetime with our grandma, who played a major role in illuminating the festive vibes in our little hearts. L and I had the habit of saving every penny that we are offered throughout the year which, in the end would be lavishly spent on all types of crackers that are sprawled out across the street shops during Diwali. From creepy snake tablets to ear-splitting lakshmi vedis, sky-touching rockets and scary atom bombs we experiment every single cracker with awe.
Until our Grandpa lived, he used to gift us our Diwali dresses every year. The dresses weren’t too expensive or branded like the ones we wear these days, but were good enough to make us happy and never ever failed to last until the next Diwali.
Just like the crackers, sweets also played an indispensable role during Diwali. Not a village confectionary I know of made extra bucks during the festival, the only men whose pockets jingled extra were those who owned grocery shops at the end of the street. Every thinnai veedu ceremonially emanates the aroma of freshly ground cardamom, cloves, jaggery, roasted rice flour and coconut before Diwali sets in. Exactly on the eve of the festival, Adhirasam, Achu murukku, Seedai, Mundhri Kothu are prepared and offered to the Gods the next day.
The D day begins with a mandatory oil bath. Roti is the signature Diwali breakfast in most of the houses which is served along with a visual treat of Solomon Paapaiyah’s patti mandram. In the afternoon, when one set of crackers get over, we come back home for lunch. The most valued rockets, lakshmi vedis and sara vedis are lit when dusk dominates the sky.
Though I loved bursting crackers as a child, somewhere in the middle of growing up as an adult, I lost interest in it mainly because of its significant contribution to pollution. Last year, we managed to celebrate a no-cracker Diwali, but the year before that, we had one helluva cracker treat at the streets.
The street side shops have disappeared with time, old-fashioned thinnai houses are renovated to tall walled bungalows, home made sweet is now a rarity. My impression about Diwali has been drastically devastated in the name of development. The only festive vibe I feel in head this time is when I log into shopping apps. Their animated rangoli and rocket themes make my heart melt like butter in the frying pan for it takes me a step closer to what I miss in life – the past. What happens next? I end up ordering absolutely unnecessary items in the app to express my gratitude. Business tactics and sentiments, my foot.
This year, with all the back-breaking responsibilities along with my growing guilt on the family’s carbon footprint, my perception about the festival of lights has changed for the better. The mandatory oil bath is still on list. Instead of resorting to bakery sweets, I am planning to prepare one (just one) at home. Crackers – No! Dresses – I’m done buying dresses for this year. No Diwali dresses for me. Watching Patti mandram is an impossible event in our household, thanks to the one year old little man who never lets anyone else enjoy the screen privileges.
Aw, speaking of YouTube, is it just me who, despite living in the other side of the world where Halloween is never celebrated, is experiencing its vibes encircling my Diwali aura? Almost all the songs that baby D watches in YouTube TV are replaced by their Halloween version without us having to ask for it.
Baby Shark doo doo doo has changed to Baby Shark boo boo boo.
The visuals of Down by the bay has changed. Bright red watermelons are nowhere to be seen, just pumpkins everywhere! That’s okay. What is not is the scary tone that has taken over the energetic beats of the song.
Kid doesn’t seem to mind any of these changes. But every Halloween this and that is manipulating our otherwise normal lives.
After watching a series of Halloween special videos, I involuntarily clenched my facial muscles to a ghostly appearance (with just two minor tweaks) which unexpectedly scared baby D off (the same baby who laughed his heart out while I was binge watching Anabelle on a Saturday night). As a result, kid’s trust on me was plundered for a few minutes which sort of incurred a huge loss to me as a mother.
I worked my everything off to prepare the street side mushroom fry at home and handed over the piping hot dish to Dr.H, who, after munching on some of the big chunks, sang (which sounded more like a deliberate attempt but I believe it came out sub-consciously),
“Trick or treat, trick or treat,
Give me something good to eat.
If you don’t…. “
“Oh, the timing. It’s wrong. I didn’t mean it. Or did I?”
The song and sarcasm disappeared into thin air when I gave him the look.
Chomping on, he hummed Hakuna Matata and left the place.