Diwali to me has always meant being home. No matter where I worked, no matter how much the work pressure, Diwali would see me braving crowded trains, sometimes sitting through the entire 26 hour journey, to my parents.
Home, now is with the Husband and kids. The celebrations aren’t the same too. Just as much fun, but in a different way.
I clean (yeah I do that sometimes) and so do the kids. We buy pretty knick-knacks. N begins to think up rangoli designs way in advance and H always makes a late entry and wants to make one too. The diyas are bought, washed, dried and painted. The large ceremonial pot is cleaned and filled with water ready for flowers and floating candles. Gifts for dear friends are picked with care and are kept wrapped and ready. I go hunting for Ganesh-Lakshmi idols. In this part of the country solo Lakshmi idols seem to be the norm but back home the two gods were inseparable. For years I thought Ganesh and Lakshmi were a couple, wondering where Vishnu ji fitted in the whole picture!
Lunch that day is frill-free because cooking is not my forte. I try to stick to what I can handle - large chunks of paneer in tomato gravy, potatoes fried a golden brown, hot puffed puris and soft dahi wadas with tamarind-jaggery chutney. Basic stuff but it works for us. I make up by laying out the table as prettily as I can with my best china. Oh I also have the mandatory jimikand that makes your tongue tingle crazily but is must-have on Diwali lest you be reborn as a chhuchhundar!
The husband fusses round putting up the lights and then goes mithai shopping with the kids. He completely forgets that he’s a diabetic and buys much more than we can consume. I pretend to be angry but I don’t really mind because I know we’ll be sick of them before the week is through.
In the evening we set out the idols and the silver coins, the flowers and the diyas. After we light the diyas we have a small puja ending with an aarti. I gave up most of the other rituals because I don’t have a knack for them. I simply cannot remember them all and I got tired of calling up my mom every year. I do try though, because it would be a pity if H and N lost touch with all that’s traditional.
After the puja we carry the diyas and place one in each of the rooms, with the hope that our home and our lives are forever lit up with their radiance. Then we’re off to visit friends, exchange mithais and gifts and watch the fireworks.
Later at night, we switch off all the lights and sit amidst the flickering diyas and twinkling lanterns. We watch as the skies light up periodically in a shower of fireworks with H and N flitting from window to window calling out to come ‘see this one’.
It is truly beautiful.
That is what I am grateful this festive season - that I can celebrate Diwali exactly the way I want. I love that I have complete liberty to weed out all I don’t like - the must-be-done-cooking, the craziness of spring cleaning, the long drawn out puja, the mandatory gifting - all of those things that stress me out and make me not want to celebrate at all.
That leaves me with only the good parts, surrounded by the warmth of family and friends, and makes me welcome Diwali with all my heart, just how it should be.
What’s your Diwali like? What are are the things you’ve done away with or added on?