Diwali is where the home is

Yessss! I won. The kids did it for me this time. Here's what the judge Bhawna of An Indian Summer had to say about my post.

Tulika: I relived my train journeys to Lucknow as a child through your post. Not that I travelled without a reservation ;-) , but the experience of taking a night train and then taking the rickety auto rickshaws (what are they called again?) once out of the railway station – all came back to me. The fact that you made it for Diwali as a surprise – I am sure, it must be your family’s favorite dinner table story :) . But the winning stroke of your post was the gorgeous handiwork of your four year old twins! Thanks for sharing the early works of the two very talented artists currently residing in your home! :)
Pic Courtesy: Google Images
There’s something about Diwali that makes me want to go home. And each year I did, for many many years. All was well till I was in Delhi.. home was a night’s journey away and life was cool. Then I moved to Bombay. I thought I was all grown up and could handle being away from home. A few weeks to Diwali and the longing started. I can handle it, I reiterated, I’m a big girl. Diwali got closer. Activity in office hotted up, more so because I was in the business of stocks. Brokers poured in with gifts and sweets. Everyone, yes everyone seemed to be headed home. They waved their reservation tickets proudly. Everyone else seemed to be perpetually on the phone checking their reservation status. I didn’t even have a ticket. The longing kicked in real bad.

A week before, I became desperate. Of course by then reservations were full and there was no chance I was ever getting home other than by travelling on the train roof, something I wasn't really keen on doing. Then, like a messenger from God, I got a call from an ex classmate who was also going to Lucknow and had tickets to spare. I shamelessly piled on along with another friend, double pile on. Then I discovered all his tickets were waitlisted. “They will get confirmed”, he assured us, “my uncle’s in the Railways”. The three of us reached the station only to find the uncle had failed us – just one ticket had been confirmed.
Interestingly, the moment other passengers realise you do not have a valid ticket you become an outsider and they tacitly gang up against you, and so they did. Oh I’ll never forget those scornful stares that seemed to say, “Aajkal ke ladke ladkiyan….” followed by thoughts of unmentionable things they were capable of. They checked the locks and chains on their luggage as if we would make off with it all. We sat through it, closing our eyes and ears to everything, chatting about our respective jobs and reminiscing college days.

Then the TT came along and we seemed to be in imminent danger of being thrown out. We talked and pleaded, argued and haggled to be allowed to just sit in the compartment. We did have one seat, didn’t we? The ‘uncle’ came to our rescue. Name dropping does wonders in India and we had our permissions. The TT retired grudgingly saving the worst stare for me.

That 26 hour journey squeezed together on a single seat with two boys is unforgettable.

I was given the privileged window seat by my chivalarous friends. By 10 the co-passengers switched off the lights and by 10.30 I was nodding off too. By 11 I was longing to stretch my legs and by 11.30 I was wondering why I came at all. I rested by head at the window and stretched out my legs sprawling on my one third seat. My head rolled with the train's pace and its steady rhythm seemed to say.. sleep sleep sleep.. except there was to be no sleep.

The night was interminable. We got off at every platform through the night, welcoming the sounds of “chai chai”. Drinking endless cups of tea gave us something to do. Somewhere during the early hours we all fell asleep in one tired heap. We woke up on Diwali day with the muted morning sun upon us through the dark glass windows. The co-passengers seemed in a much better humour. Perhaps the morning cup of tea had warmed them, or maybe it was just the relief that we weren’t the goondas they’d thought us or was it simply the miracle of Diwali… they struck up human conversations with us. By 9.30 the train ambled onto the platform. We said our goodbyes and hopped onto rickshaws. That was another first.. a pampered me had always had my dad receive me at the station.. but this was different.. it was meant to be a surprise.

Anyone who’s sat on a cycle rickshaw knows of its dawdling nawabi pace. By the time I reached home I was almost hopping on the seat from frustration and excitement. That homecoming will always be very very special.

I don’t think I have it in me to do it again, ever. But that year I did get home.... and it was well worth it. The look on my mom’s face when she saw me made it MORE than worth it.

I kept up the trend for many years even after I was married. Diwali saw me making my way from Delhi, Mumbai, Bhopal, Pune.. wherever I was, all the way home and it was always worth it.. always. Things changed only after I had my twins. I leave you with some pictures of their handiwork this Diwali.

Hard at work
The finished products

A diya streamer

Some of their Diwali cards
If this seems a tad drab remember it was done entirely by the kids (other than lighting the candles) for I was down with fever on Diwali day this year and couldn't leave the bed

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