Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nostalgia - Deepavali that used to be ....

Deepavali or Diwali has always been a very special festival for me. For one, it spans for 3 days which meant No school / college for 3 days. (and if it were thursday through saturday ... even better) It also falls soon after Dasara ... so we are still in the festive spirit.

The festival of lights brings back a lot of memories .... the earliest memory runs when I was about 7-8 yrs old. We had this custom in our family (maternal side) where the entire family (3 uncles and 2 aunts, their spouses and kids and of course our grand parents) would gather in one house to celebrate the festival. So if it was Ugadi in uncle S place, it would Ganesha festival at my grand parents' house, Sankrathi is aunt Sh's place. So it was Diwali in our house that year. We were living in officer's quarters. It was a small 2 bedroom house with a huge yard. The yard itself could house 4-5 more houses. We had lovely Bougainvillea tree just beside the front gate with lovely flowers year round. The front yard had mostly several rows of flowers while in the backyard we had cotton, pomogranate, gooseberries, papaya, lemon, seetaphal. The sides had some more flowering plants and also guava trees. Now when I struggle to grow plants in a small patio, I wonder how my parents managed all these plants / trees. I don't ever remember them complaining about taking care of so many plants. My dad loved getting his hands dirty in the mud and making "Pathi" or small mud bridges to hold the water. My paternal grandma also loved taking care of plants. She specially loved the "Sampige" and "Tulsi" plants. Anyways ... I digress.

Coming back to Diwali.... that particular year, all my cousins (around 7) of them from age 10 to 1 arrived on the "Neeru Tumbo Habba" or the night before "Naraka Chaturdashi". This day is particularly important for us, since on this day, the entire house is cleaned (especially the boiler or "Hande" used for bathing) All kids were made to sit on the "MaNe" (small wodden seating) and my grandma massaged us with warm castor oil after doing the mandatory "Ahalya Draupadi Seeta". (this is process where grandma applied dots of castor oil on hand and massaged it before proceeding to the head and other body parts) After running around oiled for atleast 30 mins, our moms would start bathing us. There used to be some competition among the kids as to who gets to take bath first. Obviously the younger ones got bathed first and the older ones later. Once all the kids were bathed, the elders also took oil bath. It took about 4-5 hrs for the entire family to just get that elaborate bathing. Now began the fun part of us the kids ... the crackers :))

The thing about celebrating with the entire family also ensured that, we had large packets of crackers. Each family brought some crackers. We would mix all of them. And then, we divided the crackers for all the nights of Diwali and saved some for the "Utvana Dwadashi" or "Tulsi habba" which would fall some 15 days later.

Coming back to the first night of Diwali, we would place all the crackers in a huge tray and start burning them one after the other. The entire family witnessed this ... with one or two of the men taking charge of the kids. I am sure there would have been some small fights among the kids while dividing the crackers ... but nothing comes to my mind right now. So I can safely say the elders did a great job of ensuring all of the kids remained happy and satisfied. It was just not the kids alone, the ladies and men alike took part in burning the crackers. The night invariably ended with the burning of 1000 or 10000 "Sara Pataki".
This was then followed by an elaborate dinner. Still wonder, how the ladies managed to bathe the kids, take part in the cracker event and yet manage n elaborate hot dinner. After dinner, we would all go for a walk, catching glimpses to flower pots or chakras being lit in the neighborhood. We would mentally make note of all the papers lying in the yard of all the houses and feel happy if the "Kasa" or the papers from the crackers in our house was the most. In our minds, more the kasa, more crackers we had burnt. Once back home, daddy would spread the beds, mats etc and arrange for our night's siesta. We lived in a small 2 bedroom house back then ... still about 20 of us managed to sleep without any fuss. Of course we just lied on our beds ... we talked endlessly before falling sleep sometime in the middle of the night.

The next morning of Naraka Chaturdashi began with daddy and few others cleaning up the yard. After a scrumptious breakfast, we again would begin to burn the crackers allocated for that day. Afternoon would be spent either going for a movie or just playing some board games. The elders chatted endlessly or just rested. Come evening ... and we kids hopped around the yard with delight burning some more crackers.

The next morning, we burnt less crackers than usual. Evening saw the ladies perform "Lakshmi Pooja". They also lit the house with diyas. We kids ensured that our "Golka" or piggybank was kept for the pooja. Afterall, Goddess Lakshmi had to be kind to us to fill our piggybanks.

The last day of Diwali or "Bali Padyami" saw us spending time recollecting the past 2-3 days spent together. It also saw the aunts and uncles packing their suitcases. Mom decorated the doors with pyramids made of cow dung which our milkman used to bring. This was decorated with "Chand hoova". (I forget now what it was called). In the evening, daddy performed "Balindra Pooja". After the pooja, all the girls in the family performed "Vaara Doori" which required us to spill milk from a conch all over the house and sprinkle flower petals. This act was done to ensure the "Tavaru Mane" or the girl's house remained ever flourishing. We also lit few sparklers indoors near the place where pooja was performed. After this we of course burnt a lot of crackers. Most of my uncles and aunt left to their places on this evening itself ... some left the next day.

The next day was "Sodara Bidige" ... similar tradition as "Raksha bandhan" performed in other parts of India. My uncles gifted my mom and mom gifted them back as well. Daddy was usually not there for this festival, since he would go to his sister's place for the same :)

Other memories of Deepavali in our family:
* We always bought new clothes. The new clothes were worn either on Naraka Chaturdhasi or Bali Paadyami. If we got lucky we bought 2 sets of clothes.
* Most of the families bought the crackers through "Cheeti system". This system meant paying money in installments and getting the crackers at the end of it along with a nice "Silver" or "Gold" item as a gift)
* One of the nights of Diwali included "Kola Katte" on the menu. Usually it would be the night of "Neeru Tumbo Habba".

This year, we did celebrate Deepavali in the Cantaloupe house hold. We lit candles around the house. (we also carved few pumpkins, with Halloween just 2 days away) I performed the Lakshmi pooja while Cantloupe ensured her piggybank was kept for the pooja. We burnt few sparklers and flower pots. (much to Cantaloupe's protests ... she hated it) But, the charm was not the same. I missed the elaborate food, missed the endless gossip sessions, missed the long walks, missed variety of crackers .... above all I missed every single member of my family. Now everyone is spread all over the globe and I am not sure we all will ever be able to celebrate the festival together again.

On a brighter note ... My sister had a baby boy this Deepavali ... so it feels wonderful to become a "Doddamma". This sister of mine lives just few miles from our house ... hopefully my daughter and this little fella will make their own special memories of Deepavali in the years to come !!!

1 comment:

Pixie said...

Everything's so similar!!
It was like reading how we used to celebrate Diwali as kids at home!!


My circle of life with BP, Cantaloupe and Junior and much more | Desenvolvido por EMPORIUM DIGITAL