Deepavali during simpler times!
|Courtesy - http://news.bbc.co.uk/|
Deepavali! No other festival is as...well...festive as this one! This is one festival which I look forward to with a child-like enthusiasm (and will continue to do so, no matter what age!)
Back in the 80s, when apartments were unheard of in Bengalooru, Deepavali used to be a very homely affair. Take for example my road in Malleswaram. I think barring a couple of families, majority of the residents were tenants. All this 11-month rental contract business was unheard of in the eighties. My family was in the same rented house for over 15 years. So were most of my neighbours. So yes, neighbours were as good as family – and there was such an emotional bond that it disproved the notion of blood being thicker than water.
Quite naturally, Deepavali was a communal affair. Of course, all the families did their puja and bought their own fireworks; yet, some of the fireworks were bought with contributions from everyone. These were the ‘dangerous’ ones, which only the local boys could handle. There were the rockets. And the atom bombs. And the Pataki sara. And then the ‘train’. All this somehow increased the ‘shaan’ of the road. People from other roads would come and watch, while dhonnes filled with kosumbari and usli would do the rounds.
For us children, this was the time of delirious happiness. It was a lower-middle class neighbourhood, and new clothes were bought only two or three times in a year. Deepavali was one of those festivals which called for new clothes. On Malleswaram Sampige road, there was a clothes shop called T.D.Shah. It was run by the Shah family (who also resided in the same neighbourhood). Most of the parents would get the clothes on instalments from here. It would invariably be Garden Vareli saree for the Mom, Vimal shirt pieces for the Dad (those days, ready-made shirts was a ridiculous concept – it just did not exist), and some garish frocks for the girls, or equally garish t-shirts and shorts for the boys (I am talking about kids less than 10 years). The fireworks were usually sold in the Malleswaram ground near Circle.
Deepawali was just three days (and not the extended version we see these days). There was the Naraka Chaturdashi, the Amavase, and the Bali Padyami. The day prior to the festival, in fact, in the night, the women folk would clean the road in front of their house vigorously and draw complicated and beautiful rangolis. At the crack of dawn, we children would wake up (I don’t think any of us kids ever slept!) to take the ritualistic ‘oil bath’. Castor oil would be massaged into the hair and body with a vengeance. Hot water would be boiling away in huge copper pots (there were no boilers, geysers those days). The oil would be washed away using ‘seegepudi’ or soapnut powder. Invariably this would get into the eyes stinging us, making us bawl. Then, it would be time to wear the new clothes and prostrate before the deities in the puja room. By 5:00 AM, we would hear the first crackers; filling us with glee!
For breakfast, it would be Nucchinunde – steamed toordaal dumplings spiced with green chillies and hing. Lunch would be royal, with ghas ghase paayasa, obbattu, and so many other goodies. There would be a constant flow of visitors – exchanging sweets and gossip, inviting the ladies for ‘arshina kumkuma’.
All the traders and Marwaris (all clubbed under the name of ‘Setus’) usually would do their Laksmi Puja on Amavase day. The rest of the ‘non’ Setu families observed a quiet day on Amavase. But it never deterred us children. There would be some rumour about some Setu’s house several streets away where the Setu had put a garland of 100 rupee notes on a Laksmi idol. So all of us would troop to this house, and unabashedly ask if it was indeed true. We would be let into the house, allowed to gape at the spectacle, fed with goodies and sent away with some more goodies. Every year it was a new Setu. Every year the loot would be kadubus, kallepuri, chaklis, kodubales!
And then, there was always the warning – ‘Don’t burst all the crackers at one go – you have to keep it for Bali Padyami too’. So there would be firecracker rationing. There was the ‘kudre pataaki’ which was a mild cracker – fit for girls and kids (according to boys and elders). The next level was the ‘Aane pataaki’ – higher decibel, and therefore meant for boys above 12 years. The atom bomb was for guys who had started sprouting facial hair. This last day of Deepavali, the ‘communal’ pataakis would come out. The cracker ‘garlands’ – strands of 10000 crackers. It would be laid lengthwise in the middle of the road, traffic would stop, and all of us would clap our ears shut and watch spectacle.
The next one week would go in discussing which road had the longest ‘sara’ or garland. And of course, there would always be the news about some coconut tree that caught fire because of a mis-guided rocket (raaket). The usual nicks and burns. And the smell of burnol ointment in school...where at least a couple of kids would show off injuries.
Now, I feel lost. With every jeweller coaxing me to buy gold coins and necklaces on Dhanteras (when I was growing up, we had never heard of Dhanteras), with every small retail establishment coaxing me with their ‘Diwali Dhamaka offer’...I feel Deepavali is more like the annual Dubai festival. And yes, the climate has really changed, and more often than not, it always rains during Deepavali in Bengalooru. But those childhood memories are so precious! If I close my eyes, the fragrance of Vasu Special agarbathis, the smell of ghee smeared obattus, the fragrance of mallige on the ladies' plaits, the mild smell of turmeric and sandalwood; the flash of silk sarees - all these flare up making me feel so warm.
All my childhood friends, like me, came from lower-middle class families. Deepavali stretched pockets – but it would always be ‘adjusted’. Life with all its problems and irritations would be put on hold for a Deepavali celebration!
Deepavali means a lot of things to people – but for me, it is always about living in the moment, and making most of it. It will always be a time of unbridled celebration and happiness; of being thankful for all the good things in life, and letting go of all the negativity! Without the damned crackers though...hate the buggers, really scared of them.
Wishing you all a very Happy Deepavali!