Happy Diwali to all my amazing friends and readers of this blog! Wishing you a year full of lights, prosperity, happiness and success.. :-):-)
Diwali is my most favorite festival of all time. Not that I don’t like other festivals, but there are some occasions that resonate more joy than others- Diwali is one of them for me. Like I know Ganesh Chaturthi is a big deal in Maharashtra, but some how it has never been a very big deal in my family because we never kept Ganpati at home. I like Dussera too, but somehow the excuse to light lamps and Lakshmi Pujan and everything just make Diwali a lot more festive for me! Surprisingly again, while most people like Diwali for the faaral, it was again never a big thing in my family. My grandmother would make some faraal type items, but my mom was always so busy around this time of year that she had time to only make one sweet or something like that.. And to be frank, that was completely fine with all of us in my family. We still had such a good time getting together and celebrating!
Obviously, such days make me miss my family even more. It’s funny how every family has these peculiar stories associated with certain traditions or days. My family is not very ritualistic- I mean, my grandparents are, but my parents’ generation downwards is ritualistic to an extent. We do all that is needed to be done, but suitably modify it to our comfort level- which I think is a good sign of evolution. My extended family consists of 14 people in all- 8 adults and 6 children- which is quite okay compared to those Big Indian Family standards! So, every Diwali day, we all gather at my grandparents’ house for the aarti.. And we’re talking like 5 AM! Of course, even though we all stay within a 3 mile radius, we always end up getting late to reach their place and eventually can start the aarti only by 6 AM or so! At home, mom is yelling at my sister and me to put on a bindi and some jewelery, which we never want to do! My grandfather gets agitated coz we’re all late, but eventually everyone gathers around the small little devghar they have and start singing the bhajans (which I don’t think any of us cousins know! :P) Finally, about an hour later, we’re done with everything. We all ask for out elders’ blessings and the usual hugs and wishes follow! 😀
Then, we have another ceremony where the women in the family are supposed to perform aarti for all the men and then the men do the same for the women. Now, I don’t know what this part of the ritual is called and why it is done, but it’s always nice for the women coz that’s when they get loads of cash as a Diwali gift! 😛 This is again a hilarious ceremony. First and foremost, out of the 7 men in the family, 3 are kids (my cousins), so getting them to gather in the living room is one big task! Meanwhile my grandmother is bustling around the kitchen getting the puja ki thali ready, coz frankly speaking, she’s the only one who does this ceremony with all seriousness! So finally, the aarti begins. Now in India, when performing the aarti, you are supposed to sing a hymn or song too. We, being from Karnataka, sing a Kannada song- which again only my grandmother knows the lyrics too! But this is the song she’s been singing for centuries now, so we (my mom, aunts, sister) kinda know the distorted Kannada words and the rhythm- so we just sing along with her, basically messing it up more than required! And of course, this is accompanied by a lot of laughter and very amused expressions on the men’s faces, demanding a more sincere aarti from the womenfolk! 😛
So anyway, the aarti is done, the thali is full of money and now it’s time for the men to repeat the same thing for us. This part of the ceremony is a lot funnier because well, the guys don’t know what they’re supposed to do! And my grandfather cannot participate actively because he cannot stand for long without support. So he sits on his “throne” in the living room, presiding over the function and giving out instructions to the others. The men mess up the aarti song even more and apply huge tikas on our foreheads with their giant hands and it’s all one big laughter riot! Finally, the ceremony is complete and everyone heads to the dining room to eat the faraal my grandmother has laid out on the table.
It’s funny that this is the part of Diwali I miss a lot because to be frank, it is just something we do because our grandparents want us too- none of us understand the significance of it all! But still, it is one of those unique family bonding things- it makes us all come together at 6 AM on a weekend morning and laugh and be merry! And frankly speaking, even though we stay so close by, it is only occasions like these which cause the 14 of us to gather under one roof..
At nights, we are all in our separate houses, getting ready for the Lakshmi Pujan- my mom gets out all the jewelery and does the prep work. The actual puja is pretty short- maybe 30 minutes at the most. The beautiful star shaped aakashkandil is burning outside our house. Finally, my sister and I go outside and light lamps around the whole house- in the windows, at the doorstep. The whole housing community is filled with such pretty lamps and lanterns- truly like the festival of lights! We have never burst firecrackers during Diwali because it’s harmful to the environment and is a waste of money. And most importantly, we have a cat who gets petrified of crackers, so we’d never make it worse for him! And that is it- we all just spend the evening chatting or watching a movie or taking family pictures!
Sometimes I wonder what will happen when my grandparents are gone- will we all meet again on Diwali morning for the aarti? Will all of us even be in the same city/country- coz I’ve already missed two Diwalis now! I guess my mom will carry forward the tradition coz after my grandmother, she seems to be most inclined towards these rituals. And besides, I think when you grow up watching these rituals, then you gravitate towards them without realizing it. Like for example, my mom always says that you’re not supposed to leave your house dark and empty on the night of Lakshmi Pujan and so on instinct, I refused to go out with my friends last night coz the idea of leaving my apartment empty was unacceptable to me. It has become a part of my belief system now- regardless of whether it’s true or not..
I guess for now, I thank God for all those wonderful memories! This has been a very quiet Diwali for me- I went to school in the morning (wore a salwar kameez after months, which was enjoyable!), got a small box of sweets from an Indian store, did a quick Lakshmi Puja in the evening and then lit a whole bunch of scented tealight candles all over my room. I had a long conversation with my family and got to speak to a childhood friend who I had not spoken to for more than 15 years and chatted with a few other friends online. I was happy and content. This is Diwali, just the way I like it! 🙂