“Mummy, Mummy, when is Diwali?”
“Son, we just celebrated Diwali a month ago and you are already missing it?”
“Now Diwali will only come back the next year.”
I remember having this conversation with my mom quite a few times when I was a kid.
I am not sure if today’s kids are as excited about Diwali, but back when I was a kid, Diwali was more than just a festival!
Diwali, at least to me, meant so many things.
First of all Diwali meant holidays! No school! No more waking up early in the morning and getting ready to go to school and endure the dreadful(seemed dreadful only back then, not now) teachers the rest of the day.
Next, I associate Diwali with, is purging of the house.Almost a month or two prior(depending on everyone’s preferences) every household seems to embark on a mission of cleaning the house entirely and thoroughly. Every extra or waste thing in the house is removed and is either donated or sold off in ‘raddi’ or disposed off. Every family rubs off shoulder to shoulder, in what can be an excellent example of teamwork, in order to succeed in this competition of having the cleanest, brightest house. Smell of newly painted walls and ‘phenyl’ cleaned floor is quite an obvious and familiar thing. New bedsheets are laid, houses are decorated with lantern and lighted with variety of lights(chinese lights have captured the market in last few years….ahhhh chinese!!!) and other decorative items take up a lot of space in the house.This is that time of the year(although there are many other occasions, as there is no shortage of festivals in India, no other occasion is as big as this) when girls is the family(some boys too!!) showcase their artistic side and make new things to decorate the house. Creativity is at display in almost every house. And no decoration on Diwali can be completed without a ‘Rangoli’.
Though I never loved shopping, shopping for Diwali is unique and something that I preferred indulging in. Streets are jam-packed and full of noise. It’s impossible to manoeuvre even a bike on the main street.(I doubt if it can still be called a street given that is entirely dedicated to market now). Walking those crowded streets and scanning for decorative items, fruits, snacks, sweets, fireworks, etc. and finding out the newest stuff from the lot and getting those for a good bargain can really exhaustive anybody but it was fun too. But the coolest part was buying your choice of clothes to show off on the festive season of Diwali. This was the time of the year when you could ‘convince’ your parents to buy you the best piece of wardrobe.(which sometimes could even last a whole year!!)
And then, after relentlessly working for a month or two, comes the D-Day. Happy Diwali. Shubh Deepavali. Entire nation, about 1.25 billion people, seems to chant that mantra. There’s light everywhere. In houses. In the hallways(Diyas). On the porch. On the building(Electronic lights). On the road. In the sky(the fireworks). It seems heaven just arrived on earth. No trace of darkness. Happiness on every face. People hugging each other and wishing Happy Diwali is an ordinary sight. The Laxmi Pujan. Goddess of wealth is offered the prayers in every household with a plea to make coming year full happiness, wealth and success for everyone. The rituals, the prasad, the blessings of elders somehow made this life more joyous and simple. And then comes my most favorite part of Diwali. Meeting and Eating. Its that time of the year when people went to each others house for snacks. Everyone was invited at everybody’s place. And most people tried to visit everybody they knew in the town(though this may not be true for people in bigger cities, I was fortunate enough to experience this). In fact, it happened many times that people saw went to each others place only this one time for the whole year. I remember seeing many relatives during this time whom I don’t see for the next whole year unless its Diwali again and we visit each other again to refresh our memories.
Every Diwali night it used to be a ritual for to ask my mom, dad and bro to accompany me to the terrace.We would just sit there and enjoy the colorful fireworks light up the sky and fill the environment with the sounds of celebration and a distinct smell or crackers. It was this moment, sitting there with three people I love the most in my life, that life made itself eternal to me. The peace that this moment brought, cannot be compared to any other feeling in the world. If I could stop time, it would be exactly at this moment I would do it.
The yummy snacks, dry fruits, candies, chocolates, ice cream, cold drinks and sweets being offered at every house you visit made the world seem so delicious!!!! There was another competition of sorts between all the relatives as to who makes the best and newest dish this year.
“Mom, Dad, I won’t have lunch/dinner today.”
This was sort of a usual routine line for me everyday at home for about 15 to 20 days after Diwali.
And then came the excitement of school starting over again. Excitement to see my friends back. Excitement to see my fabulous teachers back(teachers did seem good after having a few days of break) and excitement of studying again.
The word Diwali seemed incomplete without happy. Untill today.
Here I am today, far away from a place I called for almost whole of my life, in a city called Buffalo, in a country called United States of America. It’s Diwali today. But it’s not Happy Diwali.
The dark, lonely, gloomy streets. Not a single person visible outside his house!!
No holidays. Rather, here I am, studying for the project and exam, due in a next few days.
No cleansing of the house. No collaboration or teamwork with family members.
No lights. No decoration. No shopping. No new clothes.
No fireworks.No diyas. No tasty food. No sweets.
And most importantly NO FAMILY and FRIENDS(with the exception of new friends here).
Nostalgia hits hard and right into the face.
How can this be Happy Diwali??
No, it isn’t.
It’s just Diwali.
No. It’s not even Diwali.
It’s just another day.