Sunday, 19 October 2014

My Diwali : A Trip down Memory Lane

A Rocket on its way up

               The earliest memories of my Diwali celebrations that I recall are after coming to Kolkata from Siliguri. It was our custom to troop to my grandparents' home for Diwali. For a elderly person , my grandma was an exceptionally agile personality , who took the lead on how to light the firecrackers . Dad had a penchant to bring home the finest crackers from the Baazi Baazar , being held at the Maidan in Esplanade area of Kolkata. We, the kids diligently spread out the Crackers in the sun a day before Diwali , so that they didn't get damp. Many of our cousins came over at the grandparents' house, and it became an epicentre of fervent activities. 

Diyas on sale in Kolkata
     From the very early stage, I had a dread in my mind about chocolate bombs, the crackers that went off with a large sound. The crackdown on sound crackers hadn't come into effect in the early 1990s , and those were still in rampant use. In order to shed my inhibitions about the bombs,once, my youngest uncle carried a wailing me in his arms to the roof on the afternoon of Diwali , and tried to burst a few , so that I grew out of the fear. But one of them burst so close to us, that my eardrums nearly went pop. It didn't help the cause at all, and due to my crying, the other elders gave a severe telling to , to my uncle! 

     The evenings of the Diwali were a time where busybodies scuttled through the house with urgency , as we prepared to light up the whole house with candles and diyas. Adorning the veranda that overlook the street was a matter of importance , as , decorating it in an eye-catchy manner would ensure more people looked up at our decorations in awe. It was an undeclared battle with our neighbours , as to who could put up the best show as darkness set in. We, the kids , were allowed to handle matchboxes only at this time of the year. Many a time, hot molten candle fell on our tender skins , but the burning sensation was drowned by the sense of purpose that surrounded the event.

A Tubri in full blaze

     As sunset occurred , and the last tinges of Orange faded from the sky , thus began the endeavours of our locality to simulate daylight once again, as every household dazzled with lights ,and crackers went off left, right and centre. We had our Rong-moshals, tubris, charkis, tarabattis, that were ignited simultaneously , putting up a spectacular show. The rockets that were sent up with great fanfare ,burst with dazzling colours . Some households in the neighbour brought specially customised rockets , that went up and burst into ignited messages . One such I remember was in 1996, when a huge rocket was sent up from one of the neighbouring buildings, which burst into the words , TITAN CUP CHAMPIONS INDIA , hailing the Titan cup victors , the Indian cricket team . Also sending us kids into a tizzy , were the parachute rockets , which , after bursting ,came down with a single twinkling light, attached to a small parachute. 

     After a mega spell of bursting crackers , we went in a huge group to visit the local KaliPuja pandals . Since the puja time was at late night, at most of the pandals, there were a lot of people , and we, the kids stared , wide eyed at the huge , angry figure of Goddess Kali . Our parents told us never to tread the wrong path , or else Goddess will get cross and punish us , and we believed them , fearing her wrath . Coming home after the visits , Diwali dinner was traditionally grand in Kolkata , with our favourite "luchi-mangsho" , served in huge amounts!

          One of the most hilarious incidents occurred in the 2000s, when veteran Tollywood actress Shatabdi Ray became a neighbour of my grandparents' . Her window opened directly in front of our roof , and so, my cousin , called her out , "Shatabdi Aunty, won't you come out and see us bursting crackers?"  She immediately agreed , and perched herself on her window . She was quite jovial , and didn't have the air of a celebrity , despite being a very popular face in the whole of Bengal . But as luck would have it, our rockets for the night were all from a rotten batch , and started 'misbehaving' from the onset. Instead of going up, they carved out zigzag paths rather horizontally , and their directions went awry . The first couple of rockets bamboozled us quite a bit , as they went just above our heads and died prematurely. But the third one was the naughtiest of the lot , as it went straight at Mrs Shatabdi Ray's window , and burst at her window grills . We were terrified , and Aunty got the shock of her life too, thereby shutting the window to go into the safety of her room . Afterwards, we all had embarrassed laughs about what had just happened!

         The celebrations continued for two nights , but then , with the immersion of the idols, they died down gradually . In Bengal , we have the Bhai-Fota, or the Bhai-dooj event that followed Diwali , but that really marked the end of the festive season for us . The cleaning up of the cracker remains , and scrubbing wax from the grills was a job that took a lot of time, but we did them , with a belief that the celebrations would be even more grand the next year. Our school holidays used to get over thereafter , and we went back to school , with a lot of stories to share! 

LED Lights Adorning a Neighbouring House

    Nowadays , Diwalis are much quieter , which i feel , is apt , as it is essentially a festival of lights, and not sounds. Although i agree that sound crackers are burst ocassionally,  the extent has come down, due to the restrictions in place. The onus is also on a much clean Diwali nowadays, with pollution being a major problem in the cities. LED light bulbs are in vogue as the principal decor in most homes, as they are cheap , and provide lots of variety, and are environment-friendly. These days, I derive pleasure in seeing happy children bursting crackers ....they remind me of my own childhood. The craze around having to ignite many crackers by myself has gone down  a little (am i getting old??) , and the pleasure on seeing others bursting is quite prominent. That is perhaps explainable, with the first strands of silverware making their presence felt on my scalp, but i still enjoy holding a tarabatti, or making luminous shapes with them , by waving them around!!

Let there be light ....more light !!
Happy Diwali everyone!!

Used Tubris lying post Diwali celebrations

written as part of the #GharWali Diwali campaign by Pepsico.
you can watch their lovely new film on #GharwaliDiwali  here.

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