We are a Tamilian Brahmin family and if you belong to one too, the memories I’m going to share might seem quite familiar. Mom would insist on being up at the crack of dawn, often at 6 AM and having an ‘oil bath’. That entailed oiling the hair and the body and/or adding a few drops of fragrant sesame oil to the warm bathwater. I don’t know about the spiritual significance of this practice but it certainly soothed the senses, eased any random aches and pains and most importantly, made all of us very hungry for what came next. Oh yes, the Diwali breakfast consisting of fruits, sweetmeats and carefully prepared savouries was the highlight of the festival for my eight-year old self. I’ve always had a massive sweet tooth and relished these treats with all the gusto of an experienced epicurean. There would be boondi, rawa and besan laddoos, white and brown chaklis and murrukus, coconut barfis, and sheedes (fried balls of spiced flour). Mom would have been busy preparing these the previous day, with happy assistance from the rest of the family. But we could not sit down for this sumptuous feast unless we were dressed in brand-new clothes. It was auspicious to ring in Diwali in fresh attire, mom would say. Hence, Diwali clothes shopping would commence up to a month before the festival. I would invariably pick a fancy frock or if I was in the mood for ethnic wear, a bright yellow lehenga. Once we had nourished ourselves, mom and dad would perform a small puja and we would all thank the deity for blessing us with all that we had. The rest of the day would be spent burning fuljadis – a noise-free form of pretty fireworks and then taking a tour of the area post sunset to admire all the pretty lanterns that people had put up. We put up our own – a bright red star for at least two weeks after Dipavali. in the evening, we also lit earthen diyas and placed them in the veranda, so that their lovely golden glow would illuminate the world outside, as well as the flames of courage and goodness in our own hearts.
But when I look around me and see the sheer number of people who are living away from their families, in their pursuit for a ‘better’ life, I realise how precious these memories are. And how fortunate I am, that I can recreate them this very year, with my family here in Mumbai. Thinking about the prospect of spending this lovely festival all alone makes me want to embrace its full glory once again. May the lights shine brighter this year. And may there be joy and togetherness for all those who are reading this.
Are you assailed by memories and desires of your own after reading my story? Visit https://www.gharwalidiwali.com/ to share your own story and stand the chance to send a surprise Diwali gift hamper home. Wish you a very happy Diwali, wherever you are, and in whatever way you may be celebrating (as long as it’s pollution-free :) ).