Monday, November 12, 2012

The Diwali of my childhood...:)

Diwali was always a time of the year that all of us used to wait eagerly, for it meant a long vacation and respite from the routine of school and homework. The business in the kitchen, with mom and my aunty from the neighbourhood preparing all sort of tasty treats like chakkuli (chakli), tukdi (shankar-pali), masala shengdano, churm-undo (ladoo), besana-undo, shevo (shev) etc. proclaimed that the great days of the year were finally here.  And what happy days were they!!

Diwali also meant that we would get to eat a lot of fish, finally after Shravan, Ganeshotsav and Navratri when eating these was a sin (which I lovingly commit in these so called independent(read unruly) days of mine). There was a peculiar observation I had, that my hair used to grow a lot more denser and quickly during this time of the year than any other time, and I attributed it to the quantity of fish that we used to consume in these days.

For us Konkani’s, Diwali always starts with Naraka Chaturdashi, on which day it is said that Lord Krishna, after defeating Narakasura, had a hearty and satisfying oil bath. 

To commemorate that achievement of the beloved Lord of many, we all have this bath, maybe on the morning of that day (preferably) or the evening of the previous day (as I usually like to have). My mother used to (and still does) prepare a medicated oil that is applied unsparingly all over the body, the head and the face; even put inside the ears (a means of cleaning them) and when we kids used to make a funny face saying that it sucks when oil is put in our aural cavities, our mommy used to say that if I don’t put it in, you guys will turn into monkeys (I guess putting oil never worked, I was and still am one...:P).  After allowing the oil to stand on the body, with repeated massage, our mom bathed us with tremendously hot water, which was a little bearable thanks to the layer of oil.

After the bath, the whole body sank into a great fatigue, which eventually becomes invigorating. To supplement this great exercise of physical cleansing, our mom prepared a ‘kashaayoo’ (medicinal tea)of coriander seeds, pepper, elaichi , turmeric, jaggery and ginger, which was ground well and then cooked in water till the water reduced, and served with a little milk. Such a tasty drink! And for dinner, we had fried fish (usually Raj/Bangda  or mackerel as they call it in English, my all time favorite…J)

{ I am proud to say that I have never broken this tradition of oil bath, even during my training days in Mysore last year, when I got a bottle of parachute coconut oil and had an oil bath in my room Fortunately there was hot water that evening…:). Just that no mackerel and no kashaayoo last year…:(}

After having done all that, one truly could feel happy to be alive, to enjoy such simple treats of life, see the happy faces of people wishing each other well, the diyas dancing gaily in the light winds that flowed; the bursting crackers and the rockets and sky-fireworks, which are my all time favorites.

Diwali will always be incomplete without fire, may it be in the form of the mild, beautiful and unpolluting diyas or the noisy, exciting, polluting fireworks which definitely were loved by all of us when we were kids. Our dad used to provide these in limited quantities, since we never had the kind of money to burn on such endeavours. But I guess the frugality that he observed in buying crackers has led to us having had the best memories of these festive days.

He used to get us a good amount of sparklers, one or two packs of flower pots, zameen chakkars, one pack of small bombs (teta) for me and my bro. When we had grown up, he had got us a pack of sutli/atom bombs each. Every night, myself and bro used to burst one garland of the teta’s each, then two flower  pots, two chakkars and 2 packs of sparklers. We used to get very creative with the small bombs, turning them into chakkars, bursting them in holes in the wall so that small circles of smoke used to come out at times, which was considered as a great achievement. The biggest treat was when we used to collect the powder inside these bombs on paper to create a heap, place a wick on the heap and create a mini conflagration!

{These frugal diwali’s lasted only till I reached 6th std, beyond which due to our awareness of both air and sound pollution, we stopped bursting the crackers completely.}

I grew up in a Gujarati locality, and towards the end of Diwali, came the Gujarati New year.  ‘Saal Mubarak’ (Happy new year) was what we used to call it. It was a day when we had to get up a little early, since hordes of kids would come to our place, to wish us new year, and take away sweets. When we were small, even we were allowed such pleasures but my strict dad never liked that practice. You could see those happy little faces, dressed to glory, with gals having cute little purses, held only with the sole intention of collecting as many toffees and sweets as they could…cute!

Thus were spent the few uproariously happy days of the year…the festival of lights, sounds, smells, tastes and smiling faces….Diwali. Wish you all a great one this year...:)

Note: This one was written a year back...:)

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