A Festive Flashback

Hi! A Very Happy Diwali to you!
May this Diwali bring you all the good cheer associated with this festival and may your path be lit up by the Divine light and show the right way.
Yes, the festival ended yesterday but its fever carries on till all the sweets and savouries are not finished and the burst of crackers will also continue for a few more days. So, the wishes may be a little delayed but the festivity is very much in the air. Now as the festival is also concerned with taking a stock of credit and debit I quickly cruised down the memory lane and reminisced about all the Diwali celebrations gone by and three of them stand out the most.
The Diwali of my childhood when we all would be in Jaipur and celebrate the festival in a very traditional way. My grandmother, aunts and mother would start with preparing the sweets and savouries. It was the time for fun because of the annual family reunion.
Early in the morning we were woken up by our grandfather and my granny would put us through the ritual of ‘abhyang snan’, she would put warm coconut oil in our ears, and coconut milk in the head and then go on to apply the ubtan. We would get Mysore Sandal Soap or Moti to bathe with instead of the usual Liril or Rexona. Then there was this very antique brass boiler in which the water was kept for boiling. Yes, I have singed my hair trying to see the flame inside. And every bath would finish and be announced with the bursting of crackers. I remember my grandfather would ask us to soak the earthen lamps in water and then we would keep them on the newspaper for drying. We were asked to take the thread and make wicks for the lamps and fill the lamps with oil. My uncle would always make a very elaborate rangoli in the evening and we all would do the Laxmi Poojan. The thing that attracted me the most were the two huge sugarcanes my uncle would get and which we would chew on for days, nestled in the branches of our crepe jasmine tree. I also remember our visit to my maternal place for Bhai Dooj bonding with all the cousins over the elaborate dinner that my Mamisa would cook for us all, especially her Kabooli, a rice preparation. And the Diwali of Jaipur is incomplete without the mention of its lighting which we invariably went to see after Pooja and bursting of crackers.
The second one is not exactly Diwali but immediately after it. My cousins had come from Delhi for the festival and my brother and I were hellbent on going back with them. So, my uncle, aunt and the four of us kids took the Pink City express to Delhi. This was year 1984 and we were in Karol Bagh when Indira Gandhi was assassinated on the 31st of October. I was all of ten and can never forget the way we were cooped up in our house for days on end, because of the curfew. We were shielded from the mayhem that happened on the streets but this Diwali visit is well entrenched in my mind.
And the third is the one we celebrated away from home. Shubham, Abhay and I decided to go to Alibaug for one Diwali because that was the only time we all could take time out from our schedules. So off we drove a day prior to Diwali. The Manager of the Resort was a young chap who happened to be from our city and couldn’t take the leave to be with his wife for his first Diwali post marriage. Early the next day the hotel staff knocked on the door, we being the only occupants at the time, with a hamper containing a few items for the ‘Abhyang snan’ and some chocolates. We were touched by their gesture and decided to do something in the evening. So, off we went to the market and bought earthen lamps, a bottle of oil, wicks and some sweets. In the evening I set out to light the lamps with Shubham. Seeing this one of the staff made the rangoli on a platform and we gave them the sweets.
The Manager was deeply touched and told us that he himself would prepare the dinner for the three of us and it was on house. Luckily, his wife turned up to surprise him and the five of us not only enjoyed the delicacies she had brought but also had a wonderful dinner together. An unlikely celebration with total strangers. We had been to Alibaug again a few years back, the Manager had moved on but many of the old staff were still there and remembered us. It was again a reunion of sorts.
I don’t remember the last time I was in Jaipur for a Diwali. It’s been ages and I miss it more these days as age seems to be catching up. Hope I’m in Jaipur soon for one Diwali though it will never be as carefree as the Diwali of those days. The second one I would never want to go back to ever again. But am game for the third kind because we do meet strangers on the journey of life and they become an integral part of our experiences.

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