Sunday, October 19, 2014

Diwali of Love, Light and Life

Have you seen the wonderful film made by Pepsi ?

#GharWaliDiwali ..Yeah Ghar Wali, the one spent at home, with family.

I came across this last night. The daughter who is now a wife and a mother, her parents who are now left with the memories of many diwalis of her growing up years; who now see , "touch and feel" their daughter's presence through video calls! This lovely film brought back so many memories. Memories of a childhood spent in a quiet sleepy little town tucked in the North Eastern part of the country, Dibrugarh. Of course Dibrugarh is no longer the little town it used to be; but my and my siblings childhood were spent here. Dibrugarh plays an important part in our lives and will always remain.

Our dad was not good at showing or expressing his emotions. Busy with his work, he would often forget our birthdays and at times which standard we were in! We ; I and my younger sister and brother. Ma would make it up. Being the wonderful cook she is, she would cook up a storm in all festivals, birthdays or just impromptu girls gang get-togethers in our teen years. In an Assamese family Diwali was not celebrated like the way it was celebrated in Northern or North Western part of India. No special sweets or laddoos were made. We did that during Bihu, the mail festival of Assam. In fact in Eastern India, during Diwali Goddess Kali is worshipped; not Goddess Lakshmi ! For us Diwali was more of a festival of lights and crackers and having fun with neighbours.

In Dibrugarh, we had a big house with a big kitchen garden. During Diwali dad would ask Madhu, our house help those days, to get a Banana tree ( which is actually a stem) cleaned and decorate it with bamboo hollows cut into 2. That decorated Banana tree/stem would be placed near our gate. In the evening Ma would get the diyas ready on the dining table. We used to light small earthen diyas ;  maati saaki as they are called in Assamese. I and my siblings would get busy in rolling cotton and then filling up the diyas with mustard oil. In big plates we would get the diyas and place them one by one on those bamboo hollows which were embedded into the banana tree. And then as darkness would fall, we would start lighting the diyas one by one. Madhu would help in lighting the diyas placed on top. The gate would be thrown open. Every house in the neighbourhood would light the same earthen diyas.  All our friends would go from one house to another to see the lights.Our small neighbourhood would lit up like a star.

Then came the fun part. Bursting crackers. Dad always maintained that too much of noise and air pollution must be avoided. He would get us very basic stuffs like phool jharis , flower pots , chakras, twinkling wires etc. He would get us those small red phataka which in Assamese we referred to as "Jolokia bomb". Jolokia meaning chilli as they resembled long thin red chillis! No big sky rockets or those fancy sparklers which burst into a big bouquet in the air; as he would say that those sky sparkles might fall on  someone's thatched roof and it might lead to disaster. Not that it never happened. There was a colony of people near our area, who mostly had thatched roofs. In one such case, a family had lost all their belongings. And guess what; almost every neighbor uncle would say the same thing to his children and we all would end up with similar crackers. Talk of being dad!

I and my sister were scared of bursting those jolokia bomb or red chilli phatakas. Our brother was even smaller. Again Dad to rescue; he asked Madhu to cut a bamboo piece into 4 sticks. Then there would be a small cut in one end of the stick. You were supposed to hold the stick from one end and fix a Red Chilli Bomb in between the small cut in the other end and then light it. Simple. Its safe ,far from you and you also had the fun of bursting a bomb! Much like the way these days people carry those fancy sticks ( sorry but I don't know what they are called) to place their mobile phones or small cameras to click selfies.

Spread the Light...!
Our family albums are full of Diwali photographs. Over the years, we moved to a bigger city; eventually sold off that place and settled in Guwahati. Then slowly we; I, my sister and my brother, all started moving out. First for higher studies, then job and then finally marriage. As dad would say " leaving the nest to fly into the horizon". The cities got bigger; but the houses got smaller. While studying in Gwalior, I celebrated hostel Diwali. While working in Delhi,I celebrated Diwali with room mates and friends. Now in Mumbai its with husband. In Diwali, we try to be at home together. I still light up few maati saaki / earthen diyas. I try to make sure they do not get lost in the glittering, shimmering lights pouring in from all over. And then of course the Kandil. Every year for last 3 years, we both would go and get a Kandil for our home. That's now a part of my #GharWaliDiwali.

Dad left us 9 years ago. Thank you PepsiCo for this wonderful little film for taking me back to those many diwalis from my childhood.

May this festival of light spread love and togetherness everywhere.


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