Shubh Deepawali

November 5, 2010

IMG 0054 1024x731 Shubh DeepawaliAfter five years we celebrated Diwali in India.

Known as the festival of lights, it is the biggest, and most important, of all Hindu festivals. Despite its religious foundation and ritualistic overtones, Diwali is a time of non-exclusivity.

People of all castes and creeds, religious or non-religious fervor, rich and poor, old and young, celebrate the festival with equal enthusiasm. Their reasons to partake may be different, but the pleasure and satisfaction they derive is just the same.

You get a better sense of the communal harmony this festival brings to the forefront here than in the U.S.

Although we saw only Hindus purchasing garlands and idols from streetside vendors, the Patakha Market was overcrowded with a rich mix of Hindus and non-Hindus. Probably religious zealots and atheists, too.

For me, a self-proclaimed guilt-free agnostic, Diwali is the perfect excuse for all things good: good food, good times and good clothes.

When else does one say it’s ok to eat cholesterol-laden sweets and deep-fried delicacies all day long? When else does one plan get-togethers and potlucks with such ease (and a pre-determined theme)? When else can one purchase ornate ethnic clothes without considering their practical, day-to-day use?

Diwali provides the platform for a multitude of things I wouldn’t allow myself to indulge in — for health, logistics, or practical reasons.

Diwali turns the nays into yays.

IMG 0155a 1024x733 Shubh DeepawaliThis year, my brother-in-law did all the shopping my husband and I usually do in the U.S. — he got the puja saamagri, the candles, the diyas, the fruit, the sweets, the idols, the flowers, and the firecrackers (the last item on that list being the only one we don’t shop for back “home”). Come mid-afternoon, I was complaining about how I wasn’t getting the “feel” of Diwali.

In the U.S., I usually spend the evening prior to Diwali making gulab jamuns. The day of, I come from office an hour early to get a headstart on the rangoli. IMG 0108 1024x768 Shubh DeepawaliIt’s the last thing to do before getting dressed for the main ceremony.

Some henna powder, turmeric, kumukum, and flour sprinkled on the floor and voila! It’s a sudden burst of green, yellow, red, and white. I love that form of creative expression. There are no rules and regulations. Just your enthusiasm and imagination.

It’s been six years since I started making rangolis. Growing up, I never saw rangolis being made in my parents’, aunts’ or uncles’ houses. I’d only help with pre-puja set up and arranging the candles on the boundary wall of our six-apartment community.

I guess one of the “perks” of our inter-caste marriage has been an introduction to a variety of new things: rituals, foods, beliefs, and language.

Coming back to the rangoli talk, though, the norm is for my husband to work on the “main rangoli” inside while I make the six corner designs leading from our stairs to the townhouse entrance. But here, it was different. Like a lot of other things.

While my three-year-old niece became my little rangoli helper, my husband helped his brother set 250 candles in the three-level house. I didn’t make any gulab jamuns or halwa, my sister- and mother-in-law did. I did not make plans for an elaborate dinner or look up recipes online. I did not clean the house. I also didn’t do any prep-work for the puja.

My instructions were clear: make the main rangoli, dress my niece and myself, and show up for the main ceremony. I was happy as a clam.

IMG 0143a 729x1024 Shubh DeepawaliIt was nice not to be the person in-charge for a change. It was also nice to be allowed to do the thing I’ve begun to love most about this festival.

What made this festival most special this year, though, was the constant attention I got from and gave my niece. She wanted to help in everything I did, she wore a lehnga just like I did, she even put my kajal, bindi, and face cream. And anytime her dupatta would fall from her head, she’d look at me to adjust it. I felt pure, unbridled happiness. Not the maternal “oh-I-want-a-baby-now” kinds, but just sheer happiness at having an extended family where everyone in the “in-laws” clan felt like my “own.”

They are my own.

In all this family business, though, one thing was completely overshadowed. Us.

It was only after the Diwali puja was over, the kids were out on the terrace bursting firecrackers, the womenfolk were downstairs preparing dinner, that we realized we hadn’t wished each other a “Happy Diwali!”

It’s how we’d wish each other good morning back home, but here, in our Indian home, we were so consumed by wishing everyone else, being part of a larger family, and just being around whoever needed us to be around, that we completely bypassed each other.

It felt weird when we realized what had happened.

Not sad. Weird. It had taken 17 hours of awake time to realize this.

I guess that’s what happens when “we” (as a family) takes over “you” (as a couple).

I’m all for it, though, if it happens once a year. icon smile Shubh Deepawali

Hope you had a wonderful and safe Diwali.

Do share your pics or posts, so we can extend this celebration online a little further.

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2 Responses to Shubh Deepawali

  1. suloNo Gravatar on November 11, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    awww… that was a lovely lovely post… great pictures… adorable couple n a cuteness personified niece :) how invigourating!!! n u look great in the lengha…

    i too had a grt time back then – it was my sister’s/bil’s first diwali together – n my first nephew (who is six now) joined the gang by bursting flower pots, rockets and such all by himself :) I am as such not fond of the pollution but they did n i enjoyed clicking them ;)

  2. […] Mansi, I could feel the excitement you and your family must have felt given that you were celebrating Diwali in India after five years. And psst: Loved your lehenga! I can see why your niece decided to follow you around! Kalpana, as I read your post, I gasped! The maniac cleaning, hay allergies, anti-histamines, bumpy driving with eyes shut at every sneeze, the aching rib cage, the once in blue moon cooking… whoa! You just described accurately a portion of my Diwali day! We should exchange more notes […]


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