This Diwali turned out to be as eco-friendly as possible. I didn’t explode any bombs and my neighbours resisted the urge to fire off rockets. We were left to see people from other colony bursting crackers which emitted ear-shattering sounds and reading in the newspapers the next day about the capital of India celebrating a noisy and polluted Diwali.
What surprised me most was the unexpected twist in the exchange of Diwali gifts between the colony folks.
Earlier when I was in Mumbai, my mother used to make various delicacies at home. It mostly included Chaklis, Besan laddoos and Chevda. If time permitted, mum made Gulab Jamuns and Coconut laddoos as well. The stock of evening snacks for the next one month was prepared in a single day. Thanks to Diwali! Sometimes my mum’s friends used to arrive at home for lending a hand. My favourite part was to become a food-taster. When a delicacy was finally ready, I was fetched and asked to taste the food item. Adults refused to taste it since they believed that it would lead to ‘spoiling’ of the food before it was even offered in front of the gods at the time of the evening prayers. Children were considered innocent and pure. Refusing children to taste any delicacy was considered as upsetting the gods :) So I got to taste nearly everything while it was made. My brother didn’t have a sweet tooth and so my coast was always clear. While the ladies deep fried Chaklis or finished making any laddoos, I used to hover in the kitchen deliberately and gobble everything that was produced in front of me. Those were one of the memorable days about Diwali. Later there used to be exchanged of these home-made delicacies between neighbours as Diwali gifts. Plates loaded with these food items were given to every aunty in the building. In return we used to get those delicacies which were made by them! If some aunty wasn’t well and therefore hadn’t made any delicacies, she used to put some sugar in the plate and return it back to us. A plate or a thali was never returned empty. Something eatable and sweet had to be put in it. That was the tradition followed by the ladies. Children and youngsters used to run up and down with plates on the floors of the buildings. That was indeed a must-watch!
Nowadays the situation has changed drastically. Call it a busy life or life in a capital, but these days no one is interested in making anything home-made during Diwali. Even if delicacies are made, people store it in tin-boxes inside their kitchen after making it in a small quantity which is meant only for family and no outsider. This year, we got ready-made cookies and boxes full of Dark Fantasy and sugar-free biscuits, neatly gift-wrapped with a name and a Diwali greeting from neighbours. If somebody gifts us such greetings that costs around Rs.150 each, don’t such ladies expect something worth it in return? So mother, on realizing this new culture, had to rush off to the market to buy those last-minute expensive boxes containing biscuits and cookies, along with other desperate friends. So that nobody’s nose would be cut in public and everybody would be happy at the end of the day with the kind of gift they have received. Where is excitement and happiness in such kind of greetings? People give and take based on their social status in society and expect the same kind of presents in return.
Plus a real shocker for the day turned out to be our maid. She demanded a mobile from my mother. Mum spread this news around and immediately her friends reassured her that their maids too have demanded the same. Apparently someone from the upper floor gifted a mobile to her maid and the other maids got it into their heads that they too should demand a brand new mobile from their mistresses. It didn’t matter that every one of these maids have a mobile already. After the Diwali night, the next morning our house was swarmed with the members of the cleaning department- garbage collector, laundry guy, sweeper, car cleaner and maintenance man. These folks didn’t need any old clothes or home –made Chevda. They only wanted Rs. 50 each. The vegetable guy came in the evening and refused to leave until we had succumbed to his demand of Rs. 70.
The only lightening and brightening thing about this Diwali was that every Indian celebrated my mum’s birthday this year :) It was on this Sunday, 3rd November 2013. Even the Indian Cricket team couldn’t have given her a better treat! By winning the match and wrapping up the series the previous day made my mum to smile brightly the whole Diwali. My mother is a die-hard fan of Dhoni and has continued hating Australian Cricket team even after Shane Warne retired. She started receiving phone calls since morning and got fed up by evening so much so that if anyone greeted ‘Happy Diwali’, my mum would answer ‘Same to you!’ When they greeted ‘Happy Birthday’, my mum would again answer ‘Same to you!’ I purchased 1 kg of Kaju Katlis and 1 kg of Mathri from the famous Bengali Sweets shop. I had wanted to give her this surprise on Sunday only but it turned out to be mission impossible on Friday night when I tried my best to hide the boxes from her. Goddess Laxmi had some other plans. I went into bathroom once and when I came out, my mother was grinning and distributing those Kaju Katlis to some aunties who had arrived at home. She declared proudly that her daughter had brought the sweets all the way from Chandigarh. As a Diwali gift!
Ok, thanks mum. But those sweets were meant only for you! Not for those aunties!
My birthday surprise for my mum became a Diwali gift for aunties. Some of those aunties I didn’t even know. An incredible Diwali indeed. Quite nostalgic and expensive!