A major cluster of our cherished childhood memories hover lovingly around festivals. And it was our parents, their extra efforts that made these celebrations so special for us. Add to it the innocence that didn't count calories, fret about the logistics and then complain about the stress, these occasions were the most looked-forward-to. Festivals for most of us were not just limited to the day of celebration. Like any well scripted story, it built up over time, kept us on tenterhooks, made us impatient with excitement before reaching its crescendo.
It would start with anticipation of goodies which would give an extra spring to the steps we took. Unlike the hedonism of the present that eats out twice a week and shops till it drops, our past had few excesses. Our parents belonged to an era that believed in rationing material pleasures. So eating-out, a new dress and shoes would wait for special occasions. If we had just watched a movie, stopping for ice-cream on our way back was a sure shot way of corrupting our souls beyond repair.
It was during festive occasions that our parents loosened up a bit. We were allowed second and third helpings of sweet treats, and a few more when mom was not looking. Almost all of them were homemade by her. She'd spend long hours in the kitchen while we danced around her like excited puppies. Is there anything in this world that tastes better than fresh off the griddle malpua dunked in a degchi of sticky sugar syrup?
We were allowed second and third helpings of sweet treats, and a few more when mom was not looking.
When not busy in the kitchen, she was engrossed in making alpona on the floor with ground rice paste, while I'd squat beside her and watch her in mesmerised silence. Each festival we celebrated had her distinctive stamp, from the 14 diyas she lit on chhoti Diwali, to the bhog she made during Lakshmi Puja, to the paste of turmeric and mustard oil she'd keep for us in the bathroom to slather ourselves with in honour of the beauteous and talented Saraswati. Durga Puja meant weeks of preparation for the many competitions that were held at the pandal during the Pujas.
When you are ten, all you want to do is make your maa happy. So you recite poetry with emotions you don't comprehend, participate in dance-dramas with your face caked with ghastly make-up, play musical chairs even though you hate it, all in an attempt dazzle her friends and relatives with your unimaginable talent. My dad's role was mostly restricted outside the house: purchasing crackers, teaching us how to fly kites, take us shopping for new clothes, and be the supportive husband to his turbocharged wife.
Despite her long hours at work, I don't think she resented the extra hours she had to put in at home to make these days special for us. I certainly didn't hear her denouncing rituals and fasting meant to be observed only by women as some patriarchal conspiracy against womankind.
Each tradition we follow has history, an interesting background story and a smattering of scientific backing. It makes us value our heritage.
Now when I think back I realise it was she who made festivals festive. Without her enthusiasm they would have been just another soulless day with us as passive observers. So excuse me while I choke on my coffee while I try to comprehend the outrage on social media surrounding the ban on crackers in Delhi and NCR during Diwali. It was baffling to see social media crusaders lament on behalf of kids who'll be deprived of the joy of bursting crackers.
They should know, SC was delivering a verdict in a petition filed to reinstate the ban ordered in November last year. The symbolism of three infants (Arjun, Aarav and Zoya) filing the petition should not be lost on us. I felt like an ignorant fool for not realising that coughing all night on Diwali and waking up to smoke laden air in the morning was a much cherished Hindu tradition. And foolish me was under the impression that it was women and not crackers that make Diwali so special.
Agree that unlike our moms, most of us may not be a stickler for rituals and have shortened them to suit our I-have-better-things-to-do lifestyle. But as a self-assigned teacher of spiritual values to our offspring, we do make the extra effort to be a gold medal worthy Mom. Festivals are a good way to familiarise children with our cultural traditions. Each tradition we follow has history, an interesting background story and a smattering of scientific backing. It makes us value our heritage.
Bursting noisy crackers and fouling up the air, disregarding the discomfort we cause to those with medical conditions, is certainly not part of our heritage.
Bursting noisy crackers and fouling up the air, disregarding the discomfort we cause to those with medical conditions, is certainly not part of our heritage. And landing up on Diwali night in the emergency section of the hospital because the fancy bomb you bought for 3k burst on your face is certainly not a much cherished custom.
Diwali, like any other festival, is an occasion to bond with family, make joyful memories and feel thankful for what we have. Soon these instants will become memories and proceed to pin themselves on the roll of honour in the hallowed corridors of nostalgia. Take out the woman of the house from festivities and it becomes like a cold, empty house waiting to be filled with happy laughter, warm moments and frenzied conversations around the dining table. But take out crackers from Diwali and by god it'll be like ghar-wapsi of a glorious Diwali!
Go out, admire how beautiful your building, neighbourhood and city is looking all decked up in lights. Make intricate rangolis, tuck in an extra kaju barfi and feel thankful that you can breathe a little more freely and hear each other talk.Let's not forget that Deepavali is a festival of lights and not noise. And if you're still craving noisy crackers, here's a smoke-free and yummy version for you.
Enjoy Diwali and let others enjoy it in peace as well.
First published here
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