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Friday, November 05, 2010

For old times

Yesterday
It wasn't a normal day at work. Laughter echoed out of the number of empty cubicles. Half of them who had come to work seemed overjoyed and work couldn't have been more banal even to the most enthusiastic lot. It was a pretty different day for me too, because, we had ordered lunch from Subway. As we were sitting in the cafeteria and munching the delicious Corn & Peas sandwich, we heard the sound. It was loud, rhythmic, went on for sometime and gradually muted down. The until completely unaware mind, that was only thinking about packet processing, Ethernet frames, housing loan interest rates, RBI directed amendments and confirmation of my return ticket from CBE realized something. The last time I celebrated Diwali was in 2001.

Typical Diwali Month
I was brought up in a house where every festival from a low profile Aadi Friday to a high profile Diwali mattered a lot. Every single occasion was celebrated the typical, traditional way. So, the hype and hoopla around Diwali needs no mention. Almost as soon as the excitement of Navaratri (and all the sundal) started to fade, the Diwali rush would begin. Almost three weeks prior to Diwali, the neighbors would have started complaining about hearing gun shots from our house. Srinath and me would have started our Diwali celebration with cape guns, the first of our Diwali purchases. This would go on till the week before Diwali or until probably my mom gains resistance to my pleas of, "Amma, just one more gun. I'll not break it this time".

As for the new dress, I don't remember caring to ask for one. My mom knew our tastes really well and all I knew was that on the morning of Diwali, I'd have a new dress to wear. So, the important factor - Crackers. Swathi and myself would sit together to put up a list of crackers. Dad was not a big fan and Mom would seldom suggest more than few of her colorful favorites. She loved the beauty of the colorful ones though. Once the crackers reached home, we'd sit and assort them in two cartons, one for Swathi and the other for me. No crossing territories. We were sure that, upstairs, with the same kind of a division Srinath would be coming up with one such box as well.

The next excitement would be the TV programmes. Unlike today's torrent world, the only way to catch our favorite movies, after in the theatre, would be for festivals like Diwali/Pongal when each television channel would compete with each other for movie and time slots. This set up our itinerary on Diwali day (temple going, relative visiting etc). So, with a check on crackers, new dress and TV schedules, what next?

Diwali Eve - School
Most of the Diwali eves, except if Diwali fell on a Sunday/Monday, it would be a working day. Studying in Lisieux was the best thing that happened to me till date. When Fr. Xavier took charge as principal, he started celebrating every festival (religion bar) with grandeur. So, Diwali eve meant lots of bunking classes, the previous day, for choir practice. A pretty decent function with usual readings from all sacred texts (Bhagavad Gita, Quran and The Bible), addressing and the choir singing the good old 'Jothi Dho' bhajan. Eventually, we ourselves had gotten so bored of singing the same song, so we changed the trend and sung 'Krishna Nee Begane' (Colonial Cousins) and 'Eshwar Allah' (Earth) once.

After the morning assembly celebrations, we'd retire to our classrooms where they'd distribute a packet of mixture and a packet with a sweet. The best artists in the class would have decorated the board with their depiction of Diwali - an excuse that we would use later, so that, no teacher touched the board, except for an occasional mean staff who would heartlessly erase it and resume classes. When its almost 2:30 PM, the crackers buzz would start when the watchmen (Rangasamy anna and Balu anna) would be setting up the grand 10,000 LAR in the basketball court. As soon as the bursting starts, I'm sure each and everyone around me felt that same pumping excitement kick off. I'd cycle home with extra speed where lovely aroma of sweets/savories would be awaiting me at the gates, with a grand welcome.

Diwali Eve - @ Home
As I entered the house, I'd already be guessing around I-don't-know how many items. Almost all the sweets would be in their finishing stages and the kitchen would be the heaven for people who love food. Typical sweets would be chocolate/cashew/badam cake and on the salty side, pokada/murukku/muthuswaram etc. The routine son-touching-the-sweets and mom-slapping-the-hand telling him to wash his hands would follow. The biggest wonder to me would be how could she have possibly pulled off all this in the matter of few hours. I'd soon get ready and raid the upstairs kitchen to taste Periyammai's snacks as well. After all the tasting and helping to pack sweets that would have to go out that evening, we would bring out our cartons as darkness falls on Alagesan Road, Coimbatore.

Lighting up the candles, seeing that first spark of the first sparkler (kambithiri) only to see it burn till the end and that confusion of where to start marks the beginning of the crackers session. Once it started, there would be no looking back. We'd burst through the limit for the night and keep the rest for the morning - small counts of Flowerpots, Changu Chakram, Red Forts, Rockets and a 1000 LAR. Compared to the families opposite house, ours would be a very minimal share and would be over in no time.

Once we are done, we'd go and lock the houses tight and assemble in the balcony to witness the moment of the Diwali Eve. The big shot of the locality would lay down sacks and sacks of 'Ola Pattasu' that he imports from Trissur every year. It would run through most of our street, for kilometers long. Traffic through the streets would come to a halt for sometime and so much hoopla would surround the start of the fireworks. Trust me, it used to be a such a treat to watch. Man! He had taste. They used to light it up from both ends. The crackers would have burnt out in some time, unlike the buzzing sound in our ears that would take sometime to cease. And no matter, how much caution we'd taken, a ventilator pane or the balcony tiles or the TV or something would have been damaged. It happened for years together, but I don't think anyone complained because we knew we enjoyed it more than he did.

And the Diwali eve is not over yet. Some of the years our aunt (Dad's sister) in Palakkad would surprise us by coming over. The usual brother's excitement of seeing his sister would bubble up which means we all get to go for a ride with Dad, in and around Coimbatore and we would halt to grab whatever crackers is left in the last of the closing stores. By the time we reached home, we'd be exhausted and would hit the bed only to await the alarm at 3 AM.

The Diwali Day
Considering the enjoyment mentioned till now, one would guess that Diwali would be a fun-filled day, but the best part is definitely over. On Diwali, it used to be pretty much the same stuff. Oil bath, bursting of crackers, going to the Vinayagar Temple nearby, distributing sweets around the locality, Idlis for breakfast (upstairs or downstairs) and by around 10 AM we would have settled in front of the TV to spend the rest of the day there, except for a quick jumping out during the news break to exhaust the leftover crackers. Sometimes, we used to retain the stock for upcoming Kaarthigai. The evening would slowly come about and one more exciting Diwali would have come to a close, as the last of the movies for the day puts up credits. The only excitement left would be to wear the new dress to school one the first day after holidays.

Today
Here I sit, listening to the occasional tudat-padat-zurrr-ziyumm sounding outside my window. Dad has tried to keep the aroma living with the super hot molagootal that is getting ready in the kitchen. I know its Diwali. I got calls from those friends who knew why they should talk to me today. I have more than many awesome reasons to call this Diwali a good one, but that's just there. So, I took my time out to relive the amazing life we lived in Coimbatore. After all, going over the past helps you shape the future. Cheers!

 
WISHING ALL MY READERS A HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS DIWALI.
MAY THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS MAKE YOUR LIVES BRIGHT.

5 Expressions:

VJ said...

Hehe chiu!

I related to a few points too! Nandu and me would divide the crackers into his and her boxes too! Of course, my enthu died down waaaaay before his did... and I'd always end up giving him half my bijli - retaining only the double bombs. Atom bombs he would take care of... and the bonfire to celebrate the end. We never saved for karthigai! :P

Oh and school - drawing on the board so that noone erased it! YEAH MAN! it was super fun!


This diwali is a lil different here. Little to no crackers heard near my locality. Friend just left home :P And dad's playing old songs. Mom and him are walking around snapping fingers to the song :P Nandu is whistling along. And I came online to read your blog :)

Happy Diwali!

Vivek said...

Nice da. "Jothi do", FTW :)

Vivek said...

Nice!

Cheers buddy and have another great diwali! :)

Swathi Vaidyanathan said...

Hey....the post kindled the best diwali memories....there's one thing I want to mention here....Dad was never much interested in festive celebrations....But diwali cracker purchasing was an exception.....I remember times (b4 we started the process of preparing lists) when he used to drive all of us cousins to the shop and load the car with every kind of cracker possible....

Then abt the neighbourhood friends....I believe we were all of the same age more or less and that was the thing that kept diwali really exciting....Now none of us still reside there...Even if they come back for diwali, they prefer to stay indoors....The bursting excitement is all gone...

Srikanth, srinath, Nisha, Sushil, Varun, Santhosh, me and you... This was the gang...Wishing U all a very happy Diwali!!!!

Chiju said...

@VJ
Thanks. Here, all I heard was thadaal budaal on diwali day. :)
@Vivek G
Haha. We have lots of Jothi Dho memories. Remember meditation hall?
@Vivek V
Thanks man!
@Swathi
Those were the best days of our life! :) Maybe we'll be able to recreate it in the future.

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