It is hard to differentiate between Diwali and traffic jams these days. Especially because most of us spend a week before Diwali AND most of the D-Day stuck in them. A car, choc-a-bloc with gifts wrapped in shiny paper, stuck on a road choc-a-bloc with hundreds of such cars is what announces approach of the festival for me.
That, and never-ending trips to the market. Envision a scenario: Mrs Verma has brought us liquor-filled handmade chocolates so we can't give her boring old mithai. Mr Ganguly went one up on that and brought us hand-painted Murano glass platter so use your grey cells and come up with a suitable gift. Ergo, another trip to market and more traffic jam.
Also read:Spend a safe Diwali
When did it all get so complicated? A festival which was synonymous with sweets (mostly homemade) and being with your family became all about 'who gave the most expensive gifts' or 'who threw the most talked about party'?
The catalyst of this current diatribe was the ad of a soft drink major and its simple yet intriguing hashtag #GharwaliDiwali. It did get one thinking: when was the last time that you and I had one?
The shared joy of making sweets together, those long duels about just the right decoration for the puja space, face-offs over what constitutes a Diwali dinner, meeting relatives who came visiting with their mithai boxes (some of them dripping with sugary goodness inside) and long arguments about how many crackers you were allowed to burst.
All of those started days in advance and continued till Diwali day, given that you had enough time on your hands. Mithai and dry fruits were good enough gifts, but then, they were hardly the point. The moot point was that you got to meet relatives, and evenings merged into nights over gup-shup and cards sessions.
Being allowed in the card group was a rite of passage in itself. The young ones were bundled in front of TV, the adolescents were told off for thinking they could join in and the new inductees were laughed at for losing money despite getting good cards. It was big whoop moment when you were finally accepted as one of them. Winning and losing was incidental.
Children were happy as long as they got new clothes (brands, huh what's that?) and got to play chef in the kitchen. Every single child got a job and chance to feel self important about it -- rolling the ladoos, sprinkling cashew slivers on barfi or just turning the ladle under strict supervision. But then, if they didn't turn the ladle, will the rasmalai ever get made?
Entire household pulsated with a suppressed energy on the Diwali day. Even the house got dusted and dressed in its Sunday best -- family heirlooms, best buys which are brought out of their naphthalene ball existence just for this one day and the recent buys.
It was family time the entire day - kitchen remained a whirr of activity and cracker shopping was at a feverish pitch. It all culminated in Diwali puja. And the Indian family being a firm believer in 'family that prays together, stays together,' made quite a spectacle of that.
Children stole surreptitious glance at the goodies, teenagers sneakily checked the clock to watch how much time left before they could go back to their crackers while the resident singer of the family (each family has one) gave his/her vocal chords a thorough airing.
Lakshmi propitiated, it was time to distribute the goodies. No pre-packed chocolate, namkeen or cookies boxes, instead the sweets and savouries made at home were distributed around. Mrs Verma's yummy pakodas were fought over and Mr Ganguly's bhaja was devoured along with rajma chawal.
Not just the family but neighbourhood came together to chat over tea as children were admonished to keep safe. It was not fancy, it did not have designer tags but it was #Gharwali. It was the stuff memories are made of and you can't buy that in a market.