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Food and festivities: Getting nostalgic about Dipavali

The real beauty and elegance of Dipavali is in the affection and kindness we show each other and this Dipavali, it might be nice for Indians of all communities to go to each other’s homes with festival greetings.

sex and relationships Updated: Nov 08, 2015 16:48 IST
Renuka Narayan
Food for thought: The real beauty and elegance of Dipavali is in the affection and kindness we show each other.
Food for thought: The real beauty and elegance of Dipavali is in the affection and kindness we show each other.(ISTOCK)

Everyone has a favourite sweet or ten for Dipavali. Kaju katli, camphor-studded laddoos, latticed imarti and creamy kheer can make grown men cry at this time of year. Since Indians are endlessly inventive especially with food, some dainty Dipavali snack platters flourish delicate asparagus pakoras in eggless tempura batter and dark chocolate centred with gulkand or rose-petal preserve made of fragrant Pushkar roses - though Dipavali isn’t quite Dipavali without kaju katli and I think only occasionally of the tiny marzipan cherries and pears of childhood that added a bit of extra dash to our beloved traditional sweets. We were also dosed with spoonfuls of old-fashioned lehiyam, a southside chyavanprash that made us feel better if we caught a cold, had bodyache or gobbled too much fried food.

As to which, many of us have been, I’m sure, to Basant Panchami lunches where all the food - all traditional Indian dishes - was in the colour yellow, which is the colour of spring in India. The menu was not boring or contrived at all. There could be khandvi, dhokla, bowls of light kadhi with pineapple or with the airiest, lightest dumplings, little round rotis coloured yellow with jewel-like ‘leaves’ of green chillies embedded in them, masala rice with golden peanuts, tender pumpkin sabzi cooked with its thin marbled rind, looking like a bowl of graphic art, tiny potatoes crusted with til, corn croquettes crusted with fine vermicelli, meetha chaval, miniature golden rasamalai pearls in saffron milk and bite-sized motichoor laddoos with pistachio slivers that looked like jeweled beads.

Everything tasted as fabulous as it looked, arranged on leaf-lined cane trays and in large golden mango wood bowls on red lacquer trays. Like all good effects, it needed meticulous planning and thinking it all through to the last twist of thread, which was not a chore but good fun for an interested host or hostess. A stylish Hindu festival party like that was very subtle and beautiful just as the flowers, brass lamps and kolam (rangoli) for Navratri and Vijayadashmi were the ultimate in elegant installations in some homes, so pleasant to think of in these nasty, vulgar times. The Basant Panchami palette was taken forward by some at Dipavali with a tone-on-tone table in yellows, oranges and reds.

No matter how stylish the look, though, the real beauty and elegance of Dipavali is in the affection and kindness we show each other and this Dipavali, it might be nice for Indians of all communities to go to each other’s homes with festival greetings, light a few diyas together and if possible, invite people of other communities home for Dipavali dinner after the evening puja, if they will come to our homes, that is. The spiritual practice for Dipavali is that if we have unfortunately quarreled with someone at work, at home or in the neighbourhood, we have to sincerely try to make up at Dipavali and restore peace and order to ourselves, to others and to society. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we did that? Many nice things can happen at Dipavali; may they happen to us all in abundance.