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Sweet nothings

Last week, the mother asked me when ‘my diwali’ was. I was nonplussed, but I realised quickly that she implied that since I was now married to a ‘north Indian’, her Diwali and my Diwali were on different days

sex and relationships Updated: Oct 19, 2009 20:24 IST
Lalita Iyer

Last week, the mother asked me when ‘my diwali’ was. I was nonplussed, but I realised quickly that she implied that since I was now married to a ‘north Indian’, her Diwali and my Diwali were on different days. I found her question out of place since reams have been written about why I will not change my name, or adopt a ‘karva chauth’ and why festivals are non-negotiable, and how ‘my Diwali’ will always be ‘my Diwali’. The infant, when he grows up, will probably have a bonus Diwali (‘his’ and ‘mine’), if he cares for it, and if he doesn’t, too bad!

I still remember my childhood, when we were all woken up at 4 am, slathered with oil and then scrubbed clean with gook, made to wear new clothes, suitably ‘haldified’ (you did that to everything new, to neutralize all evil), and then dispatched to different neighbourhood homes with a thali full of mithai and savouries. Now, of these, the north Indian homes were rudely awakened from their slumber on a day when it was clearly not Diwali, so they just looked at you in a funny way and mumbled, “But Diwali is tomorrow!” We were so embarrassed, that soon, we refused to go on mithai delivery duty to these homes. We felt like aliens who just celebrated Diwali on the wrong day. We were too young, and MNS was not around.

It’s rangoli time. I love rangolis. They are more festive to me than anything else. They transpose me to an era of innocence, although, even then, it was like displaying your best footwear. Or bindis perhaps. As children, we did the whole geru thing, the simulation of a mud floor with this brown mud-like block, wetting it and evening it out, drawing the rangolis, sieving the colour-base mix and packing it in a muslin thingee, before you let it fill in the outline. Sometimes, we even made the rangolis freehand and didn’t use a grid. That was a sign that you had arrived. Hierarchies were clearly established in this collaborative exercise, and I stood somewhere in the middle. This time, it was just about the mother and me, and things were much simpler — she is good with the big picture, I am better with the details. She draws the outline, I fill in the colour. It’s a classification we have made peace with.

I was a bit ambivalent about what to do with festival text messages. Now, I do a blanket ignore, since I figured, if people have just copy-pasted a vanilla template, I needn’t bother about composing individual replies. (May be there are vanilla reply templates as well). I figured, it’s easier for people to send out blanket SMSs than to reply to them, so that’s what they do. Send. So they are absolved from replying. I do neither, and wonder if I am anti-social. May be I am. But you would be too, if you get a message that reads: “May millions of lamps illuminate your life with endless joy, prosperity, health, wealth and happiness forever.” Or this one: “May this Diwali light up new dreams, fresh hopes, undiscovered avenues, different perspectives, everything bright and beautiful and fill your days with pleasant surprises and movements.”
Whatever!