Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Happy Deepavali!

Another Deepavali gone by and we are almost nearing the end of year 2011. Who would have thought that Osama bin Laden and Gaddafi would both meet their ends? To my mind the significance of Deepavali – the ultimate victory of good over evil – has been achieved by the end of these two who unleashed terror among their fellow men. Another war against corruption is on. I wonder if it is as easy for society to fight corruption that has so many shades to it. But of course it should not stop one from making an effort. Every small step would be a move forward and each step matters. Let this Deepavali awaken the desire to fight against social evils.The mythological character Ravan with 10 heads symbolizes the evils in society that need to be conquered. And what better occasion than Deepavali to resolveto do our bit to achieve it?

Deepavali brings along with it memories of the past. 38 years ago we celebrated our ‘thalai Deepavali’ or the first Deepavali after our marriage. I was upset that we did not celebrate it at my maternal home as per tradition, but considering the expense involved I could not do much. Mymother in law hinted that we could go provided my mother took care of our traveling expenses. I was determined that I would not encourage the practice even if it meant that I had to stay back. I felt that if I gave in, my mother may be expected to pay our train fare on every visit. My mother later advised me not to be harsh on my mother in law. It was difficult for a middle class family to shell out money for the trip soon after the wedding. Those were days when I had not understood my Mil for the person she was. If someone had told me at that point of time that I would learn to love and respect her and understand her point of view, I would have laughed at their face. But that is beside the point.

Coming to our ‘thalai’ Deepavali, my mother in law really made it memorable. She prepared all the sweets herself. A drum (capacity10 kgs) full of mixture or ‘chana chur’ as it is called here,101 boondi laddoos, apart from milk cake, namkins, burfee and what not. My father in law lit a mud hearth fuelled by fossil coal, fire wood, cow dung cakes etc on Deepavali day around 3:30 in the morning and water for the oil bath was heated in a huge aluminum pot that would hold 3 buckets of water.Sesame oil was warmed and a generous amount of pepper and turmeric was added to it. My sister in law made a beautiful rangoli at the door step and in front of the altar where pictures and idols of Gods were kept. New clothes were purchased for all members of the family and arranged in sets and placed in front of the altar. They were blessed with the application of kumkum in a corner. My mother in law applied oil on our heads and when each member had finished bathing she would hand out the new clothes meant for the person. We accepted the clothes after prostrating at her feet and wore them. She then made us prostrate at the puja altar and at my father in law’s feet to seek his blessings. Finally distribution of sweets began around 6 in the morning. Somewhere between the time we woke up and left home to distribute sweets, crackers would be burst. We were around 10 Tamilian families in the neighborhood and we’d burst crackers at dawn to make our presence felt.

The practice continued for several years as long as my father in law was alive and till date as far as practicable. The mud hearth was replaced by a heater and the aluminum pot replaced with a smaller steel one. Finally even that was abandoned when a geyser was installed in the bathroom. Sweets are prepared with the same enthusiasm but in lesser amount. The early morning oil bath has been replaced with shampoo bath after my father in law’s death. This morning I suddenly missed the aluminum pot and mud hearth. True, water gets heated in minutes so to say. But it is the involvement that has gone missing. My father in law would purchase fire wood and fossil coal after making sure that they were dry enough. He would chop thefire wood and break the coal into smaller pieces. All this went into preparations for Deepavali and would begin at least a week before. He would also watch out for the postman, night watchman, the sweeper all of whom would be given generous amounts of sweets. He would then ask us to pack sweets and savory for his senior citizen friends who would meet each evening in a neighboring park. The park is still there and I missed my father in law when I stood in my balcony this morning watching people practicing yoga or jogging in the park. My FIL did not have to exercise; he was active till the age of 75 and would fetch vegetables, grocery etc. He never took an auto and would walk to the local market and come back with a bagful in each hand.

I was a little upset about having to spend the day alone after having been exposed to a joint family set up earlier. But a phone call from my granddaughter cheered me.

“Amma, I had an oil bath. Mommyput mehandi (henna) in my hand on Sunday. I told my friends about Diwali. They hadn’t heard of it before. Mommy has made a lot of sweets and has packed somefor my friends too. Happy Diwali to you and tatha. We’re having a Diwali party on Sunday.”

Oil bath?? Distribution of sweets?I was touched. My daughters were trying to cling on to tradition – the way they had seen it being followed as children. And here I was complaining that childrendo not make sweets, they just buy them. True joint families of yester years are not feasible any more. But it is also my duty to be happy for them and accept the change that is part of an evolving social set up and bless them even if from a distance. I learnt a valuable lesson and I hope I always remember it.

A happy Diwali to all of you.


Ugich Konitari said...

HHG, what a wonderful post ! And it must have been thrilling to get that call from your granddaughter .

Yes, those were the days . We had similar customs. Getting new clothes was a special thing then. One didnt go in and out of Malls the whole year buying whatever one felt like, and so getting these at Divali was so special.

Here wishing you and your family a very happy, healthful, safe and enjoyable Divali !

R's Mom said...

Awww...isnt that cute...your MIL made so much..baap rey...we also had the 'ganga snanam' and all that... :)

ma made thengai burfi and pakodams...yummmmmmmmmm

Renu said...

those were the days,so much of sweets and savouries and then distribution...
today also I try to do it as much as I can and yes my daughter is also carrying on the tradition in her own little way:)

Happy Diwali!!!

Bhagyashree said...

Awww such a lovely post. And brought so much memories that I made a short post myself. :) I used to crib when amma used to tire herself doing so much on diwali and today I do the same. Why? BEcause it gives so much happiness
Yes, we too had a lovely Diwali

Tassu said...

Oh how touching was that when I read about your FIL and all that what happened 38 years back! Makes me feel how time flies? Well living every moment of life is the best way to live life.Anyway happy diwali !

Anonymous said...

Lurker, delurking to say Happy Deepavali! I live in the US as well, and we did the best we could, to approximate the early morning Deepavalis of our youth! We did the nalangu, oil bath (with shampoo :)), ate legyam/sweets/savoury snacks for breakfast, and even managed sparklers for firecrackers! Unfortunately, we then all had to go to school/work as yday was a normal working day otherwise but Deepavali is special, no matter where you are! Diwali parties are on all month as well...

Happy Deepavali again! Reading your blog makes me nostalgic for my maternal grandparents' house in Delhi :)


hillgrandmom said...

Hope you had a great Diwali HHG.

Hip Grandma said...

Suranga:Those days money was short and one thought of providing something for each member of the family.This may not make sense these days but it was very heartening to watch the appreciation in the faces of dependents for any small and inexpensive gift given. Like the walking stick i presented my father in law. He proudly took it for his evening stroll rejecting the older one.Happy Diwali to you too.

R's mom:My MIL was an expert and would never settle for the second best in anything. She would help out in making sweets for weddings at friend's homes. for our daughter's first b'day we had hired a cook to prepare sweets and my MIL took over the preparation of laddoos because she did not like the shape of the boondis that the cook made. For her all boondis had to be of the same size. The poor cook, you should have seen the expression in his face.Happy Diwali to you too.

Renu:These dats we hear so much about adulteration that we too prepare sweets at home or get someone to prepare them in front of our eyes.
Grand sweets and krishna sweets are reputed outlets though. we don't have such store in Jamshedpur. Glad your daughter carries on the tradition of the festival. This is how the next generation will pick up.Happy Diwali to you too.

Bhagyashree:I read your post too and found it interesting. I too would feel that festivals are tiring affairs when i was unmarried. But I continue to carry on the tradition.

Tassu:Since we have little to look forward to, we tend to look back! I was joking. I did feel nostalgic hence this post. Happy Diwali.

Anon(M): I must say that those of you who have relocated to foreign shores do a good job of keeping the tradition of our festivals going. I was at my daughter's place for Diwali in 2006. It was fun, playing villagers till 2'o clock in the night.Happy Diwali to you too.

Hillg'mom: I would not call it a great Diwali. I missed my children and found myself wishing that they had never grown up. But then I consoled myself thinking that if they hadn't grown up how would my adorable grand children have arrived on the scene! I suppose my mother too felt so at some point of time.

dr.antony said...

After so long. Good to start with your wonderful post.
You write from your heart, dipped in emotions.
How are you these days?

Unknown said...

P - how thrilled you must have been when your grandchild said that . Lovely post .

Hip Grandma said...

dr.antony:i am fine. Thanks for asking.

eve's lungs:Yes. i was thrilled to hear my g'daughter describe Deepavali celebrations in her place.

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