Friday, November 20, 2015

Festival of Lights

  This article appeared in Adyar Times issue dated 8- 14th Nov.,15                                                    

 Diwali, the festival of lights, is one of the most popular festivals  celebrated across the country .

When I was growing up in Mumbai, the children used to look forward to this festival because of the fun and excitement associated with it. Unlike Gujatathis who celebrated  Diwali for three days,  Diwali was  a one day affair in our family.

The night before Diwali; my mother would apply kumkum and turmeric powder on all the new dresses to be worn by every member of the family and neatly arrange them in the Pooja room along with some packets of Diwali crackers. In the morning,  she would wake up the kids by 3.30 am so that all of them  could have their  Ganga Snanam (oil bath) and wear the new dresses before sun rise. Before the bath, all the children and elders in the house would be asked to sit in a row on the floor in front of the pooja room and my mother would apply a dash of hot gingelly oil, kumkum and turmeric powder on the forehead, hands and feet and then perform arati; before anyone was  allowed to have his/her  bath. While doing this she would also explain the significance of the rituals to the kids. Then there would be a scramble to get into the single bathroom; as the kid who managed  to have a bath; get dressed and fire the “pattas” (electric crackers) first was considered a `hero` or `heroin` in the colony! Invariably the noise generated would wake up the entire neighborhood, if they were not already awake!

Then it would be time for tasting the special Diwali savories and sweets that my mother would have prepared with lots of love and keeping in mind the special preferences of different members of the family. Later on the family members would visit the neighbors and friends to wish them for Diwali asking the question `Ganga Snanam Acchha? (Have you had the sacred bath?); and to exchange sweets..

It is sad that modern day kids are being brought up by the overstressed parents without exposure to several of the fun rituals associated with Indian festivals. When I ring up my children, who all have their own families now, to wish them Happy Diwali  at 7.30 in  the morning, I find that it is a wake up call I am giving them. Besides, modern day children are not as excited about firing crackers as we were in our times! With many of the popular Sweet and Savories shops offering readily packed sweets and savories for every festival, most of the young mothers take the easy way out, buying such packets, instead of spending time in the kitchen. It is the same story with most of the festivals.

 I feel sorry  that the modern day kids are growing up without any knowledge of our tradition and culture! But I suppose each generation has to live with the changing  values and priorities of the next generation.

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