The year I was on an exchange programme to the US, I had to spend Diwali away from my family. Naturally, I missed home terribly. On the day itself, I did the puja and called home to hear all about the dhoom dham. I was happy for them, but sad that my Diwali would be uneventful.
At Moon River, D-16, Defence Colony, New Delhi; and S.P. Centre, Colaba, Mumbai, Rs2,450
Little did I know what was in store.
When I stepped into the living room, I was flabbergasted. It was decorated with streamers, balloons, and a Christmas tree. My host family had heard about Diwali from their Indian friends, who said it was like Christmas. So, that year, I had chocolate, not mithai; champagne, not sherbet—and though I wasn’t with my family, still got so much love. I will always cherish this unusual but touching Diwali.
A gifted proposal
In keeping with our family tradition, we performed Diwali puja at our business premises. One year, I wanted to meet one of my father’s competitors, who had been giving him a hard time. When he arrived, he turned out to be quite young. I was polite, but I glared at him when no one was looking. Our amused competitor could sense my anger and teased me, giving me tips on how the rangoli could have been better, et cetera.
At Frazer & Haws, 11, Lodi Colony Market, New Delhi; and Pali Naka, Bandra, Mumbai, Rs3,750
At the end of the puja, guests gave envelopes with cash to the elders—and he asked if he could present one to me. I opened the envelope to find a note: “Your father is a thief. He’s stolen the brightness of Diwali diyas and put it in his daughter’s soul, the sweetness of Diwali sweets and put it in his daughter’s voice, and the positivity of Mahalakshmi and put it in his daughter’s heart. Can I marry the thief’s daughter?” I was speechless. Six months later, we were married.
Dance till you drop
Ours is a Punjabi family, so Diwali is celebrated with great vigour. Some years ago, we were all dancing energetically when one of my aunts slipped and fell. We rushed to help her but when we looked down, we saw an unforgettable sight—my aunt hadn’t stopped dancing, even though she was sprawled out on the floor. We still tease her about it.
When I was in Class XI, I had a crush on my neighbour and decided to impress her by firing rockets directly from my hand. On Diwali night, I gathered all my friends, including the girl, held the rocket in my hand, and lit the wick. Within a split second, it went from my hand into the sky, and burst into a sparkling shower. In the heady rush of success, I quickly lit another. I held this rocket higher and lit it. But this time, instead of yelling with joy, my friends shrieked in horror. I looked up to see the rocket wrestling with the curtain of the girl’s second floor apartment. Humiliated and horrified, I fled the scene. Needless to say, we just remained friends. Every Diwali, I get a phone call from her, reminding me of the incident. Only now, I can greet the memory with a hearty laugh.
I am from Palitana, Gujarat, but have been living in Mumbai for more than 15 years. Six years ago, my cousin and I thought we should visit our native village, Mokhada, for Diwali. We booked bus tickets and the word spread in my family. Suddenly, everyone wanted to come; the count reached 45, and we booked an entire bus. It was one of the most memorable Diwalis for me. No mobiles, no television, no shopping—just Diwali with rangoli, a visit to the temple, fewer crackers, and lots of sweets. I just renovated the family home in Mokhada, and can’t wait for Diwali this year.
At Amrapali, Khan Market, New Delhi, Rs2,700
When I decided to marry against my parents’ wishes, all hell broke loose. When my folks realized I was firm in my resolve, the marriage was fixed—but there were sulky faces all around. Within a couple of months, Diwali was round the corner. It’s a custom in our community to invite the newly married daughter and son-in-law for their first Diwali after marriage. Not expecting a windfall of affectionate invites, I was busy planning my own schedule. But, one morning just before Diwali, my parents landed at my doorstep with boxes of mithai and, most importantly, smiles that had eluded me since my wedding. I still don’t remember whether I giggled more or cried more that day. We were duly invited for the celebrations.
in the eyes of a child
Thirteen years ago, my seven-year-old daughter had to write an essay in class on child labour. It was the week before Diwali. I felt the topic was too heavy for children, but my husband collected as much information as possible, and sat with her as she prepared the essay. She kept asking her father why we could not do anything to prevent child labour and he kept replying that the government had to take action. Later that week, she told us she stood first in the essay contest.
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On the eve of Diwali, there was the thunder of crackers. My daughter’s friends asked her to join them in the fun, but she had vowed never to burst crackers made by children. Neighbours tried to persuade her, saying it would not make a great difference, and my parents told her little children need not have such resolutions. But she didn’t budge, saying, “How can I burst these crackers when so many children have been put through hardship?” My husband and I told everyone that we should respect her resolve. My daughter has remained firm in her decision through the years.
Last year, I lost my younger brother. Every year on Diwali, early in the morning, he used to land up at my house, loaded with goodies and a gift for me. When Diwali arrived a few months after his death, I was very depressed. I did not want to celebrate Diwali. On Diwali, my husband woke me up early in the morning and gave me a packed gift. I opened it and my eyes moistened. My husband had made a collage of my brother’s photographs, many from past Diwali celebrations, and below it he had written: “Come on, sis! Let’s celebrate Diwali”—exactly what my brother would have wanted me to do.
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