Chetan Kumar Maini heaves a sigh of relief as he thinks about his forthcoming Diwali break. The past month has been a hectic, yet eventful one for him and the company he co-founded. In keeping with the spirit of the season, Reva Electric Car Co. unveiled two next-generation cars at the Frankfurt Motor Show last month and announced a tie-up with General Motors Co. to jointly manufacture the electric version of Chevrolet Spark. “It has come after a lot of hard work,” smiles Chetan, not quite willing to give all the credit to the wealth Diwali is said to bring in.
Light, not sound: The Mainis don’t allow their children, Aaryan, 4, and Kayli, 2, to play with noisy firecrackers.
For Chetan, Diwali has always been about big celebrations. “My parents invited anyone who didn’t celebrate Diwali over to our place when I was a child. Close to 50-100 people streamed into our house days before the actual puja. I remember it as a huge sleepover party with lots of sweets and firecrackers,” says Chetan. His wife Kim’s earliest memories of Diwali, however, are associated with her Indian room-mates at Michigan University 18 years ago, where her romance with Chetan blossomed. “He used to come over all the time to eat the food they cooked and needless to say, he was always there at Diwali time too,” she laughs. They got married in 1997 and moved to India in 1999.
Picture perfect: Kim gifts a photo frame with the latest images of the children to members of the immediate Maini family.
“But now Diwali is about the children,” says the couple, echoing each other’s thoughts. Aaryan, their four-year-old son, begins Diwali celebrations a week in advance with his gang of nearly 15 friends from the neighbourhood. Their daughter, Kayli, who is 2, was flustered with all the noise last year but seems prepared to enjoy some sparklers this year. Diwali usually means new clothes, so Kim makes sure the four of them have their ensembles in place. “I enjoy shopping but don’t really look for labels or brands. For the children I usually buy cotton Indian wear from Fabindia but this year I just picked clothes from stores in Commercial Street (Bangalore) along with Chetan’s kurta,” she says.
Celebrating the festival of lights is just the beginning of much festivity in the Maini household. The family also celebrates Thanksgiving and Christmas. “The spirit of festivals is what we pass on to the next generation. The idea is that they enjoy the lights and sweets during Diwali and the gifts during Christmas,” says Kim.
Visiting friends and family before Diwali is a part of the family tradition that Kim enjoys. She ensures that over two-three days, she visits all the relatives and neighbours. “I used to do this with only Aaryan until last year, but Kayli will join us this Diwali,” she says, glancing at Chetan, who quickly explains that his tight schedule allows him time only for visits to his immediate family. The family carries boxes of sweets as gifts—kaju burfis, more often than not, since it is a favourite of both Chetan and Aaryan. “I don’t buy expensive gifts and usually go with a photo frame with a latest picture of the family or the kids,” says Kim, who doesn’t support the idea of flamboyant or over-the-top gifts.
Sweet tooth: Chetan and his son Aaryan are partial to kaju burfis.
Diwali day begins with all of them wearing their new clothes, after which they look forward to lunch at the home of Sandeep and Gita Maini (Chetan’s elder brother and sister in-law). Dusk heralds the time to light lamps and for Aaryan to start lighting his stash of firecrackers. “Aaryan can light up sparklers and flower pots, and is not allowed to play with loud patakhas,” says the environment- conscious Chetan, who wishes someone would manufacture fireworks that emit less smoke.
Prayer time: The Mainis have a puja every year, with Chetan’s mother telling Kim what time it should be held.
Kim, who studied oncology at college, supports several cancer-related organizations such as The Terry Fox Foundation, Bangalore, while Chetan leans towards environmental issues. But both engage in charity-related activities through the year rather than making it an annual ritual.
“The most significant part is the puja. We conduct it at a specific time that Chetan’s mother lets me know about in advance,” says Kim, who seems to have mastered the basic rituals over the years. She then takes the children out to distribute sweets to street children in the hope that this will imbue in them a spirit of giving.