I’m sure many people know about Diwali globally. If you are the ones who don’t, let me tell you Diwali is the grandest festival of India. It is the festival of lights signifying the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over bad and hope over despair. So, people light up their homes with lanterns, oil lamps, and all those LED bulbs. There are various religious and mythological stories associated with Diwali which you’ll find online. I will be focusing on Diwali now and then.
One of the main beneficiaries of the Diwali are the kids. They love Diwali more than anyone else on the planet because they get official holidays to celebrate it. Parents buy them firecrackers, clothes and they get plenty of good food, chocolates and sweet dishes. A perfect time-off to get rid of that academic stress and pressure, at least for time being. For decades, Diwali is being celebrated the same way, but I realized a lot has changed over the years even for the kids.
Back in the 80s when I was a kid and a part of this prestigious beneficiary group, I started celebrating Diwali almost ten days before the actual festival day. The school would shut down for around 21 days and we would be all in the streets. Today, the academic schedule hardly provides time to kids and they get a holiday only for a week or so.
For us, vacation time was all about getting up, eating breakfast and then heading down the lane with friends. The conversations were real and friendships were true and deep. Unlike today, where most kids instant message on Facebook and WhatsApp. These conversations are touch-screen and lack the feeling of a personal touch. Hence, Diwali now and then has changed a lot.
Then, each kid would have a bagful of crackers and we would indulge in a competition that would scare the shit out of street dogs, birds and even adults. The cracker competition between different neighbourhoods was the fun part because it was a matter of reputation.
The quality of crackers would signify our social and economic status. We as kids would take pride when we are on the winning side.
Also, the Diwali shopping experience was completely different. Shopping for Diwali now and then is different. Today, kids have the opportunity to head to a shopping mall, or grab a smartphone and browse products on Amazon. However, back in those sweet days, there were no malls and no Amazon. Street shopping was the most popular form of shopping in Mumbai. I am sure many different cities would follow the same trend.
Today, people are more focused on buying designer outfits, but earlier it was all about wearing a copy of dress that your favourite Bollywood actor or actress wore in a movie. Street stall owners made thousands selling those dresses and accessories and convincing us that we look as good as the actor in that attire.
Additionally, a days before Diwali, on Dhanteras, a trip to the local jewellery shop was a must to buy some gold which would bring us some good luck.
Diwali vacation was all about spending days with relatives, distant cousins and friends. So, every other day it was all about being a host or a guest. It was either you visit someone or someone visits your home. As kids, we were not really interested in who visited our home for festival greeting, but what they brought along as gifts.
In our hearts, we would desperately wait (beg the Gods) for the guests to leave (without eating) because we were more interested in finishing off the delicacies laid on the table for them. For us, this was the time when we were surrounded by gifts and the price tag of the gift would in some way was the yardstick to measure how much that person loved you. Today, people don’t really visit each other because we have social media to drop greetings electronically.
Lastly, kids love to gobble up food and sweet dishes and we were no different. There is a saying that beggars can’t be choosers and back in those days, we lived by that phrase. If there are no sweets at home, visit someone’s home and you’ll get one. Of course, you can’t decide which one you’ll get, but you’ll get one for sure. In the worst case scenario, you might have to visit multiple homes to achieve your objective. For diabetes patients, this was a really bad time. There were no sugar-free sweets so all they could do is watch others relish sweet delicacies, or try some and take a leap of faith.
Lighting up the oil lamps and creating colourful rangolis was also a fun part for us. The TV industry back in the 80s was more sensible than today, but we had just one TV channel. So, basically, the entire India would watch the same TV shows. During the evening hours, we would lit oil lamps which were far better than these electric Chinese LED lights that in some way dampen the spirit of Diwali and make me feel like it’s e-wali (electronic Diwali).
If you have any memories of festivities, please share and we would all love to hear it.
This post is a part of the Cherished Blogfest 2017 #CBF17.