Monday, November 12, 2012

Diwali Shining

Holiday season is in full swing and this week brings Diwali, the festival of lights. Even to someone like me who is not religious to say the least, Diwali has a lovely symbolism.

The way Diwali was celebrated in my parents' home growing up was simple and meaningful. There was the making of the faraal, sweets and savories that are typical to this festival. There was the arranging of faraal in covered platters to be exchanged with family and friends. There was the ritual early morning bath using a special herbal paste called utna, followed by the wearing of a new frock, typically sewn by my mother's dear friend who is a seamstress. There were, of course, the lights that the festival is named for- tiny oil lamps lit in a row and the paper lantern hanging by the front door, its streamers fluttering in the breeze. Books and tools were honored and thanked for the prosperity they brought into the home.

All this was against the backdrop of the sights and sounds and smells of firecrackers. I've had a hate-hate relationship with firecrackers from a very early age and the fact of the matter is that they ruined Diwali season for me every time. I would choke on the acrid fumes of firecrackers and my heart would thump in alarm and dismay every time a loud string of "bombs" went off. It sounded like a war. With debris everywhere, it even looked like a war zone. I knew people who boasted about how much money they spent on fireworks and competed with neighbors to see who had the loudest and most garish Diwali. I was a very melancholy child and heartbroken at hearing these loud things go off, these firecrackers made by the tiny hands of child laborers and representing waste and callousness in my mind. So all in all, I'm thankful that I don't have to deal with that kind of Diwali any more.

We had the quietest, smallest Diwali celebration yesterday but we enjoyed it very much. We simply lit a few oil lamps. Like Christmas decorations, these are lamps I've collected or been gifted over the years. All year they sit in a box, to be lit on Diwali. Our niece came down for the weekend, and I made the most popular meal around these parts- pav bhaji and rasmalai.



To all my friends who celebrate it,

Happy Diwali! 

I hope the festive season is a joyful, peaceful and meaningful time for you.

28 comments:

  1. Wishing a very Happy Diwali to you and your family Nupur.
    Best Wishes, Rehana

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  2. wishing u a very happy diwali nupur

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  3. Wishing you and your lovely ones a very Happy Diwali! xox..

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  4. Wishing you and your family a very HAPPY DIWALI!

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  5. A very happy Diwali to you & family !!

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  6. Diwali always brings back so many beautiful memories. When I close my eyes, I can still go back to my childhood and hear the firecrakers, smell the sweet-savory faraal and the backdrop of fireworks toasty-smoky smell wafting in the air, I can taste my mom's chakali and besan ladu that I loved the most amongst all the faral...feel the new crisp frock/parkar-polka specially sticked for that occasion and see the rangoli at our door step surrounded with tiny oil filled diyas, our door adorned by a beautiful toran of fresh flowers and a lovely kandil, the sight of my father and brother being scrubbed with oil and utna by me and mom and laughter surrounding us all the time.

    My grandmother insisted on squishing a big lemon sized fruit under our feet when we went for our baths on diwali, the sour-bitter fruit symbolized 'evil' and on diwali we destroyed it and felt victorious as children. We also made little lamps of dough with her and helped mom while making the faral and rangoli.

    All this is so alive in my heart that I don't miss it, I feel like I am living all this and its warmth makes me feel so happy and peaceful to have been blessed with such a loving family and a beautiful childhood. Happy Diwali to you too! May the lamps of happiness and wisdom lit up inside each one of us.

    - Priti

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    1. Lovely memories, Priti. How could I forget the toran and the rangoli? Loved hearing about your family's unique traditions!

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  7. I totally hear you on those awful crackers. I used to refuse to watch, much less participate, in all that money burning madness. Having once seen my father in pain when a 'fountain' cracker exploded and burnt his hand, I think sealed the deal for the rest of the family.
    Wish you and your family a joyous and peaceful Diwali, and may that sentiment continue into the new year!

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    1. I'm sorry your Dad had to deal with that, Neha. I hope Diwali was wonderful and peaceful for you.

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  8. Happy Diwali Nupur to you and your family. I love the lamps .. they are beautiful.. Michelle

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  9. Dear Nupur,
    Wishing you and your family a very happy Diwali.

    Mamatha

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  10. Wishing you and your family a very Happy Diwali Nupur.

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  11. Happy Diwali! You are so right about the firecrackers. Thankfully people have become more aware of the noise and air pollution they cause and have reduced using them.

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  12. Happy Diwali to you and yours!

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  13. I remember pledging in school not to buy or burst firecrackers after they showed us a documentary on kids who make them. There was a huge poster that students from several schools signed as a 'pledge'. Our family stopped buying and bursting firecrackers since then.

    There are two views of looking at child labour. There's one view like ours that condemn purchase of these products which are produced by very young children so these industries would not be profited. The other view is that not purchasing these things will mean unemployment for them which would result in going hungry for days and being included in other dangerous activities. The solution is to create a system that engages them in learning a skill that is not dangerous to them but also earns them a living while still being in school. Unfortunately, there are more fireworks factories than NGO's who would work in this sector.

    - Priti

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    1. I know what you mean. But the people buying products of child labor could typically care less whether these kids lived or died. I actually knew a family who hired an 8 year old as a maid and convinced themselves they were doing her a favor. No, she did not go to school. She slept on the kitchen floor. Bah- I'm all talk. Have done nothing for these kids myself.

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  14. You diya / panati collection is absolutely wonderful, nothing like the soft glow from 'diwali panti' to make it all cozy! Of course the kandil was a must growing up. I do miss all that here.
    When I was little I used to like crackers like wheel, flower pot, the no-bang types, but we did make a blast on Diwali Morning - dawn, to be precise- to wake up the building. That tradition died out- noise, child labor, no thanks, I want just my kandil- panti and loads of home made faral!

    Wishing you, V, Lila and Dalu dada a wonderful Diwali.

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    1. Oh yeah give me loads of faraal any day- Diwali or not ;)

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  15. Happy Diwali Nupur and everyone who wrote here. I miss the utna-tel bath, the toran, the book and tool worship... and the parkar-polke and baangdya... the thaalis we had to take to people's homes and receive theirs. However, unlike a lot of you, Diwali without firecrackers is like attending a mime party. I am against the obscene displays of fireworks and I can't stand the orchestrated displays like the 4th of July in the US and the 14th of July in France. Firecrackers at Diwali to me were about the small personal pleasures of rockets, anaars, phuljhadis, chakra, "wire", "saap", "pencil",and the small velchi maal. I think they have become a nightmare now a days as people have more money and compete with each other about the noise levels their newest creation can make. Bollywood hasn't helped either. In my childhood they did not go on before Diwali, not for hours during Diwali either. I'd rather we had some regulations rather than throwing the baby out with the bath water. Apropos child labour, that's a whole different can of worms. However, we had a lovely Diwali, calm and quiet in Princeton NJ. I found a Maharashtrian store Suma Foods from where I purchased bhajanichi chakli, faraali chivda, olya narlyachya karanjya. We had a long power outage during Hurricane Sandy, which meant we could not prepare the faraal as we usually do. So, from my family to all of you, a very happy, healthy, safe and wonderful Diwali, with sweet memories of the last year and great hopes for the one we enter.
    Thanks,
    Ujwala

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    1. Thanks for chiming in with a different viewpoint, Ujwala! I can see how some might enjoy the simple pleasures of the non-noisy crackers. But yeah, regulating these would be near impossible. The people who have enough money to burn will thumb their noses at regulation.

      I've always thought the fireworks displays are wonderful because (a) they are handled by people who know what they are doing and (b) for a given amount of explosives and pollution, a far greater number of people can enjoy the display.

      Your Diwali sounds fantastic!! You're naming all my favorite faraal- eat some for me, will ya?? Have a lovely year ahead.

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    2. Nupur, I think my son devoured the faraal and leftover jevan for two families! :-) So what do you do for Thanksgiving? I find this Diwali-Thanksgiving-Christmas a bit much in such a short span of time! :-)

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  16. Happy Diwali and Saal Mubaarak, Nupur! Hope y'all celebrated in style... :)

    P and I cleaned the home, lit a bunch of diyas, chanted the Mahalakshmi Strotram and meditated. I made a batch of Date-Amaranth Barfi yesterday. They taste divine but the recipe needs to be tweaked and then I'll put it up on the blog, hopefully.

    Btw, I abhor fireworks too. Growing up, Diwali wasn't the happiest occasion for me, and only because of the horrible firecrackers... :(

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    1. Mmm- that's a barfi with a difference!! Your celebration sounds just lovely.

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  17. Happy Diwali to you and yours Nupur. The Diwali diyas are very pretty and very festive!
    Wishing peace and happiness for you and your near ones.

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  18. Thank you for the Diwali wishes everyone! Hope you all had an awesome time!

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