Saturday, March 6, 2021

It’s beginning to look a lot like Diwali

Exams, jacaranda rangolis… and macaroons for mithai: Diwali traditions at my place, writes MALLIKA MATHUR

Reading Time: 3 minutesIt’s jacaranda season. The purple flowers are sprouting, and they look just beautiful from afar. Up close and on the ground, they crumple and crinkle and get stuck on the soles of my shoes, and stress me out somewhat.
Then again, perhaps the stress comes from the fact that exams are looming, at this time of the year. The old wives’ tale at my university is that “if you haven’t begun studying by the time the jacarandas are blooming, you’re in trouble!”
The jacarandas also remind me of something else: that Diwali is round the corner.

So I celebrate the Festival of Light under my desk lamp bulb.
Because we have a giant jacaranda tree in our backyard, the purple beauty used to feature in our family rangolis a lot. This rangoli would be made with flowers gathered from the garden (ours, as well as a few that spilled over the fence from the neighbours). It was outlined with leaves from the garden, only the ones that had fallen on the ground, though.
Since the admission of a four-legged furry family member, we have been unable to do rangoli successfully. The dog sees rangoli as a garden that has been brought in purely for her leisure. “Beta (my child),” mum says to her, “I love you very much but if you eat and walk through my flower rangoli again I will eat and walk through your bed… how would you like that?”
Even with this floral reminder that Diwali is upon us, my parents will remain acutely unaware of the fact that they have traditionally forgotten to organise their social plans until the festive day is less than two sleeps away.
“Oh gosh, is it really on Friday? Work has been crazy this week…. Call the Kumars and see if they want to come over.”
“No, they organised their Diwali plans months ago. Let’s see if the Singhs are free.”
“We can’t call them, they are not talking to the Jains.”
“Let’s call the Jains then?”
“The Jains are going to the Kumars’ event.”
When the day does arrive, mum will spend “three hours of the day” cleaning and setting up her makeshift temple on the long telephone table. Our puja (worship) needs to be done at a height, so as to avoid the dog walking all over it.
So this means mum will clear the table of the phones, phone chargers, keys, opal cards, receipts, important mail and all other functional household items, and put them away safely where no one will be able to locate them for two weeks after.
Diwali at my place means we are going to lose our library cards, documents and USBs, which have made way for framed effigies and silver statuettes whose foreheads are defaced by years’ worth of vermillon.
Yet there could be many not-so-traditional twists during Diwali at my place. One year we swapped mithai for western fare. Ganesh got a bite of chocolate macaroon, Lakshmi enjoyed a bite of raspberry macaroon and Vishnu was lucky enough to score a bite of pistachio and lemon macaroon.
When we were kids we used to preserve the number candles from our birthday cakes, to light at Diwali as ‘our special candles’. I think now though, that that was because there could be no other use for a partly used 7 or 8 shaped candle. One year we also got to buy our own novelty candles from the bargain shops: the parents were not impressed when my brother brought out his skull candle and thong candle.
I am looking forward to this year’s Diwali though. It will be the first in many years where I do not have exams to keep me away from the celebrations.
I am almost as excited as the creators of those WhatsApp greeting pictures that will soon cause the world’s internet to come to a standstill.

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