To many Deepawali aficionados, it’s a couple of months programme to get the fire crackers perfect. For me, getting trained under my grandfather, it took just a couple of days as all we (me, my sister and cousins) did was to fill the flower pots with phosphorus, aluminium foil, and sulphur. But the white flower pots require an empty bottom that needs clay-sealing that ought to be dried for 5-7 days. Grandfather did all the great and tedious jobs. All we did was just the filling. Then comes the fire lanterns that lit in a style if we used the glazed, thick paper that came in Soviet Union and SPAN magazines. Our neighbours who were professional at making rockets, variety of other crackers and flower pots collected these papers from us at least 3-4 months prior to the event. Rest of the crackers that included bombs were all store bought- but locally made.
These specialised neighbours used to make multi coloured fireworks which were named aubergines, rockets, onions, sparrows based on how they flew, and how they slithered or moved around! At least in our area we celebrated this festival beyond religion and creed. People lived in thatched houses, used to water them well, so they remain safe in this process. Gone are those days. On the name of pollution and the flummoxed political gains, and with the imports from China nothing is the same.
How long one lit the crackers depends on how well-off and lavish one is! Of course, with little socialism spread well across, almost everyone enjoys this festival irrespective of their origin or religion. What remains the same for me is the memories. With UK law letting us celebrate this festival, we have had lovely celebrations with friends in UK, and the same in US but with some restrictions on the crackers, this has been truly festival of lights. These two countries, where ever we lived, also have given us opportunities to come together as a group to be able to extend these celebrations to our children’s schools too.
Deepawali marks the killing of Narakasura by Satyabhama, and also Ram returning to Ayodhya after killing Ravana signifying victory of good over the evil. Wishing everyone a safe, happy Deepawali/Diwali- row of lamps/lights.
Deepawali (row of diyas/clay lamps) or Diwali, marks Lord Rama entering his kingdom, Ayodhya, after killing Ravana in Treta yuga (one epoch), and also, Satyabhama (yes, woman power), wife of Lord Krishna, killing the demon Narakasura in Dwapara yuga ( another age). In this modern epoch, Kali-yuga, this celebration reminds us to conquer the evil thoughts within us and walk from darkness towards the light, from ignorance towards seeking knowledge.
Taking a trip down the memory lane strolling around the catholic church in our school, which was part of my everyday life once, brings beautiful memories of my childhood Christmas. Queuing up to watch Jesus’ grotto in our Headmistress’ room, that eagerness to taste those delicious cookies (minus oven then in my town) by close friends who celebrated this festival is still crisp in my mind. Not to forget that one television channel the whole nation watched with variations to regional languages. However, we all watched those famous movies of Jesus -Karuna mMyudu and Daya Mayudu around this time, filling us with empathy and sympathy. Unity in diversity has been our mantra.
Moving to the UK, novel to me are the joyful concepts of Santa Claus and having our own Christmas tree.
The golden rule for a happy global village lies in embracing our differences whilst advocating ‘unity in diversity!’
Just as the new moon is a sign of prosperity, autumn is a sign of hope for me. A new moon can only grow; autumn will only set the stage for spring!
Relating it to the countries I have lived in; autumn has different connotations, celebrations, and appearances. In India, which has its lunisolar calendar, this is the festive time. From celebrating Ganesha, the elephant head god, to Navaratri, the goddess of power – Durga, to Diwali, the festival of lights, it’s a festive time. Every tradition in the autumn is related to beating the cold around, swatting the mosquitoes that are on the rise because of the open drainage system, and post-monsoon water-puddles that breed them. English summer, marked by the lush greenery and the majestic aromatic plants, paves the way for autumn by either being dormant or shedding their leaves standing up tall; let us have a clear view of our neighbourhoods, but gradually the days get shorter.There will be days one may not see the sun at all, given their work hours. Carving pumpkins, gathering around the bonfires, apple plucking fests, and counting down for Santa Claus, help us navigate through the dark faster. In the US, it’s fascinating! End of June, we see pumpkins and Halloween decors in the retail shops. We do wonder at the commercial farsightedness. We see countdowns for Christmas by autumn, and those happy holidays signs everywhere reminding us to book our holidays, one more commercial push! It’s a unanimous decision that celebration is typical in autumn wherever we are. Halloween brings the deadly creative side of everyone out. One significant aspect of any celebration is food. In the west, salads will be on the decline, and soups take the top spot. In India, every festival has its specialty dishes. But the most common festive delicacy in the south of India is, Tamarind rice, pulihara. The aroma of this rice brings vibrancy.
Autumn brings dry leaves and cold weather to mind; that shouldn’t necessarily mean just the old leaves. For me, this implies getting rid of dry relations and bringing warmth closer to our hearts. What sounds promising is the cozy evenings with warm people anticipating the birth of new leaves and daffodils (in the UK), Blue Bonnets (in Texas, USA), Mangoes (in India). For me, autumn is a sign of hope!