Deepavali has always been a big festival at home growing up. My brother, cousins and the neighborhood kids would be so excited about Deepavali especially the days leading up to the big day. My mom always made sure we had new clothes and my dad would take us to the market to buy crackers.As soon as we got home, my brother and I would go over to the neighbors’ house and all the kids would quickly do an inventory of what we have.We used to all share our flower pots, rockets and sparklers so we would have a 3 day supply and on the last day we would make a bonfire of all the cracker boxes.
Deepavali morning was feast day for us. We would have the works and it would be strictly a meat day after we got up super early and had an oil bath and wore our new clothes. Once we had stuffed ourselves with all the delicious food and unable to breathe, we would head over outside to start bursting crackers with our family and friends. Some of my friends would go home in the afternoon to watch the latest movies on TV. Watching TV was a big no for us at any point during the day so we would amuse ourselves with more crackers or eat sweets! I remember being on a constant sugar high the whole day and this was the one day my mom wouldn’t ask me to go easy on the sweets coz …well she was busy doing the same too!
Invariably based on the moon, the next day was our puja day which for my family was the the real event. Our whole house would get a wash and my mom and I( when I was older) would go to the market and buy all the puja things like flowers and fruits and the red thread and other things I still don’t fully pay attention to. The morning of the puja my mom would wake up at the crack of dawn and start decorating the idols (especially Shiva and Paravathi) at home and very rarely I would help with the decoration. To be honest, growing up I never enjoyed the puja food but now I love it! Maybe coz I don’t get this often enough. My mom always made all the sweets at home especially adhirasam and sooyam which should really be called sooyum!
Around noon, it was time to read the story of Deepavali which was my dad’s forte, us kids would be starving having played outside all morning. The smell from the kitchen would be mouthwatering and we were not allowed to touch anything until the story reading and puja were over. I always used to think the puja would never end and everyone could hear my stomach rumble. Once the puja was over, my brother (always in a near faint around this time) and I would quickly wait at the dining table for our lunch and almost inhale the homemade sweets. After lunch, all the grown ups would go down for a siesta while my mom and grand-mom would continue to potter around the house for something or another. Friends and relatives would show up with even more sweets for us and we would do some rounds with sweets to our friends’ homes.
A lot of things have changed now and Deepavali doesn’t hold the same meaning to me as it once did. For one, I say Diwali now as its no longer cool to say Deepavali. This holds only for those of us from the South as it is our tradition to say Deepavali. Two, it’s fireworks or firecrackers now and not plain crackers coz that might indicate tea time to some. Also I think over the past ten years, people are more aware of how much pollution firecrackers cause and the danger to pets. Most importantly there is awareness now of child labor being used at the factories that produce these firecrackers and the hazardous conditions the laborers work under. Also, we can totally watch TV now.
Now to me Diwali is just another day when I’m in the US although I remember to do a simple puja and make something
easy special. All my friends would say the standard I wish I was in India for Diwali but none of us would really do anything festive at home or any attempts to plan a trip home around the festival time. But when I’m in India for Diwali and this year I am – it always means family, tradition, good memories and delicious food with or without a sparkler.