It’s Diwali and I am in Kuwait, where it isn’t even a holiday. Well, it is Saturday and that ain’t a holiday either.
In spite of that, the large Indian population in Kuwait does celebrate Diwali with as much grandeur as they can muster without being hauled off to the police station for noise and /or air pollution. The North Indian crowd is especially eager and the areas where there is a majority of them such as Salmiya see very brightly lit up and noisy celebrations. My apartment towers too have their own celebrations which I have never yet attended in all these years I have been here.
I do miss the celebrations in Bombay, especially in Anushaktinagar. The colony is a delightful place to be whatever the festival. Being a melting pot of varied cultures from within India, every festival has a multitude of flavours and Diwali is no exception. There is the south Indian Deepavali with its Deepavali lehyam, the rambunctious Punjabi & Gujarati celebrations, the extended Maharashtrian celebrations and so much more. And then there is the Diwali we kids celebrated… Noise and fireworks, louder the better, and loads and loads of it. As we grew older, we grew wiser and more concerned about the environment and so the disturbingly loud celebrations were toned down but nothing dampened our enthusiasm.
The days before Diwali, which was vacation time in schools, would be stormy with cleaning and shopping and running around for fixing the lighting and torans and getting last minute spare diyas and rangoli colours. Me being a Keralite did not have too many culinary preparations for the festival, but that did not stop me from planting myself in the neighbours’ kitchens, helping with the sweets and helping myself to the sweets. In spite of being a Keralite… I used to get new clothes for Diwali instead of Onam… because October to December was the festive season (vacation time) and also rained discounts.
In the late evenings, the fireworks would start a couple of days before Diwali… tiny bursts at first and then the bigger, brighter, louder and more sparkly ones would come out on the day of Lakshmi pooja. I am absolutely fearful of burns, but lighting a little cracker off the ladi while holding it in the hand and then throwing it in the air before it burst never seemed dangerous to me. We pulled all sorts of crazy stunts involving crackers and the more sober fireworks, when we escaped adult supervision, which wasn’t that hard to do… anyone would have thought we were all pyromaniacs and arsonists in the making. Now that I look back, I know it was extremely dangerous and I would not recommend it to kids.
School gave way to college and then to the workplace. Diwali was all grown up now… it was more about sweets, decoration and healthy competitions and less of fireworks. At my workplace, we had 4 different studios that catered to game development for different geographical areas of the world… the festival was a time for some competing. We had inter-studio bay decoration and rangoli competitions, dance and traditional wear competitions and more. There was tons of fun to be had… and lots of festive hogging.
I look back with nostalgia to those days, even as I enjoy my new life. I think celebrating festivals is important, not just from a cultural point of view but on a personal level too. Even when you are down and out, the diya of Deepavali, the splash of colour of Holi, the reluctant garba / dandiya performance you are dragged to for Navratri, the carol singing of Christmas… or just all that yummy food… they are all enough to give you a few moments to smile, forget your troubles and live it up.
Here’s wishing everyone a happy, safe, brilliant Deepavali…
May the flickers of a million diyas light up every corner of your heart and banish all shadows… and may it burst with joy like a sky filled with fireworks.
© Surya Murali