Deepavali at “D-97”!!!

 It’s the eve of Diwali and as I gaze outside the windows of my flat in Mumbai, a rocket pierces the Mumbai suburb skyline. I and my daughter of 5 follow the rocket’s trail as it culminates into a colourful sparkle in the sky.  The excitement in her eyes watching that rocket sparkle and explode is palpable.  The last few Diwalis, our tryst with crackers has been limited to just using the senses of our eyes and ears.  It was not like that 3 decades ago.  Diwali or rather Deepavali in those times was more than just a festival.

Flash back to the 70’s – as a 10-year-old, we were living in Thillai Nagar a residential colony in a small town called Trichy in Tamil Nadu where I spent my entire schooling years.  “D-97″ the house in which we lived for better part of those 15 years – is etched in our collective family’s memories.  As a family, we have not celebrated Deepavali as we did in “D-97” before or after.

The excitement starts 6-8 weeks before the D-day I mean Deepavali Day.  Unlike these days where, as mall rats we keep doing shopping at the drop of hats and buy clothes as and when, those days clothes buying happened mostly once a year basically during Deepavali.  At an appointed day, doing that clothes shopping for all in the family for Deepavali was certainly fun. In those pre ‘Ready to wear’ days, tailors during Deepavali time were more sought after than Sadhu Maharajs of today!.   The next task was to buy the crackers.  Invariably there was a competition between friends and neighbours as to who were burning more currency on fireworks! Even correcting for today’s inflation, I guess crackers were affordable those days.  Spending 50 Rs on crackers was considered sort of reasonable and if you spend more than Rs 100 you have arrived.  We used to spend Rs 30-50 and that was enough to last for the whole of Deepavali day with few pieces remaining for Karthigai – another light festival which follows soon.  The 3rd bit was related to gastronomic delights which were homemade!  So there was, my mom – going all out to prepare savouries and sweets at home in time mostly all alone.  Buying outside and eating or distributing to others during Deepavali was considered inappropriate for the occasion.

With all these preparations in place – you await very excitedly for the day to come.  While Deepavali in south India mostly is celebrated to revel at the killing ofNarakasura” by Lord Krishna, in North India it is to celebrate the return of Lord Rama from Vanvas!!!  But frankly speaking, it didn’t matter. Deepavali was more about new clothes, crackers and Pet puja!  The previous day to Deepavali – one would sleep early to wake up quite early ( 3 am ) on Deepavali day. The idea was to go out there 1st and burst the 1st56 wala giant (garland like crackers) and try to announce to the neighbourhood that you are up.  After the customary oil bath with hot water from a boiler (heard of this appliance of late???), we use to wear the new clothes, pay respects to parents and the next minute we are down for the most exciting part of Deepavali proceedings – bursting of crackers.  For the next 4- 5 hours it was just pure fun as crackers, bombs, flower pots, trains, chakras and sparklers from your house and outside compete to increase the decibel levels and luminous intensity of the city.  The side effect is the driving out of mosquitoes from their water-bed apartments! (drainage to be precise)!!!

While the kids ( we ) get into the tiring zone, its time for the elders to emerge and do their bit of cracker bursting for “Sasthram” (tradition) and customary exchanges of Ganga Snanam Aacha? The bath you have in your bathroom under a shower on Deepavali day is akin to taking bath in the Ganga River as per Hindu mythologyGanga Snanam ??? My daughter understands “Gangnam Style” better!!! Part 2 of the cracker bursting (which are usually the left overs) starts after the breakfast.  The staple Idli somehow tastes better on Deepavali day!    As I mentioned earlier, there is an unwritten competition as to who bursts more crackers and the same is judged by the amount of kuppai’ (garbage) in front of the house.  The person who always had the last laugh on this was our next door mama who used to wake up late, get ready at his own pace, come out last after all of us kids finish our crackers and fire few dozens of walas one by one thereby generating more noise and more Kuppai!!! The ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ story didn’t have better live similes.

The next few hours go in adding few kilo calories as you taste one peda from one plate, one piece of halwa from another and few jamuns from here and there.  After all you are expected to do justice to your friend’s moms who have taken trouble to make and distribute.  Did thoughts of cholesterol, fatty acids, .. cross your mind ? Well, Nope.  You had the specially made “Deepavali Legiyam” (medicine) to take care of all your gastro issues. In the evening again part 3 of cracker bursting is done and with that Deepavali comes to an end.   Eating of the sweets continues for a few more days though!!!

As I grew up and got into the teens, the festival of light kept changing its colours.  At 15 and after, crackers are not fun anymore and they are more of “carbonizing” hard earned money.  What’s the point in burning away money in crackers for few hours (which became minutes in few years) of fun?  Do all teenagers get this streak of socialistic idealism in that period? It’s not just the age. Blame it on technology as well. As cable TV revolution swept India, not only Deepavali, but nature of celebrating any festival changed forever.  So quality of your Deepavali depended on the quality of programming in the channels that year!  From Sun to Vijay to Jaya to Raj and back to Sun, Deepavali day became quite hectic and tiring operating the remote and hopping channels.  I was never into watching films so much those days – so films were not part of my Deepavali routine. But for many, watching a Deepavali release movie on that day itself  gave a high and perhaps this is the only part which has lasted till date!!! I hear that one has to fork Rs 500 for a ticket for SRK starrer “Jab Tak Hai Jan” for tomorrow!  There are many ways to get into the 100 crore club you see. Either get more people to watch or increase the ticket rate for the few people who come to watch!

Tomorrow is Diwali and as Mid-life crisis catches up though in Mumbai now – we are trying to celebrate the “D-97” way. Want our daughter to remember “Diwali” not as another holiday or a new film release day or a day where you have special programmes on TV throughout the day!  Crackers are back though in very small measure abandoning the thought that crackers just carbonize your money. And yes will have a nice “Ganga Snanam” in Mumbai!!!

Postscript:  It’s been after quite a while that I stepped into a cracker shop. As I was looking at the list the shop keeper asked “Sir can I give you a new item? – Kejri bomb” khub chalti hai aajkal !!!”

0 thoughts on “Deepavali at “D-97”!!!”

  1. Yes we can never forget those days. Remember all the sweets/mixture was home made.
    Nothing bought from outside. Since there used to be a practice to
    Share the sweets with freinds and family spread of diwali sweets was too good.
    The thrill in wearing the new dress for deepavaii, tailor buring his midnight oilk
    To meet the deadline all are unforgettable.

  2. Wow,I am lost in those old memories which u have brought back after so many years.Can’t forget the fun we had during those days,our friends, neighbours and the competition.Amma’s mysore pak,laddoo,mixture and Appa bringing crackers for us remains green in our thoughts.Can’t forget “bombay tailor” even now. Great fun!Let’s pass on the spirit of Diwali to our children also.Bindu.

    1. Bindu, Well said !!! Bombay tailor episode got edited out due to length constraint !! Cannot beat his record of delivering your dress exactly around midnight the previous day of Diwali year after year !!!


    After reading your article , i went on nostalgic , tears rolled down on my cheeks. I was till 6th std. in Gujuili street and then moved to Mela Chinthamani during 1975s. I pray to GOD to give me back those old days of my yesteryear friends , I do not know where are they ?

  4. U have a awesome blog over here. I just wanna say thanks for all the interesting information on it. I’ll follow your website if you keep up the good work!

  5. A great one again…

    True the festival of lights is changing the colors way too fast thanks to the people of India. Wish we all could keep the festival of lights shining & not noisy, polluted…

    10 yrs back Diwali to me was all about lights – the beautiful lit Diya’s, home made sweets, the excitement of once in a year new dress, the hand made colorful rangolis, the calls to the near & dear ones wishing them Happy Diwali…Sadly the beautiful diya’s are turned to weird over shinned electric lighting, the home made sweets to ready-made sweets, the excitement of the new dress once in a year is gone, the hand made rangolis have turned to artificial designs, calls replaced to messages 🙁

    Hope Diwali get its real meaning back soon…& we people learn to keep it simple yet beautifully meaningful 🙂

  6. Carroll B. Merriman

    I just want to tell you that I am beginner to blogs and honestly loved your web page. Probably I’m want to bookmark your website . You definitely come with really good stories. Thanks for sharing .

  7. Your article is very nice. and excellent. Thanks Anand to bring back our old sweet memories. I just re-winded the thoughts of my 40years above, where Bindu, Ashok, Anand fight with Bombay tailors to stitch our dress first. sometimes myself, Ravi, Chandra use to get mid night delivery of our Diwali dress or you guys.

    Even blasting crackers, we use to wake up very early in the morning and blast and we use to have competition who was blasted first cracker on Diwali day. Even you remember, we use to go to Main Guard Gate for watch AELAM ஏலம் , where will find lot of cloth, Crackers etc Near Theppakumam and Chintamani Super market till Siddhi Vinayagar Kovil in cheap rate.

    We All use to wish Deepavali as “Ganga Sthanam Aaccha” “கங்கா ஸ்தானம் ஆச்சா ” very early in the morning personally, and use to Visit temple, with all family members (5th cross Temple) now in our fast life Mumbai, people use to wake up very late and no one bother to take oil bath on Diwali day.

    Even you remember, our parents use to feed Diwali first day night, Milk Rice instead of Curd Rice. We use to buy our Diwali Dress during Navarathri and use to show to all our Kolu visitor and we feel we bought excellent thing and had contented happy life.

    I remember, your mother use to buy Frock for Bindu as Indu. Both small girls use to wear same color of Frock and all our colony people think they are twins

    Your father was always sites in your house Jannal (Window) reading Kumutham, Annandha Vigadan and controlling us how we are blasting crackers with out any fight and Injury……… wow ever green memories…….

    All our old festival procedures gone in Modernization and fast life . Our Ancient festival celebrations had some meaning, fun and Joy during 3-4 decades. Now we lost all our ancient festival style and living artificial life and running for nothing.

  8. Oh! This bought memories of my own childhood Deepavali, we equally divided that between Bangalore and Musiri ( my native town). It’s about 40 kms from Trichy and my attai’s house is on Amma mandapam road. If we were celebrating Deepavali at Musiri, we would go there 10 days in advance. Shiva and his family, our man-servant would wait with the keys and having completed one round of cleaning up. My avva would inspect and get him started on oiling the doors, ensuring the nails are tight, the garden path to the lavatories cleared for bare foot falls and of course the bathrooms are aired out. Next was a car trip to Srirangam. Nachiappan would send clothes from his shop to my attai’s house for purchases and another guy from the jewelry stores for our jewelry purchases. My avva would lord over us and keep a watchful eye on our selections. Once we are done, we are free to play next to the oonjal. My father and his cousins would go to the city to pick up crackers and a long list of groceries. Amma and her cronies would start the preparations for the feasts along with the cook – Guru. The staples were – kodubale, kai murukku, mysore pak, kaashi halwa, baadam burfi, uppu seedai and rice gopurams. Once my father was back, off we would go to the Musiri house with Guru’s extended family for evening supper.

    On Deeepavali day, wake up around 4.30 AM for enne shaastram and off we would go to Kaaveri for the snaana. We HAVE to get back by 5.30 AM because that’s just how it was 🙂 My avva just said so. Our return from the kaaveri river was followed by paying obeisance to God at home and the temple, and we were handed out the clothes and jewelry to get ready. Have milk + avalakki or upma and welcome the entire family home. Once the cousins group together along with their crackers, rush out for pattaas. Bijili, Lakshmi pattaas, atom bomb and one time, hydrogen bomb were the norm.

    For lunch, all the children would wait for my grandma (avva) and parents to finish serving all her servants (she had a huge number of them and had to be fed first) and the gift giving. Once that was done, it was our turn.

    Saayankaalam would herald lighting oil lamps all around the house, namaskaaram to the God and more pattaas. Bangalore maama would arrive with our orders of colourful rickets, sparklers, bhoo chakram and other paraphernalia. My parents, the entire family would burst crakcers. My dad loved it. My avva would sit on the oonjal and watch over us.

    Phew! those were the days. I miss them with a fierce-ness that I can’t explain. I wish we could showcase even half of this to our children and fill them with some spirit of the festivities. Its not about crackers, jewelry or the clothes or even the food. Its about the togetherness we felt, the sense of mischief and the oneness of family! The righteousness of it 🙂

    PS : sorry, that was a really looooooooooooong comment 🙂

  9. I could re-live the best Diwali moments of the past age through this very well written blog. Showed to my son, who loved it. Well done Anand.

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