Diwali is the most important festival, or holiday as my friends in the US call it, in India and it is my favorite too! How does my family celebrate Diwali? It involves a lot of food, decoration and little firecrackers. Keep reading to get more details.
For me, Diwali is the most favorite time of the year! I have enjoyed it since I was a kid. My uncle owned a shop where he put out a stall every year to sell special Diwali stuff. We kids got an opportunity to go help him. And then we spent time at night help him count his earnings of the day. I always thought he was a very rich man. He had a lot of money!
My first venture as an entrepreneur was also around Diwali. I think I was 14 years old at that time. I decided I wanted to make Diwali lanterns and sell. I made them from Styrofoam (thermocol) boards. I sold well over 50 boards with the help of my brothers. We spent all the money we earned on crackers that year!
Diwali after marriage looks quite different. And especially now that Rohit has a shop that sells Laptops, it means that it is the busiest time of the year for him. So there is more work and little celebration for him (and it is more restful for me).
The advent of Diwali is obvious when I start cleaning around the house! Real deep cleaning. About 10-15 days before Diwali, I with my amazing maids get the house cleaned from top to bottom. This sets the backdrop for the celebrations. We are now ready to decorate.
Decoration involves a few strategically placed diyas or candles for me. I do not go overboard with decorations.
In the week before Diwali, Aadi's mid-term exams are over and we get busy with his most favorite part - building the fort. We use stones and mud to make a fort. It has roads, farms and sometimes even crudely constructed wells.
On the day of Diwali we place mud or plastic figures on it and complete it. For the farms we usually use Coriander seeds.
While Aadi is busy building his fort (now he needs little help from me). I am busy getting the food preparations under way. We prepare special delicacies for Diwali every year.
Chakali - spicy spirals, Chivada - another spicy mix prepared with flattened rice flakes, Laddoos - those lovely sweet bombs made from an assortment of material - our favorites - semolina, gram flour and boondi, Karanji - those boat like sweets stuffed with a sweet coconut filling that just explode in your mouth and Anarase - I dont know the ingredients, but I love them too much.
All of this stuff is made 2-3 days before Diwali and packed and ready to eat. We also usually gift packets of it to near and dear ones and also to household and shop staff.
For us, Diwali starts a day before Diwali. We go to our ancestral house (where the family business is run from) and perform a Puja. The entire family comes together for the Puja including Rohit's Uncle and his family. It is a fun night for the kids who have a blast. They light the crackers late into the night.
The entire house (and the shop) is decked up with lights. The lantern is hung. And it looks quite pretty!
The first day of Diwali is Narakachaturdashi. In our house, My in-laws and me get up early. I get up at my usual time - 4. But they get up at about 5. I then spend the time cleaning the stairs and drawing Rangoli designs on it. Before I end it, I light Diyas on all the steps. I love the glow that they give out.
Next comes the rangoli in front of the house. That is my favorite part. I spend a good amount of time in the morning drawing a bright colorful rangoli design in front of the house.
Then I join my in-laws for out morning cup of tea and we call all our near and dear ones to wish them a Happy Diwali. My school friend Madhura has been on my "call early morning to wish" list for years. sometimes those are the only days that we talk for years at stretch! But it is fun to catch up!
Day 2 of Diwali is Laxmi Pujan. This is a day which usually has a lazy morning for me. And it is slower in the shop too, so Rohit usually closes up early. It is a day when people worship Goddess Laxmi (Goddess of wealth) and so they avoid spending money. We perform a puja in our ancestral shop. It is an elaborate affair with all of us decked up in our best. You will usually find me in a saree on this day! I, Rohit and Aadi go for a drive in the evening because it is the only down time we get before the madness of the next day begins.
Padwa or Bali Pratipada. Traditionally, husbands give gifts to their wives who pray for their long and healthy life. But it being the busiest day of the year for Rohit, we rarely are able to make time for it. I spend time drawing a Rangoli in front of the Shop because it is the day people come to buy.
I usually spend time helping Rohit in the shop that day, depending on the need. We do not even realize when the day ends and its time to wind up!
The last day of Diwali is Bhau Bij. And it celebrated the bond between a brother and a sister. I go to my parent's home on this day. Since its is just a two hour drive, I and Aadi take the car and go. Rohit still has a busy time in the shop and cannot make it - even if it is a Sunday. The whole day is spent meeting up with the family catching up, lazing around, visiting Dad's factory and now, playing on the Nintendo.
I spend a few days there before I come back and Rohit, Aadi and I head on our annual holiday! Not too long - just 4 days spent in our favorite place - Goa!
Diwali, though the most tiring time of the year, somehow feels peaceful to me. All the lights and the atmosphere of festivities warms up my heart and fills me with inner contentment. I spend a lot of time thinking about my life and relationships. And I make plans for the coming years. It is my favorite time of the year and I'm looking forward to enjoying it in the next few days!
What is your favorite festival (or holiday if you call it that)? And how do you celebrate it?