A Festival of Lights

Diwali is up on us. For me festivals are a collage of memories. As I near each one, pictures of the previous instances of that festival fill my mind. Born and brought up in Bombay, Diwali holds wonderful, colourful memories for me.

Neighbours would bring us trays laden with sweets. Frankly, I dont know why they bothered because it would all be polished off by the same set of kids. My friends would come home with me and we’d dig into the sweets. Once the stack was over we’d move to the next house. The colony had about 50 houses and it was one big family. As we grew up, we became the ‘big’ boys of the colony. This meant that the responsibility of holding the colony fest fell on us. We’d move from house to house well before Diwali and make the collections. The collection drive would be timed to ensure that we got the most amount of money. So even if Diwali was scheduled for the end of the month, the collections would be made at the top of the month.

My family was only one of three Christian families in the colony. Two of the families had kids. The kids in the third family had moved away and so it was always difficult to go to Pinto aunty and ask her for money. Firstly because she was cranky. Secondly because she would ask Melvin and me whether we didn’t feel ashamed to be walking with Hindu boys to collect money to celebrate Diwali. Of course, she would conviniently ignore the fact that the vary same gang of two christian boys and innumerable Hindu boys also conducted the X’mas fete. We would repay her by placing the most number of bombs in front of her house and spoil her sleep. Today when I think back, it seems a very cruel thing to have done to an old lady who must’ve been trying to spend yet another Diwali alone and away from her children.

The other great Diwali’s I had were the ones in Coimbatore. I was in college and 9 of us had taken a house outside the college premises. Anything is a reason for celebrating in those days. If you pass, you party. If you fail, you party. If India wins a cricket match, you party. In the same vein, you party for every festival. Diwali was especially exciting since it meant lots of noise and colour. Our biggest competition in the cracker war came from across the road, from a Muslim family. It made us feel good that the biggest fireworks display in the colony came from a room full of Christian boys and a Muslim family. Of course, the Biriyani our Mulsim neighbours made for Diwali was fabulous too.

Apart from all this, Diwali has a special spot in my heart because it was on Diwali day 7 years ago that I first went out with Sumi. The fireworks from that one hasn’t stopped yet.

In more ways that one Diwali has lit up my life to live up to its billing.

Let the fireworks begin!


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