There are a plenty of emotions involved with this festival, and the predominant one for me would be Nostalgia. Despite being brought up in a family that celebrates Onam to Ugadi, Christmas to Raksha Bandhan, Diwali is the one festival that is extremely close to heart.
While I used to hardly see my dad around, in general, due to his crazy work schedules and travel, Diwali is the one season where I feel that I had “enough” of him. He had the habit of picking my outfit based on the current politics/movies/sports trend. I still remember him buying me the Diana outfit the year she passed away, a tennis outfit the year Martina Hingis (she was his favourite) won the French Open, an outfit that Simran wore in Vaali and the list goes on.
My mom used to chide saying, “At least for once buy her something that’s below her knees.” And dad used to respond saying, “It would be difficult for her to burst crackers then.” My mom being the savage she is goes on to say how I should burst crackers wearing an old pair of shorts. This was almost always a repetitive conversation every Diwali. And so were the rituals. This is how it goes in our family. Diwali Eve is even more special for us than Diwali itself. Mom would start making savouries good two days in advance, and sweets on the eve of Diwali. I used to steal savouries, especially ompodi and ribbon pakoda. The evening before Diwali, we used to dress up nicely and burst crackers after a pooja that involves a lot of prayers and yummy Bhajjis. The next day we wake up by 4:30 in the morning, post which my mom keeps Nalangu for me, and I have to burst one big Saravedi/1000 wala in front of my house before having bath. After taking a shower, my mom gives us the Deepavali Legiyam and coffee (although, I used to get coffee from her even before I shower). She makes me sit for the Puja, and give the new outfit. After having scrumptious breakfast, we used to visit the temple, go to neighbours’ homes to give them sweets. I would always call dibs on going to my immediate neighbor or what everyone in our locality call the “Christian aunty,” for she used to be the only Christian in our street, and she used to invite us all over for her grand Christmas celebrations. She was my favourite, and most definitely was hers. After spending significant time with her, I would come back right in time for the Diwali Pattimandram.
There are two other things that I vividly remember with respect to Diwali and my dad. The first one being the conversations that I used to have with him the night before Diwali. My mom used to force us to go to sleep at 10 PM itself since we would have to wake up at 4 in the morning the next day, but my dad & I used to chat up until 1or 2 AM about Diwali, current affairs, his work stuff, etc. The other memory is of how he never lets me remove the paper from the wick/thread of the crackers by myself as it would spoil my nails.
As I grew and went to college, I started missing several Diwalis, for various reasons like travel, semester exams, etc. However, my family made sure that my Diwali Outfit and Batchanam reaches me and I end up following the rituals irrespective of where I was.
After my dad’s death, this is the first Diwali we get to celebrate, and my mom despite not wanting to celebrate is trying her best to retain all the rituals and traditions. And I cannot adore her enough for trying her best to make me not feel my dad’s absence. This morning when I went to burst the 1000 wala, she said, “Let me remove the paper from the wick of the crackers. You just manicured your nails yesterday.” That moment I realized how I could be immensely happy and sad at the same moment.
On that note, Happy Diwali to you and your loved ones.