To me Diwali means…


… rediscovering the power of Vim and Colin!

Each year about a month before Diwali, I’m sort of convinced that the festival will be a peaceful affair for me because of my diligent house-cleaning the whole year long. As the day gets closer though, seemingly insignificant corners of the house start appearing important for a closer look and my to-do-list gets dominated by cleaning chores. I get our huge curtains washed and ironed, draw up lists of cleaning jobs for Saroj–our highly accommodating and, gratefully, literate house-helper who’s also started relying on to-do-lists like me–and marvel at the teamwork of Vim powder and Scotchbright in brightening up my house!

… Diwali Melas and gift shopping

With each passing year, we Delhi-cum-Gurgaonites have been hearing of more and more Diwali Melas (fairs) being set up in the NCR. These melas vary in their flavour and wares, but one constant feature about them is that they rouse many enterprising men and mostly women into action by either making or just sourcing a variety of crafts. So, other than diyas, God statues, food, clothes, one can be sure to be overwhelmed by innovative toys, pottery, furniture and bric-a-brac at these dos. But while I used to be enthusiastic about covering multiple melas before each Diwali, several factors have now narrowed down my haunt to the solitary Blind Relief Association’s Diwali Mela. It sets up for 10 days before Diwali, and each year I’m amazed at how many more stalls the compound of Blind school on Zakir Hussain Marg manages to include… I dread parking my car in the serpentine row of vehicles, worry about the amount of money I’d spend or about accessing my car a km or so away with awkward items in my arms but still look forward to visiting the event each year!

…Lakshmi-Ganesh puja

Diwali puja of my maiden years used to have all of us singing the regular Om Jai Jagdish Hare aarti and watching my mother’s face at the end of each stanza to get a cue for the next one! We used to do our puja right at the end of the evening thanking lords for a comfortable year and happy day.

Diwali puja of married years has been different. For one, the active performer of the puja is the man of the house. Others support his moves by reminding him of the rituals and holding his elbow to indicate their participation! Earlier, I used to keep a printed version of the aarti handy but now we simply sing along the background audio by Lata Mangeshkar. Very importantly, now the puja precedes all the other action.

Prior to the puja, I remove the previous year’s Lakshmi-Ganesh statues, and any other that have tarnished through the year, and drop them off at a temple closeby with a request for their immersion in a river. I also spend some time cleaning our God shelves, washing all the small and big statues and scrubbing the small collection of silver puja things that we’ve collected through the years.

…meeting up of families over dinner

I used to enjoy the Diwali evenings of my early married years when we’d gather at Kishore’s uncle, Ashok Chacha’s house to chat over the Diwali dinner. Chacha’s kitchen used to be managed by two or three competent helpers so despite being a daughter-in-law in a parent-in-law’s house, I could sit comfortably and chat without a shred of guilt spoiling the experience. Now Chacha’s daughter, Anjuli joins us with her husband, 2 small kids and mom-in-law, and we thoroughly enjoy this experience too.

…recognising the awesome combination of Kachori and Ras ka aaloo!

As a Bhargava daughter-in-law, I’ve learnt to trust the power of Ras ka aaloo (potatoes in tomato gravy) – such a ‘down-to-earth’ vegetable and yet so versatile! A dash of saunf in the preparation lends it a touch of exclusivity and makes it a festival food, and otherwise I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my mother’s garlic and green-chilli laden preparation that she’d make often during my childhood especially when in a hurry to finish off the chore of cooking.

For the past few years, to me Diwali food has meant Kachaoris from Mrs. Savita Bhargava in Gurgaon (phone: 0124-4058467); ras ka aaloo and phirni made at home; and some labour-intensive preparation such as channa from Anjuli’s house. This time round, we’ve tweaked the menu somewhat and aaloo will be prepared in a Punjabi cum UP style by Anjuli’s mom-in-law, Aunty Ahuja; Anjuli will provide dahi baras; I’d fix phirni and matar ki chaat; and Mrs. Bhargava’s Kachoris will provide us fat and carbs. They were secured a couple of days ago to beat the last minute rush, and Kabir and I’ve been also enjoying them with tomato ketchup (him) and tea (me).

Diwali means very much more to me than the above but to keep the post to a manageable length, here are Diwali greetings from us in the form of a quick collage and a question to the visitors:

What does Diwali mean to you?


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