Celebrating Diwali – then and now

My earliest memories of Diwali are of a full house (aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, grandparents, neighbours and more). They say we usually associate memories with feelings, the memories might become faint but not how we felt. Well, I felt happy, excited, free, loved … a lot of words I wish my child feels towards this festival of lights.

What is Diwali? Basically a lot of positive destruction if I may say so… good vanquishing evil, light overcoming darkness, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair. While this is definitely something we knew , my little brain only related to the fun, joyful and colorful times this festival gave me.

So want to take a walk down my memory lane?

  • School holidays – 2 weeks of absolutely free time. No homework, no upcoming tests. Just pure play!
  • Celebrating with the crazy family – my parents ensured that we celebrated every year with our cousins, grandparents, uncles, aunts.. the works. I remember total chaos, especially in the mornings when everyone would want to use the washroom at the same time… and yet there were only smiles, laughter, sibling fights and a lot of love!
  • Sweets – and mind you, all home-made. It was considered preposterous to buy anything from outside.
  • Crackers – bombs, flower pots, sparklers, the works. They used to be very expensive and we had to ration them to last through the Diwali days. I somehow never got to burst a bomb, probably my parents fear rubbed off on me. So I usually stuck to harmless ones like rockets and sparklers.
  • Gifts – it was that time of year when my parents would indulge us and buy us new clothes and other goodies. We also received a lot of Diwali gifts (and monies) from our family – which for some strange reason used to find its way to my parents pocket. I would be told “you can take it from us when you need it”, and that would be the last I would see of it.
  • Decorating the house with lanterns, diyas and rangoli. I did not have an ounce of creativity in me, but somehow would always have a burst of enthusiasm to decorate the place during Diwali.
  • Diwali cleaning: the dreaded annual cleaning drive which our mother would emotionally blackmail out of us because she was too stingy to get external help for.

But somehow the festival, as we knew it, has changed so much over time:

  • Extended family gatherings has given way to more intimate family time – All of us grew up and got busy. We now catchup over whatsapp family group chats wishing each other Happy Diwali. Somehow we are more busy than our parents were to take out the time and celebrate.  We prefer to keep to ourselves.
  • Dieting is the new buzzword – No longer does the smell of pure ghee besan ladoo or fried chakli entice us. While we definitely love our sweets, many of us have become conscious about healthy snacking.
  • Crackers with a conscience – With schools fueling a lot on being conscious on cracker usage, children nowadays refrain from bursting them. It’s pure nostalgia when I think of how much fun it used to be to wake up early morning on Diwali day and hear the ladis, sutli bombs being burst everywhere.
  • Ghee diyas to electric diyas – People nowadays are opting for cheaper and fancier lighting over the traditional diyas.
  • Social media frenzy – Everything is about Instagramming. We doll up these days to ensure it makes its way to IG. We decorate our homes to get more likes on social media. Email cards and SMSes have replaced handmade greeting cards.

Basically adulting happened, and its given way to a more subdued and isolated celebration. Traditions are slowly being replaced by a more modern and evolved form of the festival. While I know I will do my bit to dial up Diwali celebrations next year for my child (this year has been low key due to the pandemic and my cancer treatment); I sincerely hope he feels the same unabashed happiness I felt during this festival.

Guess only time will tell.