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Diwali – the BIG festival that most of our country celebrates. Here’s a hilarious personal account of the Diwali that went by.
The Mother of all Indian festivals – Diwali is finally all done with. Phew, relieved! Yep, Mother of all Festivals, fathers cannot possibly be credited for festive buoyancy of such epic proportions!
I am inordinately vexed with myself for being bitten by the festive bug ever since I can remember. It is doubly irritating that I have no one but myself to blame for this maddening fervor.
Pre-festive jitters and post-festive blues are real enough conditions, at least for me! And still, year after year I let myself get swayed and carried away in the tidal wave of colors, lights, sights, smells and jubilation of the celebrations.
The tiny seed of festive fervor is planted well in advance as one glances casually at the calendar. ‘Ah, Diwali next year comes early,’ you observe, and put away that bit of info on the back burner.
Unlike the Gregorian calendar by which a festival falls on a fixed date year upon year, the Hindu calendar follows the vagaries of the moon and dishes out new dates for festivals every year. Dates vary from a few days to even a month forward or backwards.
“Diwali this year is early and just around the corner! How could you’ve forgotten?” you chastise yourself.
The seed of festive fervor had gone into dormancy, post last year’s exuberant and tremendously tiring celebrations. The year flew past in the comfortable companionship of monotony, inertia and lethargy.
All of a sudden you catch sight of adverts, hoardings, and all the online and offline shops going berserk with deals and steals galore.
“Good God, it is pandemonium time,” you realize, with a rush of excitement and trepidation at the amount of planning, cleaning, decorating, shopping, and cooking that come together as a festive package deal.
You see, the harmless dormant seed is the crazy magic bean, one that bursts open and unleashes the giant beanstalk of endless festive chores.
On an optimistic note you start with the Planning; after all, it is pretty easy to draw out lists. You proceed to embellish and fine tune them, sort them alphabetically, doodle them prettily, and admire your orderliness and creativity. The List becomes List 1, 2,….Final List, Final List 1, Final List 2…Finally Final List, Grand Final List, The End List….and then as time flies, you start revising the chores in the order of urgency, which finally narrows down to simply, IN and OUT.
Whoever dreamed of the idea of Festive Cleaning was definitely a sadist.
In India, Diwali cleaning is a ritual just like spring-cleaning everywhere else. The difference is that, other than the family members, okay only me cleaning the house, the domestic help is also included in the grand plan. Before you declare that to be a fortunate bit of luck, let me assure you there is catch to it. The Diwali Bonus. Try what you may, this is one gift that can never satisfy the receiver however hard the giver tries.
The Help and her…erm…’Helping Hand’, albeit half-halfheartedly, joins the cleaning venture envisioning a Bumper Diwali Bonus. Your troubles are doubled in the effort of outlining her To-Do-List while not overwhelming her mercurial attitude towards the injustice of feudalism.
If you thought you could motivate through example and involvement, you are sadly mistaken. You are left scrubbing the chimney and hob, with your help looking on with a running commentary of insightful suggestions on how best to get rid of the stubborn grease.
You will not believe the number of homes besieged with no house help post-Diwali simply because their Diwali bonus did not exceed expectations!
The trouble with cleaning is that it is like opening pandora’s box, with this particular box having its bottom connected to a black hole, never-ending! As soon as you are done with one bit of cleaning, the next one beckons and the next. You’ve practically scrubbed, scoured and polished every inch of the house, with no end in sight.
The family’s contribution to the upheavals at home is to express their angst with lame memes on social media or worse, making observations like, “You mean you cleaned this? It looks just the same,” quite similar to their response after your 6-hour stint at the beauty salon.
The post-cleaning aches and pains, in joints you never knew existed are not the end of your woes. The cleaning spree gives way to the Decorating nightmare. Dreamy Pinterest and Instagram handles flaunting vibrant, eye-popping festive homes haunt you as you look at your own rather sepia-toned home in comparison. If untangling bunches of lights and decorations frazzled your nerves, setting them up in position only to find most of them not working is teeth gnashing. Outsourcing the chore to the better half only reminds you of helpful Uncle Podger!
The growing pile of items in the OUT column of the List is disconcerting to say the least while Shopping still looms large with very little time left to do it in. You fervently look into cupboards and decide to allocate each member an unopened new set of clothes as their festive gear. Ah, good that was easy! Next comes, navigating crowded aisles at the super markets to buy gifts for the near and dear, scouring streets for miscellaneous items like lanterns, rangoli powder, diyas and more till your arms are aching lugging all that shopping.
For some reason you cannot at present fathom, why you kept Cooking – making the eagerly awaited festive treats to the very end, with just two days to go. “It’s the Final Countdown…” plays in your head on an endless loop.
As you come up the lift to your apartment you get tantalizing whiffs of goodies from each floor. Folks at home are anxiously peering into empty dabbas in the kitchen and returning empty-handed.
You finally remember that last Diwali your overeager self had made a humongous batch of treats a good week before the festival which disappeared to mere scraps by the time the big day actually came, which prompted you to postpone sweet-making to the very end of chores this year, sigh Planning!
The sweet-savory trail begins with big plans and ear-marked YT videos of exquisite dishes. All you need to do now is follow the videos and voila! As you check out the videos, one by one, your heart sinks looking at the eclectic ingredients you’ve never seen and elaborate processes you’ve never attempted. Well, it’s back to basics ain’t it? Simple, tried and tested trumps over esoteric, exclusive and exotic.
A few failed attempts nevertheless make mandatory festive appearances. You are covered in a fine layer of flour, sticky sugar powder, and oil, hunched over a pan stirring a stubborn blend to the right consistency to pour out into the barfi trays. As you jubilantly cut through the rows upon rows of the favorite sweet, you are wondering who on earth is going to appreciate your back-breaking labor, when the very same sweet is churned out in tons by the Haldirams and Bikanerwalas.
You still have to make the rangoli, make up goodie hampers, doll up, buy crackers….will the List never end?
The better half walks into the kitchen, offering a sympathetic suggestion, “Why didn’t you simply pick up a few boxes of Haldirams with the brilliant Buy 1, Get 1 offer we saw last week at S-Mart?”
THAT DOES IT. You calmly set aside your diligent labor into a fresh box. You walk out to the living room, sink into the sofa, put up your bone-tired feet, pick up your phone and drown your sorrows gazing at the gazillion pre-Diwali wishes. An epitaph floats into your mind, “She died trying to make it a Happy Diwali,” as you drift into an exhausted slumber.
The room is dark by the time you wake up. As you squint open your eyes stretching the aching limbs, you realize the house looks beautiful with the twinkling lights, and smells divine with the lit up scented candles. The family is tip-toeing around, the kids outside the door arguing in hisses and shoves on how the lantern should hang. The better-half is shuttling from room to room with the mounds of gift boxes.
Somewhere along the line, I’d managed to inflict the folks around me with the same festive affliction!
I continue pretending to sleep while blissfully watching my lazy elves finally embracing the festive fervor.
“After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.” – Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows)
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: Canva
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