A text message reminded me that the day was auspicious and that Hindus all over the world were celebrating the festival of lights also known as Diwali or Deepavali, which in Sanskrit means rows of lights. Migration to Australia and circumstances, which had conspired with memory, had caused the significant day to fade into oblivion however, the timely interference of family had revived the powers of retention and I found myself rustling the pages of my memory to recall the traditions and celebrations revolving around this day of festivity. Although the history of Diwali is interesting with emphasis on poetic justice being restored in the battle of good versus evil, my selective mind chose to remember the firecrackers, ghee dripping sweets, spicy savouries and fashionable clothes from Grand Bazaar. Being the princess of a selfless father, I received fashionable clothes as gifts from him even for Hindu festivals to keep up the spirit of festivity among our Hindu neighbours.
It was always intoxicating to wake up to the noise of firecrackers on Diwali mornings and see the streets strewn with paper bits from the garland of crimson coloured crackers. An aura of excitement coloured the day and I looked forward to competing with boys and girls in the neighbourhood with different types of firecrackers such as sparklers, flower pots, rockets, missiles, fountains, spinners etc. Brooke Bond employees were allowed a Diwali quota of fire crackers, which they had to gradually repay in small instalments. Hence my father was magnanimous with the supply of fire crackers during this festive occasion; his only stipulation being that I burst the explosives in the evening. During the day, children from the neighbourhood, adorned in new garments, brought us sweets and savouries, which we relished with zest while watching special Diwali programs on television. Words are not enough to express the magical feeling one experiences during the ‘Festival of lights’.
In Australia, strict laws about fireworks, which are implemented for safety reasons, kill the spirit of Diwali. Nowadays, even the ordeal of buying Diwali sweets from reputed Indian sweet shops, which are few in number, amidst our busy schedules has become a herculean task. Since I am not surrounded by Hindu neighbours, the feat of remembering the festive day seems arduous unless you are an avid frequenter of social networking websites or free communication platforms. This explains why I hold on to my childhood memories adamantly, refusing to let these slip into oblivion.