Yet another Diwali far away from home; far from the colour and the lights; far from amma’s mutton curry and delicious mithai; far from the pretty clothes, the jhumkas and the bindis; far from love, farther from the warmth. Vienna in her dreary attire for the day lends little comfort even as I turn to the enormous windows. Little does she realize that I am homesick with every chord in my heart yearning to be a part of the festivities back home in India; pangs of envy creeping up like ivy from corners of my being I didn’t even know existed, as I scroll down my Instagram feed to see my friends with their happy faces gorging on ladoos, wearing happy hues of yellow and orange and red. As I give a glance at this baby diarrhoea green sweatshirt I am sporting as we speak, I can feel the corners of my mouth drooping further down.
Diwali for me has always been and will always be synonymous to my dad; the enthusiasm, excitement and cheer that his soft brown-grey eyes would exude for at least a full month. During the hours we spent in the evenings, planning the budget for the crackers, the food and the festivities for Diwali eve, I would see him turn into a little boy, his bespectacled crinkly eyes barely able to contain their excitement. I remember those trips probably more than 20 years ago that we made to Sivakasi, the hub of super fancy fire crackers, solely for the purpose of purchasing crackers for our home celebration. We would pick some of almost every variety they had; the regular sparklers, the coloured ones which spat out fire in hues of green and red and blue, the flower pots, the flower pots which would whistle on being lit, the chakras, the rockets, oh the ones that would go up and burst into inexplicably beautiful, exquisite designs (those were his favourites) you name it, we had it. After my sister made an appearance in 1995, we made a few adjustments and resorted to local cracker shopping. We would fix a date well in advance and on that date, my sister and I would barely be able to sit through school hours before hopping on to the school bus to rush home; take a quick shower with little to no drama and be ready in our frocks, all set to make the visit to the cracker store.
I still have those scenes in the busy streets of Trivandrum, illuminated all over with cheap string lights in every colour under the sun, etched in my memory. The October-November air always had a crisp and borderline chilly feel to it and just reminiscing about it brings back the same old butterflies I used to feel year after year, Diwali season after Diwali season, in my stomach. Who knew then that we were busy making memories; memories we will take to our graves. I will ever be thankful to our parents for just teaching us that it was and that it will always be about the little things. No fat paycheque or fancy designer wear can ever be a substitute for the untainted happiness we shared as the tightest group of four as we celebrated each day we had together; for utter sense of importance that prevailed in our young minds as we made reasoned decisions, as to what to spend on and what to keep for the “next time” depending on the number of currency notes dad had in his well-worn leather wallet.
Many years have passed since I moved out of my hometown. I run my own home today and I have noticed (and you may have too) the fondest of memories are seldom about the gifts that were showered on me, or anything remotely worldly for that matter. My most favourite memory compartment is, to date, filled with lame jokes, laughs, fights and make ups, walking on dad’s feet, squeezing amma’s hand while we sat wobbling in the auto rickshaw, the great food we enjoyed at our old dining table laid with that white lace table cloth with frayed edges, the 4pm movies on the television, foolhardy with the sister, the ice cream dates, the trips to the beach, the drives around the city, the tears, the victories, the failures. There is not a single moment that I spent with my little family, the four of us alone, that I would have had any other way.
Today, although dad is farther away, I know deep inside that this is his time of the year and that he’ll still be grinning his foolish grin maybe still taking a sip of rum and coke from that glass I know so well. Today, I know better than to take things and life for granted; that every moment is a blessing and that there is more than enough time to just stop and smell the roses. Today, I know that tomorrow is not a promise or an eventuality and I make it a point to tell the souls I love, that I love them lest I be left alone with unsaid goodbyes or hugs and kisses that were kept for another day, yet again. Today, I know that it is all about the little things and I sincerely hope you do too. Happy Diwali, folks! 🙂