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Home and Away: Celebrating Diwali with Angoor and noodles

I was missing the sounds that envelop the home when it’s a festival. Nobody was haranguing me to “get dressed properly and not look like a jhalli billi”.

Diwali-main Celebrating Diwali with Angoor and noodles, away from family and festivity

You think you can replace your family with Sanjeev Kumar and chicken noodles,” said my emotional atyachaari mother over the phone from Chandigarh. “Sanjeev Kumar in a double role and it’s veg coriander pot noodles, Ma,” I corrected her, valiantly. “Whatever. Hai te vegetarian na! Teh oh vi Chinese! And how many times will you watch Angoor,” she asked.

When my mom mixes Punjabi with English, I know I’m in trouble. When she calls me out on my movie-watching habit, then I’m in deep trouble. For once, I knew it wasn’t her, but me. This was the first time I was not going home for Diwali or “coming home”, according to The Mothership. I felt it was a tiring and wasteful exercise to take a Mumbai-Chandigarh trip for just one day, but from my mother’s looking glass, this was a khulla rebellion, with signs of a nervous breakdown or even the after-effects of a break-up or some medical issue that I was keeping from her. She called for an “intervention”. Everybody in the family — extended and extended’s extended — called to enquire about my mental, emotional and physical health. One of our neighbours even called it a “gunaah”. But I believed festivals are all in the mind, just another day. So I ignored the airfare transferred by my parents into my account and decided to go solo on Diwali. I was independent. I could do it.

The morning began like all Diwalis with phone calls and texts. Lots of meet-and-greet happened with mithai boxes and “Diwali bonus” given to the entire household and building. Friends called to invite me over for Lakshmi puja and dinner, which I turned down. It was a holiday. I had beer and books. I didn’t need anything. I handled the day fine, but the Diwali evening punched me in the gut.

I was missing the sounds that envelop the home when it’s a festival. Nobody was haranguing me to “get dressed properly and not look like a jhalli billi”. Nobody read out the riot act to me on how Diwali is a day when we “especially” have to be nice to those relatives whom we can’t stand. No rangoli at my doorstep, no candle and diya-laden trays laid out, no “nariyal barfi specially ordered from Talwar Brothers”.

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The day was special, but there wasn’t anybody making me feel special. And then my phone rang. My parents and brother wanted me to be on the speaker phone while they did the Lakshmi puja. I’m not a ritualistic person. I have schemed (unsuccessfully) to bunk this puja every other year, but damn it, why was I crying? And this time, I couldn’t even blame it on the agarbattis. Maybe I was hungry. I ordered the Chinese dinner as soon as the first patakha in the building went off. I put the Angoor DVD on play and decided to celebrate Diwali, my way. Half way into the movie, my neighbour rang the doorbell to show me that she had made a rangoli at my doorstep. “I noticed you are all alone on Diwali this time, so I made this for you. Little shagun we should all do na… it’s a festival, after all,” she said, reprimanding me good-naturedly. I could only hug her.

The surprises didn’t end. Soon, a friend called. “My mom says if you don’t come to our house for dinner then we will come to your place. You can’t be alone on Diwali, ya.” It took me just 0.01 seconds to agree to go over to her place. It wasn’t my home, but it was home-jaisa, with the same laughter, chatter, food and the warmth. Finally, it felt like Diwali. Yes, it’s just another day but the only way to feel festive is with people. Something my dad always told me, but I had to learn it my way.

“So you mean to say, you actually didn’t light any diya or candle in your apartment?” asked my friend, flabbergasted. “Nope,” I replied, “I just looked up in the sky and lit a star. And another one. But thank God, I have you here to share this with.”

Happy Diwali.

First published on: 19-10-2014 at 01:00:26 am
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