Diwali was awesome. It had the lights of Christmas, the fireworks of Fourth of July, and a kind of reverse-Halloween trick-or-treating where people brought sweets to your door instead of demanding them from you. As with most Indian holidays, there isn’t as much in the way of somber reflection as there is unbridled joy and merriment.
There is so much to be said about the three day extravaganza that my roommate Devin and I experienced as we were dove headfirst into the colors and lights and wonder of the festivities. Luckily for me, Devin detailed the whole experience beautifully in her blog, in three separate entries:
“Our Diwali season started on Tuesday, when we were sitting drinking chai at our kitchen table with our cook and cultural ambassador Anita. Wanting to adequately prepare for the holiday, Reena and I asked, “What do we do to celebrate Diwali?”
“Well, you’ll need to do a puja and [a lot of other Hindi words I didn’t understand],” she told us. After further animated discussion between Reena and Anita, the result was…we were going on a field trip.” (read more here)
Devin details the steps to a successful Devin-and-Reena-style “Diwali Eve” puja:
Step 1- Admire the puja set-up: five small terracotta lamps each filled with oil, a few grains of puffed rice, and a cotton wick, laid at the feet of Lakshmi and Ganesha.
Step 2- Realize you don’t own matches with which to light the lamps.
Step 3- Light the gas stove with the igniter, rip off a piece of cardboard, ignite the cardboard. Voila – “matches”.
Step 6 – Sing “Happy Diwali” to the tune of “Waltzing Matilda.”
and an awesome Diwali-lights-viewing joyride with a rickshaw driver named Raju:
“Raju was determined that Reena and I enjoy ourselves. He pulled over at a stall selling crackers, and he bought and lit us a sparkler that looked like a magic wand caked in silver glitter. When we drove past India Gate, Raju pulled his rickshaw up alongside an ice cream cart and treated us to dessert: pista kulfi (pyramidal pistachio ice cream) for Reena and the equivalent of a Dove bar for me. As we lounged in his rickshaw, Raju showed us mobile phone pictures of his family and his home village.” (read more here)
An invitation to our landlord’s puja:
“We sat on the floor in a circle gathered around the fire pit container in the living room (yes, fire pit in the living room).”
traversing the streets in the evening:
“Walking out of the house on Diwali night bears some resemblance to traversing a minefield. Several feet from our front door a father and his two children were dancing among the sparks spewed by a spinning ground wheel. We had to wait for five minutes before we could walk past the roundabout on the corner because a string of crackers exploded deafeningly while throwing shrapnel into the air. At every turn, another explosion of light or sound made us jump and set the festive tone for the evening.”
to another lovely party thrown by Devin’s “surrogate mother” on the rooftop of their home in Vasant Vihar:
“Christine and her husband Himmat’s roof deck has a 360 degree view of the city skyline, which offered a perfect vantage point to watch a fireworks show like I’ve never seen. In the distance on the horizon, in the neighbor’s backyard, and on every block of the city in between, pinksgreensorangesredsgoldsblueswhites exploded for three hours. The neighbor’s fireworks detonated basically on eye level with Christine’s roof.” (read more here)
An unforgettable first Diwali! (specially unforgettable because even weeks we will hear the occasional, stray firework blowing up during dinner…)