Diwali


Diwali meant a lot of things back then. It was not just about new clothes, firecrackers, or sweets.  Every Diwali, I go back in time to those moments when every single thing around the festival was filled with hope. I’m sure though that at the age of 10 or 11, I would’ve never thought of calling the days leading up to and the days after Diwali as ‘hopeful’ ​​Other festivals like Varalakshmi Pooja and Vinayaka Chaturthi make me nostalgic too. Particularly a longing for the soft, fluffy *kozhakkatais my mom used to make for both these festivals. However, Diwali was very special.

Diwali was THE festival of the humble, single-bedroom HAL Colony inhabitants in Bengaluru. Another festival that led to a flurry of activities was the Bogi Pongal where a lot of old stuff was piled up into a tall and huge stack and then set on fire. A symbolic riddance of all that’s old, bad, useless. I have a very vague memory of this bonfire ending in a fire accident and probably the practice was later abandoned. Being raised in a colony or ‘quarters’ as it is still called, provided the distinct advantage of having a cosmopolitan upbringing. I’ve absolutely no memory of Diwali or Bogi being ‘Hindu’ festivals. The same mood and festivity were seen around Christmas where we’d all gather to set up the manger. Most households sported the mandatory star, ushering in Christmas.

My mom used to stir up a magic concoction that would solidify into soft and porous mysorepakMysore Pak for not just our family, but also for ‘Joy’ aunty, our loving neighbor. Her name was Rosamma, but her children were nicknamed Joy and Chickoo. By virtue of being their mother, she became ‘Joy’ aunty. Mysore Pak was accompanied by a ‘Mixture’, a popular Indian savory. The process of making this ‘Mixture’ used to be fascinating. For it was really that, a mixture of a lot of fried savories. Unlike today, the ‘Mixture’ from my childhood never had cashews, almonds, or raisins. Fried peanuts and finely chopped coconut pieces in this ‘Mixture’, were considered a jackpot. My mom and my grandma tried in vain to shoo us away. There is this myth (even now in many households) that watching it during preparation would jinx the making, or it’d jinx the festival! However, we paid no heed and hovered around them and were willing ‘tasters’.

The foremost duty assigned to me the evening before Diwali was to gather or buy cow dung. Yes, you heard me right! Cow poop was and still is sacred among many households. I don’t ever remember feeling repelled by its texture, color, or odor. If we got lucky, the cows grazing in the open grounds in our colony would drop a generous helping of dungs. There’d be a few others waiting to strike gold ​​With a small plastic bucket and a spatula to scoop, we’d rush to the spot and mine the dung. If we don’t get lucky with the free droppings, we could always drop by our milkman’s house and he’d dispense off some dung for a few coins. This dung, so painstakingly obtained would be mixed in a bucket of water to a consistency that was probably a little runnier than the dosa batter. Every home had a small front yard of caked mud. Beautiful rangolis adorned this front yard. During Diwali, this small area got a thorough cleaning. This surface would then receive a fresh cow-dung coat that’d firmly seal the cracks and give it a darker sheen. This also prevented the dust from rising as all the loose mud would be firmly sealed in​​. The rangolis looked brighter.

 

My friends and I would then embark on the Rangoli project. This also included the cow-dung coat and rangoli for the neighbors, particularly Joy aunty. We’d shortlist and practice a few rangolis a few days before Diwali. In about 3 hours on Diwali eve, most of our front yards would be decked with beautiful rangolis. If I were to give the feeling a name, I might today call it both therapeutic and cathartic.

Another task where we (my sis and my friends in the neighborhood) showed equal or more enthusiasm in was the act and art of drying firecrackers. This would start a week before Diwali! We’d fervently pray that the rain god steered clear and the sun god blessed us with a copious amount of sunlight. We each had a palm winnow in which we’d dry our share of crackers. There would be one portion that was meant for pre-Diwali use. We’d religiously tug-off a bit of the paper wrapped on the wicks so it lights faster. I’d save up a few Waterbury’s Compound Red Label bottles ( a tonic usually prescribed back then in the HAL hospital to ward off cold or cough) and empty coconut shells. I’d arrange the rockets from the firecrackers in a way that they snugly fit into the mouth of the tonic bottle or underneath the coconut shells, and just pull the wick out.

The bottle would sometimes burst into shards along with the rocket. A very dangerous and senseless thing to do, I know. This was totally unsupervised and my parents had no clue whatsoever. A tiny shard once cut into my wrist and that was the last time I used the tonic bottle. My mom was sure that it was the work of some ‘rowdy’ kid and wondered on several occasions in the weeks that followed, on how people raised devils for kids. Also, for some reason, she assumed the rowdy was a boy. I never mustered the courage to own up and it’s one of the several things I regret not having told her.

Another thing to look forward to on the dawn of Diwali was the nice oil massage our dad used to give us. He would take a handful of warm gingelly oil and drip it on our heads slowly and would pat them down hard on our skulls​​He’d say something about the oil cooling the  hotheads he had for daughters 🙂  After the mandatory oil-bath, we’d be administered the Lehiyam/Legiyam/marundhu, a paste made of several herbs, jaggery, and cooked in ghee. My grand-mom made this from scratch.

Diwali was the only occasion when we got new clothes. It almost always was the same fabric, color, and pattern for both my sister and me​​They were always tailored. If we got a little lucky, we’d get different colors. The tailor used to get our dresses ready just the night before Diwali. The anticipation of how the dress and pattern would turn out when it would be ready, and when it’ll dawn, made us at once happy and restless.

Our grandma would pluck the mehendi leaves from our backyard and grind them to a fine paste on a stone pestle in the afternoon. After dinner, she would apply it on our palms even as she narrated the story of Narakasura for the umpteenth time. We never challenged the right and wrong: ) One well-guarded secret around this time was who’d set off the first firecracker. We’d wait for the alarm to go off at 4.00am. However, it would invariably turn out useless because someone always used to beat us to it. We’d be woken up as early as 3.30am by the loud noise of someone in the colony setting off the ‘atom bomb’ at that unearthly hour. We’ll join the ruckus right away by adding our own share of noise, explosions, and litter.

I don’t remember anything of the Diwali feast that must have been cooked because all the kids would be hopping in and out of the house with firecrackers and never seemed to tire of it. Though we never purchased a lot, we purchased the ones that came in several numbers and in bulk packs. The most favorite was the ‘bijli’- the famous, small singles. With about 3 or 4 packs, one could go on all day, bursting them one by one. The guns and capes were another favorite too. Pounding the capes with a stone seemed more fun and noisy than using the guns. The best was reserved for the evening. Most homes in the colony could not afford a decent television. So there was no lure or addiction. We spent most of the time outdoors and didn’t know otherwise.

There would be slight signs of withdrawal on the night of Diwali but we’d pretend that the day would still go on. The days that followed would involve sharing a lot of real and made up stories of the exploits and adventures of the firecrackers. None of us bothered to validate the accounts of our friends though. The innocence and guilelessness of that time make it surreal.

I can’t help but compare to the Diwali now. New clothes aren’t rare anymore while ordinary, quiet days have become rare​​New movie releases, TV channels hopping, out-sourced sweets and savories, expensive fireworks, a night sky lit with aerial shots, whatsapp-ing, facebook-ing, instagram-ing, Netflix-ing,  mark Diwalis now ​​I’m sure that this is an outlook of a boring adult, but I still think my children miss out on the simple joys that I was lucky enough to have as a child.

So, if you’ve been patient and kind enough to read until here, what were your favorite festivals? Do you have fond memories as 10 or 11-year-olds around Diwali or any festival that you’d care to share? Are there things you miss now? What aspects of the different festivals we celebrate do you enjoy now?

Wish you all a very happy, fun-filled, safe, and peaceful Diwali people!

*Kozhukattais– South Indian variation of momos filled with either spicy lentils or coconut and jaggery :))

And we’ve learned how to caution!


A tiny rat (real one!) sneaked into our room last night. All the four Vs were up and about trying to chase it away. And we finally did. The rat wouldn’t take the route we showed. It probably thought it best to leave the way it came. The moment we opened the door to the balcony, it ran out. We discussed strategies on keeping the rats away and finally realised that there isn’t much we can do other than keeping the doors shut.

This evening,  Varun decided to take things in his hands. And this is what he came up with. A notice stuck on the door through which the rat sneaked out. The slate contains illustrations of the ‘equipments’ or ‘gears’ (he said that) that we need to keep the rats at bay. And he was dressed to kill 😉

Some English lessons!


Why am I reminded of that little wisdom someone shared with me a long time ago-that it takes only 18 years to raise a child? 🙂

Having read one Famous Five, the 7 year old brat has declared that it is boring and ‘kiddish’ and that Enid Blyton is boring too. He’s asked me to give him something ‘interesting’ to read.

Some lessons he imparted the last couple of weeks:

Varun: ‘Madre (yeah!), do you know what ‘outlaw’ means?

Me: (?!!!) No, I don’t. Please enlighten.

Varun: An outlaw is a thief. Bad man. Do you at least know what it is to mug someone?

Me: (#$@#%#$^$!) Eh? No! Tell me.

Varun: Don’t know how you passed your exams in schools and college (rolls his eyes). To mug someone, is to steal from someone.

(Well, I’ve not been looking at the right places for lessons in English :/)

Me: That’s awesome da. Where did you learn all these?

Varun: From friends.

Me: Who are your friends?

Varun: Friends ma! You don’t even know  F.R.I.E.N.D.S? You know Ross, Chandler, Rachel, Monica, Joey.. Don’t know? Vyas’s favorite is Chandler but I like Ross.

(This is not happening! No! This is happening!)

I’d like to save the best for the last. Only that I don’t know the difference between ‘best’ and ‘hopeless’ anymore :/

Varun describes a scene from some program called ‘Community’ on Comedy Central where somebody spills a lot of wine.

Me: What is wine da?

Varun: It is the famous juice of Americans. Mostly made in 1968.

Why am I bothering with schooling when so much self-learning is happening?!!

Crafts this year


A couple of crafts Varun and I did recently as part of craft projects  in school:

A paper bag:

  • Stuck a few newspaper sheets together before folding it into a bag
  • Used just rope and colored adhesive tape for handle
  • And a thin card board from which puzzle pieces were punched out

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A shirt made from chart paper

Varunisms- May’16


Deep conversations and some.. Most of our ‘serious’ conversations these days seem to start with him saying, ‘Listen, I want to tell you somethin..’. No typo there. The fellow has an acquired accent, dunno from where!

Varun: Ma, N is very bad.
Me: Why? He seems nice. He’s a star cricketer too..
Varun: I want to tell you something. (pause)
Me: Well?
Varun: Getting a grade or being a star is not important.
Me: Okay!
Varun: Really. I’m tellin you.
Me: So, what is important.
Varun: Behaviour.
Me: Oh?!!
Varun. Really. I mean, in school. At home we can be how we want.
Me: Right!

——————-

Me: You know how to fry vadams? (rice crispies if I can call it that)
Varun: Yes, I know.
Me: Tell me.
Varun: Light the gas with the firing machine and fry the vadams in fire.

Was not aware that my boy looked at a gas lighter as a firing machine;) It must be the commando games.

——————-

To confirm or make sure I heard what he said, this is how he asks:

Varun: Ma, do you copy?

[or]

Varun: Ma, do you read?

According to him, he is an FBI/CIA/Commando in the making

——————–

And this one takes the cake..

Me: Varun, it’s 11.00 PM and you are still not asleep :/
Varun: (Jumping on the bed even with the light switched off. yeah, my monkey!)
Me: You are going to get one tight spank.
Varun: (Silence for 10 seconds. He then gathers his pillow and sheet, bundles them under his arms and heads out of the room).
Me: What do you think you are doing.
Varun: I’m going to grandma’s room.
Me: Why?
Varun: Listen, I wanna tell you somethin..
Me: Listening..
Varun: I hate you.
Me: And why is that?
Varun: Because you are strict.
Me: Is that wrong now? You don’t listen if I’m not.
Varun: Be kind. Try telling kindly.
Me: Kindly how?
Varun: Try saying, “Varun, please stop playing and go to bed”.
Me: And you’ll listen?
Varun: Try me.
Me: Ok, let me get this straight. All I need to do to get you to listen is, say kindly?
Varun: Yes.
Me: Okay.

And the kindness worked for 6 days. We now go back and forth between our old and new ways 🙂 As always, never a dull moment, I tell ya!

And when in love..


… with Cricket and the Cricketer Ashwin, everything gets painted blue. Including a school project. The convo went thus:

Varun: Amma, I’ve got to make a t-shirt from a chart. Need your help.

Me: Done. I’ll do the sketching.

Varun: Okay. A round-neck t-shirt, Okay?

Me: Can we do one with a cute collar?

Varun: No ma. You just draw the shape and cut. I’ll do the ‘detailing’. (he said that!)

Me: Alright. What ‘details’ are you going to add.

Varun: I have an idea. You first cut the shape.

I draw the outline, and cut the shape. And then this chap brings out the model t-shirt and takes my help with fine-tuning his drawing. We finally end up adding a collar too because the model t-shirt has one:)

And here is output:

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School Stories


The six year old sometimes stumps us like a 16 year old..  Arguments, logics, thy name Varun.

He seems to be a big fan of shopping online, though we haven’t got a single toy for him online. For instance, he suddenly seems to think bracelets are cool on boys and has been pestering me to buy one. “Ma, check on Amazon.in”. I feign checking and tell him it isn’t available. “Okay, check on Flipkart. Else see on Snapdeal. Or on Ebay”, he adds. And these sites are getting poor ratings from my boy because they don’t stock bracelets.. Bad portals, I say!

The other day, he was generally being nice and asked me to show how I whatsapp his friend V’s mom. I did. The next thing I know is that he has clicked a selfie and has whatsapped it to that mom with a note that it was meant for his friend V. In an another instance, he whatsapps me from my co-bro’s mobile stating that ‘Vidya is a waste’. The reason can be attributed to the 100s of denials of the 1000s of demands he makes. He has whatsapped my friend’s son appreciating him on a recitation. He is the self-proclaimed *anna to that little boy and so thinks it is his place to acknowledge and encourage talent. I like that 🙂

When he wants his dad or me to get him something, the sentence almost always starts with: “Ma/Pa, I want to ask you something. But I’m sure you will say NO”. We politely tell him not to waste his breath. We are nice like that.

IMG_0832He has acquired some taste for Hindi and often experiments. He said, “Mein baath nahin karunga”. I had no clue why he was miffed. So I ask him, ‘Kyon? Kya hua?”. “Baath naheeeen”, he emphasised. “Water chill hai”, he added. It dawned on me a few seconds later that he was referring to the English word ‘bath’. And thus, our Hindi trysts continue.

He adores his friend’s baby brother and wonders why he was not born first so a baby bro or sis would’ve followed. He asks if he will ever have one. I tell him, I will only be a grandmother next and that he could cuddle the baby of my close friend C and that of another friend D who will pop in a few months.

The moment he wakes up, he emerges out of the bedroom, bowling like Ravinchandran Ashwin, but without the ball. His action is a perfect imitation of the said bowler. He is miffed that cricket camps in school or elsewhere wouldn’t take in 6 year olds.. “Not fair”, he mutters.

And in the most happening of the school events, he has found his first puppy love. A little girl called S, to whom our man has been blowing kisses and is not getting kissed in return. He has illustrated his love in his rough note book as well.  And I thought some lessons in love could wait.. Boys!

PS: anna- Tamizh for bro

Clay craft for kids


Varun attended a terracotta craft workshop for kids the weekend that just went by. Here are some wonders he created and will surely feature in our Golu next year. Thanks to Suja Shrikanth for teaching this amazing craft to the kids.

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Love(ly) letter


So, it’s been decades since I received a cute love letter. Here is the one I got from my champ last week. And make sure you look at the trademark signature on the right bottom corner in the first pic- a tiny GUN! On the left corner, according to him, are some cowboy symbols. The ‘CBLand’ in the from address is short for Cowboy Land of course! Hail Cowboys! Especially the pint sized ones.

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Kids, cars, ads..


Did I tell you that Vyas is into automobiles lately? He is also a beeeeg fan of Honda and has even been defending their recent recall of some cars due to defective inflators. He tells everyone that he is going to become an automobile engineer and will join Honda. You’d think he already has an offer letter from the company! Well, that is some change of plan considering he originally wanted to become a ‘garbage collector’.

Vyas’s favorite magazine now is Autocar India. He doesn’t miss a word, starting from the title to the copyright information at the end of the book, every month. Will never be bored of talking for hours together on the auto-specs to any random person walking this planet. It doesn’t matter even if the listener is not interested.

The big brother’s influence rubs onto the little fella too. Varun though seems to prefer style over substance. His favorite car (he says), is the Lamborghini Murcielago. Next fav. is the Bugatti Veyron. BMW comes third and last is Honda. The other vendors are not in the reckoning at all. He can keep gawking at the various pics of the various sporty cars in the various car mags and books at home!

Car-craze plus commercials does something to kids. Here’s is a sample..

The other day, Varun was watching a BMW ad. He turned to his dad and said,

Varun: “Appa, shall we buy a BMW”

Dad V: “I don’t have the money to buy one”

Varun: “Listen pa. It is easy. Call Quikr. They’ll give more money for our Honda City.”

Mommy/daddy- *facepalm*

Vyas: Hey, Honda is the best. Appa, you retain the Honda. Buy us a BMW.

Dad V: Ok, will check if it available at Connexions tomorrow.

Told you. Vs are like that only!