Diwali is here (almost)

Diwali is just around the corner. I have very fond childhood memories of this festival. It is one of the few that we celebrated as a family. The day started with a trip to the local shops to buy diyas – big and small, sparkles, crackers, flowers, mithai, mustard oil, kandil (streamers), and all the little things used for the puja in the evening – patashe, kheel (puffed rice), dry fruits, candles. If Wunderlist was a thing back then, I would have totally created a Diwali shopping list and used it year over year. That’s a good reminder to create one for myself, starting this year.
The diyas were to be soaked in water as soon as we reached home. That way they don’t soak up oil, and burn longer in the evening. Mom used to give us cotton, and we’d roll diya baatis out of them. Four for the big diya and 21 for the small. There were always 21 small diyas. Of course why we added the 1 on top of well rounded 20s, 50s and 100s, was a mystery that was never revealed to me.
The corner of the house where the puja was to be conducted, was to be cleaned and mopped before we started setting it up. Puja is not even the word to use for the little ritual we did every Diwali. We had a few prayer books (a classic mix of arya samaj, and the traditional idol worship stuff). Yeah we believed in fusion. Over time, my sis and I had learnt some of the prayers.
There were times when my Daadi would join us for the puja. I loved to observe her excitement and joy as we went around getting the puja set up. Diwali is the only day in the year I saw my father fold his hands in prayer. He had his beliefs. Mom has hers. We got to choose. It was fair.
Over time I picked my choices. My life journey led me to my own set of beliefs. Like Sai and Ganpati are my friends, and all good things happen on Thursdays. But then Agam’s accident happened on a Thursday too. Uh oh!
I try to recreate the Diwali scene from the good old days for our little family. We also pick diyas, big and small (21) at Madras Groceries, look for marigold flowers, stand in line at Rangoli, buy illegit crackers, and come home and make rangolis with Tara’s chalk, and plastic stencils. Then we dress up in the evening for the puja, and sing a few prayers that I recall from my childhood. We offer some bhog to the idols, and light diyas, and crackers. Most importantly, we offer our gratitude for all the good things, and accept all the bad things that happened that year. We also count our blessings and commit to keep doing the right thing, always. Tara and I go around putting the diyas all around the house, and then we sit and eat yummy rice pulav.
That’s all. It’s a day long celebration and I enjoy it with my little Tara. Agam is part of our celebration in the evening. But he does not know how the puja is put together. He has his beliefs. And I have mine. And Tara will also have a choice. It will also be fair.
I just finished reading, The next person you meet in heaven, by Mitch Albom. He is a good author. I’ve read everything he has published so far. Five people you meet in heaven and Tuesdays with Morrie are some of his most known works. It was a quick and enjoyable flight time read. Somewhere in the book, I read something on the lines of – how we grow up loving our parents, and then we oppose them for some reason, and then we become them. For me personally there was never a period of opposition. We were always well aligned on what I wanted for myself, and what they wanted for me. Of course those were simpler times.
But I totally relate to us becoming much like our parents. Just wish I’d get there sooner. I’d be so much better if I was more like them. And this week, Agam will also agree with me.
Tara wanted a wand at the Disney on Ice show last week. It was tempting, but costed $30. I am not the parent who will buy a plastic wand for $30 at the show because my daughter is so in love with it. I convinced Tara that we will buy the wand, but at Walmart or Target. She is a good kid. She agreed. On Sunday, Agam and Tara went looking for a wand in all stores they could think of and found none. Both of them were disappointed. Agam finally ordered something from Amazon.
[Note that we call Tara’s grandparents by the name we want her to call them. So just like they are Tara’s Dadu, Daadi and Naani, they are ours too :)]
When Agam was talking to Dadu on Sunday night, he had a great idea. Dadu recommended Diddums, a shop walking distance from our home. Dadu was right, sitting a million miles away, he knew where to go to buy a wand for Tara. Agam was so mad at himself for not thinking about that option. To which I offered some humor – “That’s why he is your Dad. And you are his son.” And may be you will also be a good Dadu 🙂
Chances are he will be. We become like our parents, whether we like it or not. As long as we mix it up with the learnings from our own experiences, it is a good outcome to hope for.
Oh there’s one more thing my Dad did on Diwali. He made up his own prayer. Just a few sentences woven together to summarize what we were thankful for as a family and what he hoped for the year ahead. I do something similar. It will find it’s way on this blog. I write a little paragraph on what I hope for this Diwali, for our friends, family, peers and the world.

I am certain that tolerance will be high on the list this year. We can all use more of it. Ironically there ain’t a god for tolerance in the hindu mythology.
In the absence of an idol, let’s worship some ideals.

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