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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Deepawali Musings

When Deepawali (literally meaning ‘group of lights’) (also called Diwali) season arrives I remember two things. The first incident happened in Kerala, when I was a small child. The second one happened in Delhi. The first one gives a lot of fond and pleasant memories and the second one, a shudder.

Deepawali is usually celebrated with lots of lights and fire crackers. 

Deepawali is not generally celebrated in Kerala. It is not our festival at all. It is celebrated very elaborately in North India and in Kerala’s neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. As a result the places close to that state also used to celebrate Deepawali because those places have a mixed culture.

Kunjaphan (younger paternal uncle) was the priest in a temple in Devikulam, now in Idukki district, also a neighbouring place to Tamil Nadu. His visits were like festivals for us children. He always brought gifts for us. Also, he constantly used to crack jokes. The jokes made not only us children but even grown-ups burst into laughter. His jokes round the year used to be more effective than fire crackers! His innocent laugh used to let several flowers blossom in our minds.

Whenever he visits us around Deepawali, he used to bring fire crackers. As far as I can remember, he, however, brought only three items, kampithiri, chakram and poothiri (names in Malayalam). I don’t know if bombs and rockets existed then at all. And in the evening all of us, including adults, used to assemble in the courtyard to burst the fire crackers. The occasion was exciting even for adults because fire crackers were very rare in our part of the state.

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The second incident happened when we were staying in Greater Kailash in Delhi. Like everybody else, we also had bought some crackers to celebrate deepawali. We were living on rent on the second floor of a house, the ground floor of which had been rented out for a shop.

There were various kinds of crackers starting from kampithiri to bombs and rockets. While kampithiri is comparatively harmless and emits colourful sparks when lighted, bombs and rockets were dangerous as they would explode emitting powerful sound and colourful and strong sparks. Chakras used to revolve at great speed and emit colourful sparks. Poothiri, when lighted, emitted long and bright sparks several feet high. Some of these also used to explode at the end. Rockets are kept straight up in a bottle and then lighted so that it goes straight up and then explode in the air.    

Several people had gathered on their terraces to light crackers. 

A large rectangular park existed in the middle of the market covered by shops on all four sides. Above the shops were houses, like the one we were staying in. We also saw several people in the park below. Some boys in other buildings staying on the second floor used a novel way to fire the rockets. Instead of keeping the bottle upright, they kept it lying on the half wall of the terrace and fired the rockets. The rockets flew straight to the terrace of the building on the other side, after crossing the park, and burst there. Initially we were aghast at seeing their dangerous activity. But it looked like they were experts and not even one missed the target.

Seeing this, Narayanan ettan (cousin) thought we could try it too. Though we were hesitant initially, ettan decided to go ahead. So we carefully placed the bottle flat on the half wall of the terrace, and kept the rocket in the bottle. Then it was lighted. The rocket, however, instead of heading for the terrace of the opposite house, dropped straight into the park and burst right in the midst of some people. They were workers in a sweet shop in the market and were taking rest after a full day’s heavy work. They jumped up in horror. So did we. They immediately looked up at us and started shouting angrily. We got frightened and went inside and, kind of, hid ourselves in the rooms. We did not even dare to talk among ourselves for several minutes. We were afraid that they would come and barge into our flat and beat us all up. It took us at least half an hour to heave a sigh of relief. Then we silently went and collected the rest of the fire crackers from the terrace and threw into the waste basket.

When Deepawali arrives, these two incidents always come to my mind. 

1 comment:

  1. Received via e-mail:

    Every festival is beautiful if considered with its real purpose. Unfortunately, people tend to abuse the freedom provided in the name of religions. That becomes counteractive.

    K Ramachandran Pillai