Sleepless In Bombay. Or, Diwali It Is.

So here I am again, my latest weapon in my arsenal of sleep-inducing tricks having failed on the third day. To be fair, I did go to bed intending to fall asleep and tossed and turned for a whole two hours while my mind had already left the room. Finally I picked myself up and tiptoed out of the room and settled in this chair with the laptop in front of me, as seems to have become my regular practice at this hour!

Diwali being around the corner, we spent the day cleaning the house thoroughly and washed and scrubbed all the brass Ganeshas and Krishnas in their various forms. This year I decided to make some snacks and sweets for Diwali. First I made the lehiyam or marundhu as it is known, which is eaten before the sweets on the morning of Diwali, to keep the digestive system in good condition under assault! It requires grinding of spices/herbal medicines and cooking it in jaggery and ghee. At home I am the only fan of the Deepavali marundhu which is a Tanjore special but no one is allowed to pass and everyone makes a lot of faces while swallowing it. After that morning it is all mine and truth to tell, I prefer it to all the sweets. Today we made omappodi, then we made the traditional “mixture”. On occasions like these R. and I are a team in the kitchen. I get everything ready – mixing the dough and seasoning and getting out all the pots and pans – while R. considers pressing out the omappodi in the sev press or making the boondis in the special boondi ladle to be his domain. I do the deep frying and finally it was done to perfection, I may add, but I am being objective, not boastful.

The best thing about Diwali in my childhood was the firecrackers of course. My brother and I had a brightly-colored tin box that said Afghan Snow on it. Snow was what women used on their faces in those days. Later it came to be known as vanishing cream. My mother never used any snow so I believe that box must have been bought as an empty tin box. My father would pay five rupees to his office society who would then buy firecrackers in bulk and give us our five rupees worth. Our tin was full of anars and sparklers and thin electric crackers and thicker red ones and also aeroplanes. We never bought the rockets though. There were Vishnu chakras and ground chakras and long limp “pencils” which were a kind of glowing crackling sparklers. There were also black tablets that would grow into long snakes, my favorites. They were divided scrupulously between us. Each morning we would religiously take them out and lay them out in the sun so that they would not fizzle out on D-day. On the days before Diwali we would lovingly and often take them out of the box several times and be told to  put them back by either our mother or father. Some years my father would take us to Putli Bowli  maidan where firecrackers were sold at wholesale rates. Some were the very expensive “bombs” and the sparklers that were like a thousand colorful stars in the sky. We did not buy those but we did get the “onions” which were tied together in bunches. You struck each one on the ground separately and it produced a satisfyingly loud noise.

The aeroplanes were unpredictable though. They would take off in any direction instead of always going up. One year one of them flew straight into my hair which was wet, loose and long. My hair sizzled and a big bunch of it was singed and fell off in the middle.

When D. was little, she had kept her stock of firecrackers on a table  on the terrace and a spark set off everything. We all heard the very loud noise and ran up. The table itself was scorched and D was just lucky not to have been hurt. That was the end of that Diwali celebration. All the crackers had gone up in one blazing moment  after an entire day of anticipation.

It has been many years now that we have stopped buying firecrackers. I do not miss them. Just as I do not miss the New Year programs on TV. I prefer to go to bed and cover my ears and hope the noise will die down soon.

4 thoughts on “Sleepless In Bombay. Or, Diwali It Is.”

  1. “Snake” is my favorite too!

    I thought there was this one time we had gone downstairs for fireworks and the entire stock burnt up in one shot right at the building entrance. I wonder if that was a different incident…

  2. Oh that was another incident in Bombay! The first one happened in Hyderabad. They had to throw away that table which was already a shaky one and was called – you guessed it – “the shaky table”..

  3. I don’t remember the one in Bombay to have burnt up all the fireworks at one go. I remember it as a near miss by D

  4. I only remember the incident in Bombay and that wasn’t my fault. I’m not the person who kept the candle (for lighting our sparklers) right next to the box of crackers!

    And I don’t remember the Hyderabad incident. You can’t blame all of these on me, you know! Grrrr…

Leave a Reply