The light of the world

Here’s wishing all of you a warm and happy Diwali. It was particularly touching that kids around us all swore off firecrackers for a variety of reasons – pollution, the noise and disturbance to old folks, babies and animals, and finally, child labour in Sivakasi. And with all that effort we woke up to a fairly clear and clean day. Impressive.

We met some people who were surprised that kids were aware of such things. Lets not burden them with issues they have no understanding of, let them enjoy themselves, they said.

I smiled and said nothing. Yes, apparently I am growing old. *ugh*

We burden our kids by informing them early about their caste, community and the notion of an omniscient God (and I really haven’t met too many adults with an understanding of God), but we don’t believe they have the capacity to understand that little children like themselves are sitting in a dirty factory making crackers that are harmful to their health? Why is it hard to tell our children that animals are terrified of the loud sounds, when we don’t think twice about telling them that it’s wrong to pull a dog’s tail? Why is it hard to point out that we’re just burning up money instead of doing some good with it? Why can’t they have memories of drawing rangolis, making sweets, lighting diyas and stringing up garlands of marigold? Who decreed that fire crackers are de rigueur? We had a lovely time last night with friends, family, good food, laughter and light. I hope you did too.

A few glimpses of our home done up for the festival of lights

I love this malevolent frog!

Laying the table for a traditional Diwali dinner cooked by the OA

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57 thoughts on “The light of the world

  1. Thank you, and you AND your kids are awesome. I keep getting asked if I’m celebrating with fireworks, and am usually too surprised to say what I’m feeling. I haven’t used fireworks since I was in school. The first year when I *tried* to give them up my dad made such a fuss (apparently I was unreasonable and a lot of other things I don’t remember) I had to go unhappily burst some. So you and the OA are cool parents. (This being one of the many reasons, of course.)

    • Well right now we’re being made to feel like shit parents who aren’t showing their kids the real Diwali. Thankfully there is a world out there that is joining us in our desire to keep it clean.

  2. Happy Diwali to you and your lovely family… My wishes to your parents.. How are they? Long time no post about them :)
    House looks so lovely that I am longing to see more pictures dear !!

  3. My sister-in-law in Bangalore said that it is was also a quieter Diwali there and that many people are giving up crackers for a variety of reasons. In their friends circle, they had one day where all the kids got together and played with crackers and that was it, unlike the whole week of it or whatever. My husband sounded skeptical that this was all for noble reasons but these are all very wealthy people so they are certainly not doing it for lack of funds.

    In Hong Kong for safety reasons, people are not allowed to individually burst crackers but on certain festivals the government organises a big fireworks display. Here too firecrackers were big on festivals; the noise is believed to scare away evil spirits. But the tradition has died out.

    • Oh no, its nothing to do with funds. We could easily afford to blow up huge amounts. But we all have contributed what we’d have spent to an NGO that distributed gifts to poor kids. And we’ve begun our own tradition where at each festival we take the money we’d have mindlessly spent on clothes and stuff (well we’ve never done that, but you know what I mean!) and donate it to a cause. The Bible says Let not your left hand know what your right C hand does, so I hate talking about any charity we do, but in this context I felt I had to tell you. India has more disposable income today than ever and thankfully a whole set of educated people who really *care* about what happens to the planet. And what message we’re passing on to our kids when our expenditure gets more and more mindless.

      I think its a great idea to get together and burst some crackers to reduce chance of accidents, pollution, noise and expense.

  4. My wee cousins gave strict orders to their parents that no firecrackers should be bought. One of them even refused to visit her best friend’s house (a Diwali ritual for her) because he was celebrating with crackers. It’s heartening to see kids do this on their own..reiterating the fact that we so often underestimate their powers to understand..

    Also heard that at IITM, circulars were passed around requesting people to not use fireworks (for all the reasons you have highlighted). There’s hope yet that this will become the new way to celebrate.

    Love your table setting! And can’t wait to see your Christmas decor!

    • I’m impressed. We have kids here in my kids’ school who refuse to light crackers too, even in the face of parents offering to buy crackers. Which is even more commendable than my kids who have parents teaching them that the crackers are made by poor little children in sivakasi.
      I think the school and college level is the one to be targeted because clearly adults don’t seem to care that in 20 years we’ll leave behind a shell of a planet for our kids.

  5. And you laid the table like that? RESPECT! Did I tell you that I love your taste and your house and the way you do it up on occasions. You sure are taking up interior decoration seriously, aren’t you? I’m sure you had a wonderful Diwali and really glad to know that kids now know what is the right way to celebrate :)

    • LOL :) I’d love to, but I doubt anyone would pay me. Our deal is to use what we already have around the house and not buy something new for festivals every year. So i have to make do with whatever I have lying around the house. Most of the stuff I have put up are gifts.

      • Of course I know you don’t buy stuff every time, but to create that kind of magic with things that are already there, is definitely talent. :) Time for a home tour?

        • :) *blush*
          House tour, I’m not ready for yet. I have so much I want to do and since we moved here we’ve had no house help. I still have cartons of stuff to be hung up etc lying around and my garden was ruined the night before Diwali by a neighbour who chopped an ancient creeper that was growing across both our homes. So that entire area is a mess. Will take me at least a year to grow something enough to make up for that :(

  6. Hi MM,
    I don’t think the old traditions hurt us as much as blindly following the west. Letting children burst noiseless sparklers and flowerpots do not cause as much harm or Pollution as every middle class dream of a family car or even two. Everyday I see people spending money upgrading their phone, laptop, and other electronics at the drop of a hat and causing E-Waste. Children not walking to school like good old days, as the schools are too far away from school. Schools not providing transport for children, forcing moms to drive up-down, so that their kids are safe and causing Fossil Fuel-Waste. Air-conditioners, taking plastic bags at grocery stores and people not segregating garbage is a big problem for clean and green India.
    Old traditions are good and simple pleasures of life…it is the new traditions that are bad.
    Happy Diwali!
    P

    • Hi Priya,
      I agree that cars on the road also cause pollution but I also think every bit of effort makes a big difference. It’s impossible for people who live in suburbs to walk 35 kms to work or for the world to stop using technology. So why not look at sustainable and practical solutions? Traditions were created by us humans and there is no harm in changing to suit the present.
      Children will enjoy what we teach them to enjoy – if we didn’t celebrate holi with colour and Xmas with gifts, they wouldn’t know any better, would they? Have you seen the news this morning? http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/post-diwali-lesser-pollution-this-year-in-delhi-292096
      After all sparklers are not the traditional way Diwali was celebrated a couple of centuries ago, one assumes. They just lit diyas and made rangolis and made sweets.
      Its also amusing that we everything bad is labelled ‘blindly following the West’. If that is the case we should both not be responding to each other in English, using the internet to communicate or sending our kids to English schools. the west does not have a monopoly on technology so we can’t blame them for our schools not providing transport or lazy people who don’t carry bags to the department store.
      I don’t think we should cling on to old traditions blindly. Traditions will not give our kids a clean planet, regardless of whether they come from the east or the west. Before worrying about those, we need to worry about the rising number of asthmatic kids.
      Hope you had a good one!
      MM

      • hmmm i tagged the no crackers along with my diwali wishes and i got the same : no use of rickshaws/cars bit. have heard the “our tradition” one too. our kids havent been bursting crackers. in fact i checked if they felt bad but i think they have learned that its harmful to the envt and are ok. my husband (bores them) gives them envt gyan at every opportunity, so much that they mouth it with him now!!! but i guess they also know that we make sense. phew! one thing done well (check!).
        and thats a great point : we make traditions. we discard them when convenient. so why not change this one! and i agree many moons ago, when diwali celebrations were introduced, there must have been just beautiful diyas, sweets and family!!! just like ganesh festival has degenerated into loud music, vulgar gyrations in front of the lord, and soon the next generation will think “this” is tradition!

  7. I love Diwali for the rituals its signifies and all the diwali’s I rmbr while growing up are steeped in those rituals. Bursting crackers after an early morining bath was a part of that childhood nostagia (even angry shouts from our neighbours in Mumbai for that matter! Only Madrasis would be mad enough to wake up at 4 and get ready and burst crackers at dawn ;))
    But this year like the past few years have been cracker free in my family and i’ve decided to continue other traditions and even make a few new ones of my own. So I agree that just because I celebrate diwali now differently than we did 20 years ago (my darling catholic husband grins and helps string lights), it doesn’t make it any less of a celebration as long as we have love, laughter, friends and family around.
    Happy Deepavali MM, OA, Brat and Bean!

    • Well said! Happy Deepavali to you. I think for families like ours creating new traditions is an important tradition in itself. My kids don’t belong to either community in entirety, but to a new global breed for lack of a better phrase. It’s up to us to make up new traditions that suit us and I see no reason why those reasons shouldnt have environmental considerations. In the years ahead nothing is going to matter more than sustainable practices and environmental concerns.

      • 100% agree MM.
        Coincidentally dad and I were having an discussion (kind way of saying heated argument) on how the early morning oil bath was probably invented for people who didn’t bathe enough during the winter months ;)
        Sorry about being anon in the original comment, forgot to add my name in my eagerness…

        • I did wonder why you posted as anon. Doesn’t matter :) And yes, that was a good reason to put that down. Such a coincidence but a friend and I are talking about this on FB right now!

          • LOL coincidence indeed and how does your discussion go? Personally in a dry dry climate like Bangalore I love slathering oil on, although that was tortuous back in Mumbai. And not sure if you’ve heard of Deepvaali lehiyam (maarindu) which is awesome to digest all the bakshanam… so IMO some traditions do seem to have some common sense behind them :)

            • Can’t seem to reply to your comment for some reason. Anyway, deepavali lehiyam is a mixture of a number of spices, ground and cooked with jaggery and ghee which becomes something like chavanprash. Mom and granny used to make it at home earlier but now you can get it in a few shops.
              Its usually eaten on an empty stomach right after your oil bath early on diwali morning before you eat anything else. Some people I know really like it and eat it through the festive season, but I abhor the taste and only have the customary one spoon.
              Here’s one version: http://www.subbuskitchen.com/2009/10/deepavali-legiuminji-legium-deepavali.html

  8. Such a beautiful and meaningful post, MM. I also think it is good to educate children about the world around them since a young age, in a way that they can understand. When we can tell them about God and religions, we surely can tell them about child labour and enlisting their help in preventing it!

    • Exactly. I blogged about this long ago. There are so many questions I cannot answer – like why does God allow death, poverty and illness. Do you have an answer? No. But I do have answers to pollution and child labour and I’d rather teach my kid what I feel sure about.

  9. I call myself the Diwali Grinch. Deepavali Grinch, maybe. I dislike pretty much everything about the festival of excess. I haven’t done firecrackers since I took a pledge in college back in the 90s, yes, yes, the 90s in IITM and we are still talking about the same old thing today! Over the past two years, someone gave us a box and the husband desultorily did the honours and now the child at least knows what it is about. This year was super awesome. I hung out with family. We made garlands out of marigolds – I remember how to make that still! We made a nice rangoli with flowers. And I visited you! The best! :-)

  10. Hey MM, Belated Happy Diwali… Pics are wonderful and capture the spirit of the festival .. but they are too few.. I was waiting for your diwali decor post eagerly to get a glimpse of your home… I support other readers who are asking for house tour..Please.. I know you aren’t ready but you know its also nice that you show journey of your house… like how it was in the beginning, how did it start taking shape as per your desire but still with few incomplete walls / corners, and the difference brought by few small but interesting ideas… and then the finale…. its fun… I am sure readers can relate with it more since each one of us go through such phases… Also, they can appreciate your creativity more. Hey its just a thought! not pestering you.. take your time.. (not too loooooong , ok?) i am waiting…

    Also, on following traditions, i completely agree with you.

  11. My 10 month old cried & cried because of cracker bombs…. & that when we knew it was a quieter diwali… all relatives kept telling us, just wait till he grows up & starts lighting crackers himself :(. I hope he doesn’t turn out to be so….

    • He won’t if you tell him early that this isn’t your way of celebrating. I don’t know a single baby who enjoyed it. I remember my neighbour’s son would bawl for days in terror. And continued to do so until he was at least 8. :( Poor baby.

  12. I don’t know what to say… But let me try :-)
    The day of Deepavali was so bland here. It was just like any other week day with nothing special. So when my parents called to wish us, I was so bummed out. The sound of crackers brought such nostalgia that I cribbed to the husband about moving back. Did I tell you the silence here creeps me out? Anyway, in an effort to mark the day we binged on festival food and I went to bed with a smile.

    Now after reading your post, I sat back scratching my head. It reflects on something I have been thinking for the past few days. Although am not too keen to teach my son about the strict rules binding ever festival or tradition, I want him to grow up with those festivals. Am not big on religion and having a Hindu mother & a catholic father, am guessing my son will never have to make a choice. I want to teach him values, manners and the difference between right & wrong. But I want to celebrate every festival, doesn’t matter if its Hindu or Christian or something like Vishu/Onam.

    Before I start hogging your space, am trying to say that it was not the crackers but my parents that I missed most on that phone call. Which is what festivals are about anyways. Families to gather, food, laughter & celebration. If we can do it without hurting the environment then why not? A big hi five to you for teaching brat & bean to look out for others. And thou shall pay you for the eye you ave of decor… You had me floored with your table setting.

    • I think you have to build up the excitement. And I personally believe that traditions evolve with time. This is the only chance you will have to impact history or culture in your own way. To do what you believe in. We had a lovely time putting up garlands on the door, making rangolis, blasting loud music while doing the cleaning up and cooking, and then finally baths, dressing up, dinner, family and friends.

      I know what you mean. You miss family most. Rituals – I can take or leave.

  13. Happy Diwali MM, I love the red lantern you have and the delicious shade of ocher behind your frog. Is that another lamp? I love the table setting and the overturned wine glasses for candlesticks. Looks like a cozy, warm celebration with close friends and family. Aren’t those the best kind of celebrations?

  14. I see an increasing awareness around me about the negative effects of firecrackers, and that’s heartening. Especially when its children who are aware and willing to make these decisions – theres hope for the future yet! At my home, Deepavali celebrations have toned down over the years, especially since the sister and I left home – my parents buy a small box of sparklers for our house help – she’s just nineteen, so shes almost a kid herself, and she loves them – but beyond that it’s just a day to light up the home with diyas and spend time with loved ones…which is what festivals should be about, anyway!

    • You know, we haven’t been to Church in years. I tried going for X’mas but with the cold and the bundling up kids and curious junta showing up to attend service so that there are no seats left, it is no longer a comfortable situation. So we just dropped it. Just like that. We cook a good dinner, we chat around the table, play guitar and sing carols and exchange gifts. Bas. Our traditions are what we make of them.

  15. Nice post. In general, I really get riled up when 1 set of people make some ‘pitying’ kind of remarks on the way someone else celebrates a festival. Festivals are about doing things together as a family, and being together. I’m in the US (where we’re not allowed to do fireworks individually) and most of my relatives were like ‘poor kids, they dont get to burst crakers etc.’. I wouldn’t have let them burst crackers even if I were in India for the same reasons you cited. With more money, festivals have morphed into a time for shopping mindlessly, spending, and excess of everything. Crackers were not a problem because people used to have less money in olden days and would burst a few. vs now when parents want to buy dozens for show and pomp, and collectively this becomes an environment issue. Our Diwali was more about making sweets/snacks as a family, lighting lamps, oil bath (gangasnanam) and wishing our family and friends back in India. We had an Indian community get-together locally.

    • People do that whenever they feel insecure. People pity my kids for not getting to watch TV, for having to wish the time of day when they meet, for not getting to use the internet. I don’t care. I pity people who cannot break free of shackles and make their own choices.

  16. Hi I am hooked to your site since 2 days now since I found it. I think I was in some sort of wilderness till now .. How could I not know this blog?
    Absolutely loved it so far and I am still reading it. With a two year old running around the house,it will take me time to read fully but I will someday soon.
    Happy Diwali to you and the kids.
    Thanks for being one of them who dont burn noisy crackers. My toddler is absolutely terrified of the sounds and most of the times I feel so helpless when she says ‘Tell them Mumma no DHadaams’!
    BTW,,wow! You have the house of my dreams..i.e a house that will stay in my dreams.. I cannot keep my house looking like that !

  17. MM, I wish there was a like button to every comment here that abhorred crackers! Love your pictures, you have an amazing taste lady! Hope you had a great Diwali.

  18. I think its amazing that this crop of kids understand why crackers should not be burned. I had a tough time trying to convince the grown-ups, the kids were fine with just a packet of sparklers each. Oh well.

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