Happy Diwali 2010

Edited to add: This piece I came across on Sivakasi.

The toughest part of parenting has been for me, the tightrope I walk between my principles and what is best for my child. I’ve often had to back down on something I believe deeply in because it doesn’t suit my child. Firecrackers is one such issue.

I’ve loved Diwali all my life for the colour and the light. But over the last few years I’ve grown more sensitive. To child labour. To the environment. But I’ve ignored the little voice at the back of my head because of the kids.  Until recently when I realised that their schools have begun to campaign against firecrackers. It disturbs the peace, the stray dogs are terrified, the streets are littered, a haze of smog hangs over the city and everyone is wheezing. But it’s still so beautiful! One part of me says “Aw… let them enjoy their childhood.” Another part screams.. “what about the little kids in Sivakasi losing their childhood slaving over these?”

This year, yet again the Bean started wheezing as soon as the crackers began. I sat there holding her inhaler and mask over her mouth while the crackers went off outside. Later at night after most of it had died down we went into the lawn to watch the last few revellers light up some anaars. As we sat there cheering and screaming, a little boy got burnt. Not too badly, but enough to singe the back of his legs.  A harsh reminder of what can happen if you’re not careful.

We got up and walked back home, the Bean clinging to me like a baby monkey, wrapped within the shawl I was wearing. “Mama, it’s like being inside your stomach. I’m all warm and inside you. We are one yooman (human) being.” Yes, I smile. It is. And in those days it was simpler to take decisions on what you thought was best for a child. Today each decision I take turns around and looks me earnestly in the eye and asks – “You might think this is right. But is this what they’d want to do? Will they thank you for this choice you’re making? What about ten years from now?”

A lot of what we do is simply for the familiarity of it (a similar debate is on at Kiran’s place). I often come across people who say “Oh well I don’t believe in that but I do it just to keep my parents/ inlaws happy/ it reminds me of my childhood/ it is a deeply ingrained habit/ it’s just a sweet tradition I want to carry on. Rarely do we stop to think of the origins of a rule/ dictat. Most often we get caught up in the beauty of the picture and forget about the subtle message it might pass on to our children. Often we do it just not to upset the apple cart and slowly the habit becomes one we’re too cowardly to break. Too scared to get out of the rut. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we believe in it when actually we just do it because we’re too lazy to change things. Many a time we’re unwilling to pick up a new and beautiful custom because it’s not something we believe in or have grown up with.

Over the years I’ve given each tradition or habit some thought to see if it makes sense. One of the first few was to overcome my qualms about eating prasad. I now eat it everywhere and try not to let baggage interfere. The second one was having my father walk me down the aisle. I wanted both my parents to give me away because  I did feel I was leaving one family to set up my own unit with the OA. I got the lines changed too. But as we started our wedding march, mum and dad on either side, mum broke down crying and couldn’t move. Someone pulled her away. I walked on in a daze, absolutely livid. They say old habits die hard. But over the years I’ve seen my parents break a religious tenet and accept prasad simply because they don’t want to hurt peoples’ feelings. I respect them so much more for it because almost all older people I know, take pride in the purity of tradition and ancient customs, rarely stopping to think of whether it is still relevant or sensible. It’s just given me yet another reason to respect my parents. And also one more reason to not respect old people who think they deserve respect because of their age/caste/community and the way they hold on to old, regressive customs.

What have you changed/stopped doing, inspite of growing up with it as a tradition/custom/habit – simply because you don’t believe in it/ it goes against your principles/ you don’t want to pass it on to your children. So this Diwali I wish you light, love, happiness, health, choices, free will, safety and prosperity.

And oh, here’s a tradition I will try not to break – Diwali decor pictures.

The Brat and Bean sit guard over a white urli with white floating flowers and a white candle.

The OA experimented with putting a few red petals in but we both agreed that it looked best left pure white so that is his hand you see, pulling the last red bit out.

A gift from Boo that fits right in…

That’s the OA. Anyone who says the Brat looks like him and not me, gets their IP blocked. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The house is made differently so this year I have less outside and more inside. My bookshelves are full of lights. Yes, we’re an absolute fire hazard. I am on standby with an extinguisher hanging around my neck.  I love that pretty marble cutwork lamp. A gift from my parents.

The entry way. I plan to paint that mirror frame but we’ll talk about that some other day.

A serene Buddha keeps peace in our home. Isn’t it beautiful that you can find Buddhas in every home no matter what the community? Says something about the religion and the people.

More little candles and holders in bookshelves. Along with first edition books that are over a 100 years old. Foolish is what I am.

Cousin J framed in the doorway, puts in the finishing touches. She’s the little artist who will be making the rangoli for us. Yes, I’ll give you more pictures tomorrow when we really set about doing up the house.

The balcony barely supports tea lights but the view of the other lit up homes across Gurgaon more than makes up for it.

The garden will never be forgotten of course, so there are little lights nestled among the plants. Can you spy the little pink lily still going strong? I’m so proud of it.

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60 thoughts on “Happy Diwali 2010

  1. Beautiful pictures! The pics remind me of my sister’s first Diwali after marriage..so for us Tam brahms..1st Diwali “Thalai deepaval” is a big deal…and for my sister’s we all went to her place in Delhi. What a good time we had. Sigh…I want to come home.

    I have never liked crackers much. As a child too I shy-ed away from it and as I became an adult the noise and air pollution made my dislike firmer. That being said..i love watching firepots.

    Hmm..i admit some traditions..i hold on to, for ol’ times’ sake… but honestly…there is nothing that we hold onto with passion. Any custom or tradition we tweak and customize according to what works for us at that time. n thank god, both the husband and I are that way..so it’s no issue at home.

    Wish you and your family a Very Very Happy Diwali MM! Lots of fun, joy and celebration!

  2. Ohh wowww.. I was going to answer some of the questions in this post. And then I saw the pics and blanked out. This is so beautiful.

    It also got me a little mad. Cos I had just taken pics of the candles lit up in our house and was going to put them up on my blog, but now after seeing yours, mine don’t seem good enough to put up.

    I know I am vain and shallow and indulge in childish comparisons.. but.. never mind!

    Wish you a very Happy and bright Diwali 🙂

  3. Div wheezes every Diwali too, and y’d she was very happy becoz it’s raining here, “That means less crackers Amma, and less pollution and the rain will clean the air, no?”

    And she had a huge fight with a neighbouring boy over pollution and crackers, and came back fuming mad! We’re not bursting crackers as usual, except 5 sparklers each, and 1-3 ‘samples’ of simple firecrackers.

    What you’ve expressed abt thinkin abt customs and checking what message it’s passing on is so perfect. I do it all the time…did a post on birthday party ‘traditions’ and how I wish more people would put some thought into what things like plastic return gifts and flashy venues etc tell the children.

    • sorry sorry. deleted it. didnt realise – i just look at the names and hit approve because i know there wont be anything objectionable. i only come back to read and reply later.

  4. Shubh Diwali MM. Ayushmathi bhavaa..more puthran and puthri bhava..but only one OA pati bhava!
    Diwali brings lot of memories of Delhi. Didn’t have much money, but had fun.

    ghar bahut sajaadiya!..bahut acha! bhaut acha!

    God bless

    • oh wow… that is some blessing in Samskritam. Aham parama kushala asmi 🙂

      @MM, Happy Diwali too and strangely, I was just talking to Laksh (lakshmusings.com) about traditions and agree with you 100%. While it is nice to hold on to some old ones, it should be done only if we find them meaningful. There is a saying in thamizh, which is used in various contexts, – “pazhayana kazhidalum pudhiyana puguthalum”, meaning “getting rid of the old one and introducing the new one” – which makes perfect sense here.

  5. Hi MM, a very happy Diwali to you guys 🙂

    I commented on Kiran’s post saying that I do Karva Chauth for tradition. This was my first time and the in-laws have no clue about what it is. And yes, the 2 things I asked myself were:

    1. Am I doing it because in my mind, it’s an obligation to my mom or someone?
    2. Is this what I’d want to pass on in the family?

    The answer is No. I’m not making this a tradition to follow for anybody. I’ve not been told and I’m gonna not tell anyone to do anything either.

    But I’m not going to give up something I really want to do for the sake of the future.. specially when I harbor no doubts that I will never try and encroach on my children’s right to make that choice. Secondly, if you really come down to it, there are plenty regressive and ancient issues associated with every festival in India.. I choose to not remember them because they’ve all evolved into much funner and much more open customs that I enjoy.. if I was to let go of all, there’d be very little to look forward to.

    • but of course. if you’re convinced, that is all that matters. me, i’m very careful about what i choose to do today because i’ve realised the insidious ways our families affect us. nothing needs to be forced. kids just pick up and now that i know that, i’m careful about what i might do around them, even if i occasionally forget they are around and drop the F bomb! kids forget what you say, but they always remember what you do.

      i get you on how customs have evolved into fun, but the root remains the same, as does the message. Lent is a period of mourning for Christians. I sometimes follow it for the fact that it is good for the soul to learn deprivation. but i dont fool myself that it means more. neither do i freak out if something accidentally passes my lips. slowly though, i’m giving up that as well. i’d like to learn to fast for reasons of willpower without having religion or the fear of God or any other such thing guiding it or timing it.

      • I somehow can’t be bothered about the historic origin of festivals. To me, they’re fun holidays and I’d be very poor at passing on any stories behind festivals. So I don’t see Karvachauth as a symbol of women’s enslavement but as a way to socialize, follow some tradition, dress up and have fun.. very shallow but works for me. 🙂 If my kids pick it up also, they’d see it the way I see it. If they don’t see it that way, they won’t follow it. And if they do want to follow it still with some definition of their own, that’s also well and good.

        • 🙂 well i cant imagine looking at it that way. i mean Christmas might be about gifts and a tree but if i don’t tell my kids its about the birth of Jesus, its a waste. yesterday the kids were thrilled lighting diyas, but the Bean told us at length about Ravan who is a bad man and kidnapped Sita and then Ram came to save her etc. I’d want the kids to know why we’re doing what we’re doing, otherwise there’d be no point doing it. In the good old day people didn’t have reason or ways to celebrate other than festivals. Today we celebrate so many things and party so much(birthdays, pubs, clubs, picnics) that I no longer feel like there’d be nothing to celebrate if i drop a custom or two that i didnt believe in.

          anyway, to each his own …. Happy Diwali!

  6. Happy Diwali to you, MM and The OA and the kids and everyone in your family. Just like you to make a post so thoughtful and yet, so beautiful and evocative.

  7. Happy Diwali. Your house looks beautiful. 🙂
    Agree with you on the traditions being passed down, bit. The rule at home about eating prasad is the same – I’ve seen that my folks would rather avoid it, if they can, but never at the cost of offending someone. So if someone offers us, we take it.
    I have an ongoing argument with my dad on the whole married women wearing thali/ mangalsutra business though – he likes it and I don’t. I keep telling my dad its a regional thing and not a religious thing. And there is no reason why women need a visible sign of being married.

  8. wow what a beautiful home!!
    i took an oath in college about firecrackers. the husband took a supportive stance. we have avoided it all up to last year. the monster is not that into it, but does enjoy it. neither of us can get past the strong objection in our heads to be able to walk into a store and buy firecrackers.. but we have some supply that someone gave us and she had some fun with them. children are pretty aware these days about it, more so than adults, i think.
    i hated diwali till last year, but this year i have enjoyed it, more about it on my blog!

  9. Diwali ki mubarakbaad!! Lovely Pictures!!

    I also had the same guilty feelings while growing up about the child labour in Sivakasi.. if I were to bycott buying crackers I would deny them a living (even if the pay they get is unfair).

    Par jab mai India me tha tab diwali was the time I really enjoyed/loved.. everything just looked beautiful.. aur jab se US/Europe mein aaya hun tab November end (Thanksgiving in US) se le kar New year tak ka time bahut achcha lagta hei…

  10. Living in the US for 10 years most my traditions are long gone. The memories still strongly linger but the tradtions are out simply because of laziness or because I am working hard. Like for instance I pray to God whenever I want. In the first 2 years I came here I used to always have a bath before praying or doing puja. But now I pray whenever I wish, whereever I am. I am strongly convinced that She/He will understand. I celebrate festivals when I can. if it is a weekday then I wait for the weekend to do the full celebrations. I do not beleive in “rahukaal” anymore – I used to before. Somehow leaving these traditions behind as given me a more closer understand to realising myself spritually.
    Umm…was that too much on Diwali? Anyways Happy Diwali to you and your family! Hope Beanie’s wheezing goes away soon.

  11. Happy Diwali to you , OA and the kids , MM!

    The house looks gorgeous!

    Waiting for a full post on the house which is long overdue 🙂

  12. Sigh! You have such a pretty home. May I “humbly” put in a request for a home tour? 🙂

    I’m lucky that I don’t need make the call on firecrackers, geography makes it easy for me. I hated the suffocating haze back then and I can only imagine how much worse it has gotten in the past several years. now parenthood demands other decisions, some tough, some that I don’t know how to deal with…c’est la vie.

  13. In my case it is other way round. When I got married, for good four years we did a little puja on diwali and that was all. All the other festivals were just a day off from the routine. But then the machka boy came, now I kill myself making all the snacks and sweets and changing curtains and peetting the house (according to the son), buying new clothes,and all that. I guess now I have a reason to do things which lost their charm on me.

    And I so agree with you on your opening lines and the firecraker issue.

  14. MM, please help me shop. I love how you have put so much thought in setting up the house.. It’s beautiful! Now I want kids like yours. And a house like yours. It’s bordering on hero(ine?) worship, and I am quite surprised with myself. *half sheepish, half worried grin and all* 😛

  15. Breathtaking, MM. Happy Diwali to you all!

    PS: I am desperately in need of a “Container Gardening 101” course. Please name your price.

  16. my family (my parents) were never into rituals, so i have very few “traditions” i carry with me as something i HAVE to do.

    i stopped bursting crackers when i was 12-13 when i realsed about pollution etc. we bought some for Cub. just sparklers and anaars. and am sure within a few years he will not care about it. he doesnt like it too much even now. but yes, i do want him to know what it is all about and realize it himself (with our help!) how diwali is much more than just that! but at 3, i am not putting the moral burden on him! 🙂

    cheers!

    • I think we tend to look at things as moral burden or not. Kids, they just take it in their stride. not so say that you should, am merely observing here. Most people would say that kids can’t handle two religions (and the two religions are so different in their outlook) and yet mine take it in their stride with such aplomb.

      • oh yeah totally. but i realised it was myuch easier for me to give up on patakes when i realzed it myself. thats why self realization has its owwn worth, innit?

        a kid might not even tell us they have a problem. esp if its someone like Cub or Brat. they just cant bring themselves to hurt others.

        simple thing like Cub got these cream wafer things as diwlai gift. he said he wanted to open strawberry flavour.aid id ont like it, then how will we share it? and he said ok lets open chocolate instead! 😦

        now when he says that he doesnt wanna light more crackers, we stop. and am sure with all awareness around and how fast kids pick up, its a matter of time before he reaches the decision himself. like starry’s Divs. and if he doesnt, then we have to make sure we tell him.

        thats all i meant by moral burden at 3.

        cheers!

  17. Beautiful!!! The photos & ur home…
    Love the play of light and dark in the photos… May God bless your family and keep you safe in all ways.

    Missed Diwali this time as I am away from India on official duty… Havent commented during the last couple of months, tho reading about all the developments.
    Agreed on many things and wanted to comment esp on the mixed religion marriages as I am in one myself (married to a muslim) but havent had the time to write down my thoughts properly. My 11th anniversary coming up on 11/11 🙂 So YAY and all that!!!

    • i wish you would, SS. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Even if they are the same on general lines, its the small thoughts and details that make all the difference. comment when you get the time. and happy anniversary in advance. 11th anniversary huh? bet the naysayers have nothing left to say. God bless..

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