Some special people in your life make your moments extraordinary and though Life goes on it’s never the same without them.
Preadolescence is supposed to be the best time of our lives and mine was too.
Even today whenever I close my eyes to look back into the past, the events of my amazing childhood days appear before me in a flash.
And the same is with this festival.
Diwali Celebration has never been the same without you
With Diwali fast approaching I am into glimpses of the Diwalis I had celebrated with my family especially my Dad as a child.
My Dad belonged to those set of people who despite having a tough character are soft at heart and a happy go kind, who would always work towards the betterment of society.
Very straightforward, honest and powerful at his workplace but equally soft, loving and passionate about his relationships.
And me, especially was his princess, to please whom, he could go to any extent.
Though it’s not that he wasn’t strict,
he was really strict about my studies and general upbringing and conduct but for my happiness, he could even go get the moon for me.
So I am indebted to him for providing me with the best remembrances to think of during my lifetime.
Coming back to the festivals, he was always very enthusiastic about celebrating festivals,
Holi and Diwali were his favourites due to two reasons.
His attitude to celebrate and enjoy.
Secondly due to his behaviour towards his colleagues, subordinates and staff.
People loved him and even after decades they still do and I got proof for this myself a couple of years back.
It’s a mere coincidence that I spent my childhood in Gujarat and was again back in Gujarat two decades later following my marriage.
Hence the Gujarati Diwali once again.
So once again I repeat myself, this is the biggest festival of Gujarat celebrated with much fervour.
Preparations start days in advance, starting from cleaning the household to spending days preparing savoury dishes to be served to guests during Besta-Baras, the Gujarati New year.
And our house was no different.
Since my father was a serving officer with the Indian railways we always were provided with beautiful government accommodation and a set of helpers to take care of the bungalows.
The Diwali I particularly am talking about today is the one we celebrated when he was posted at Ahmedabad.
I still remember the big bungalow with beautiful gardens.
The bungalows usually allotted by the department of Indian railways are all old almost pre-independence constructions, hence are very beautiful and different from today’s modern houses.
The wooden arcs, the long verandas, double-height spacious rooms, the stone construction, embedded with those special cross structured wooden jaalis or jharokhas, the big gardens and the speciality of any Gujarati house”the hichka” meaning thereby the jhoola or the swing.
Cleaning of such a big house needed time hence the work would begin days before the festivities began.
After the Cleaning was over, I remember my mother being quite busy making all those special dishes ranging from a variety of chevdas and papads and gujiyas and the list would be endless, quite similar to what’s done in any other Gujarati household, but the quantities were considerable for the people expected to visit and wish us were large in number.
Those rich aromas of different dishes being prepared, make me salivate even today.
A couple of days before the festivities began the decorations would begin, I suppose I have inherited this tendency towards decorating my house from him for he would leave no stone unturned to make our house look the best.
The beautiful bridal look of the decorated house is still fresh in my mind. All those freshly painted jaalis and jharokas looked beautiful with sequences of marigolds of varied colours hanging from the terrace touching the floor. The beautiful vandanvaars on the Doors.
The lighting all around the bungalow, making it sparkle as if illuminated with a thousand diamonds.
All so beautifully and neatly done.
I remember the beautiful small circular pool in the centre of the garden,
midway from the main gate and the front door of the house, connecting the main entrance to the front door by a cemented path, shining bright due to candles arranged all around its rim.
As the festivities began this cemented path, dividing the garden into equal halves was lighted with candles and diyas and so was the side path leading to the second entry and the porch and the cemented otlas( kind of benches made of concrete but bigger in size than the normal bench almost equalling a single folding bed ).
These otlas were not solid cement structures but were designed like benches with space underneath.
This space had a thoughtful utilisation on Diwali night, it was used as a space for keeping crackers.
Yes, my father was fond of crackers and would get the best quality available, not those bombs with their deafening sounds but the beautiful colourful anars and fulzhadies and chakris. He also never forgot to buy those snakeballs all the children keep on burning and the other smaller version of crackers for me.
Although my mom was against buying crackers her disagreements were of no avail on this occasion.
On Diwali night quickly after finishing the Pooja we all would head out straight to our lawn and enjoy the fire show.
Those beautiful light-emitting cones, resemble pine trees.
Those chakris rotating fast and bright remind me of the milky way galaxy today.
How the clean shining cemented path would develop black circles of soot due to burning those snake balls.
The lighted fuljhadies in my small hands with which I used to write Papa, Mumma Happy Diwali, etc. in the air.
The celebrations would continue, extended through the night.
The next day morning being Besta-Baras we all would quickly get ready to visit the temple in line with the rituals followed here in Gujarat.
That year we visited the Annapurna Mata temple.
After coming back home we had arrangements made in our garden to welcome and meet our visitors and well-wishers
Though this ceremony was a bit official, my dad’s attitude used to make it more than personal.
I clearly remember the picture of him dressed up elegantly as ever, seated on the sky blue iron folding chair ( the other categories of folding chairs were less prevalent then) in the grass lawn beautifully bordered with mehndi shrubs and mogra plants, under a grand Champa tree.
A table placed in front of him with a big box of sweets kept on it for the visitors.
Nothing too gorgeous, just a simple rectangular one having carved wooden legs and a simple dark and light brown streaked sunmica-covered flat top and its height somewhat more than usual tables.
It was designed as my study table but was used for other purposes also.
Till today my mom eats her breakfast at the same table.
All his staff would come to meet and wish him Happy Diwali and New year.
I was standing beside him that day dressed up in a grey Punjabi suit with magenta buttons and a Chinese collar extending into a ribbon, which had been neatly tied into a beautiful knot by my mom, wearing Bangles and a hairband of the same colour.
All of those who came first greeted him and then greeted me also, addressing me as baby ben( little sister) I still remember,
How important I used to feel.
On the other side, I clearly remember was lying a big heap of coconuts that people would bring along as an auspicious gift I suppose.
Some of his acquaintances would also bring gifts which normally he would either reject or ask them to distribute among the lower staff present there.
Only some token gifts are given by the groups of subordinates and staff in his office he would accept otherwise he would return them all.
After that, the snacks and sweets prepared by my mom would be distributed amongst them all.
After all of them left, we would celebrate the day with some of our close family friends and enjoy the festivities thoroughly.
This is just one episode I mentioned but year after year we celebrated Diwali with the same enthusiasm and fervour until he passed away in1989.
Although I have always celebrated the festival both before and after my marriage it has never been the same after him.
Luv you always Papa.
You are still alive in my memories.
Bye for now.