On a call today with a client from USA, originally from Belagavi. Aren’t you coming to India, I asked. He said he hadn’t been here for Diwali in 20 years. Oh! How much I felt for him. He said he gets everything he needs for Diwali, including boxes of Faraal.
I told him Belagavi Diwali has become so special this year. Today as I moved in the city, I could see gold everywhere, hordes and hordes of the most vibrant flowers, the marigolds, squatting stylishly everywhere.
Smiling at passersby, they’re ruling the streets today. Bright sunshine yellow with orange ones in between. Twisted and kept in rolls, people picked them up in bundles to adorn their homes and offices.
My street and my entire neighborhood is filled with wafting aromas of Chaklis, Besan laddus and Chivda being prepared. Besan roasted in pure desi ghee has an aroma that nothing can ever beat, not even the best of perfumes. Street vendors are selling earthen lamps in all shapes and sizes, Mango leaves for the Toran, Rangolis, Soaps, scented oils, Utane and fruit. That odd vendor is happily trading with his accessories for the Fort (Killa) from soldiers and elephants and horses to the regal idol of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who rules these forts.
For once, I don’t mind that it took me 10 minutes to cross the road across my office at Khade Bazar and another 20 to reach home. I am soaking in the positivity being exuded by the people everywhere. Just look at people’s faces if you have the time and the inclination. There’s something special about Diwali this year, it’s come after two years of agony and fear, of being isolated and living in uncertainty.
Thank those souls like Mandar Kolhapure who propagated buying local. My workplace building has shops and offices being cleaned and all decked up. Employees decorated the doorways with rangolis and they hung bright Akash Kandils (Yes, please don’t call them Lanterns). People are buying clothes, perhaps hurriedly today for several companies declared bonuses and an early paycheck this week.
Happiness and joy writ so large on the faces of kids coming out of shops with their favourite clothes in tow, holding the mother’s hand and heading towards the first available Rikshaw back home. Women are frenzied to find the perfect match for their sarees and scampering for accessories to adorn tomorrow for Puja. Sweet shops are crowded, diet be damned for now!!! Colors, smells, sounds and joy. That’s what Diwali is all about.
Tomorrow you will see lights lit early in the morning. The women will adorn their homes with the humble Panati and sketch beautiful colored rangolis. Families will wake up to Shehnai and Shri Venkatesh Strotra being played at homes across streets and temples. The ritual arati will be done and the entire house will sit down to devour the Faraal. You will see bustling shining shops and offices in the evening with people decked in their finery, the silks and the jewelry sparkling like stars. I urge you to also see the hope in people’s eyes. The joy on their faces. The contentment in their eyes that they have made it this far.
Spread joy now the virus has played enough. Make your loved ones happy. Complement the wife, mother or sister.
Seek blessings from the Gods and the elderly.
Be grateful dear Belagavi.
Don’t just send forwarded Diwali images on whatsapp.
Call your friends, better still, visit them.
Call out your friend’s mom and raid her kitchen for the sweets.
Sit down with grandparents and listen to their Diwali tales.
Go on hopping for Laxmi Puja when you’re invited and devour the pedhas and Churmura-Battasa.
Help your mom set up the Puja, make sense of the rituals and understand why gratitude is so deeply enshrined in being an Indian.
This Diwali is like nothing ever experienced before. We have realized the meaning of life anew.