(PS: that is not my home, it is my neighbors’)
To me, Diwali is the festival of food, particularly sweets. Families all over would create culinary masterpieces and the very air would be infused with myriad aromas. When Diwali is passes by my house would be filled with lots of food, boxes of sweets. The sweets are delicious. They are perfect eatery when I am wandering or standing near the refrigerator door.
I have many favorite sweets. Over Hindu calendar year, there are many festivals where sweets are obligatory. During Diwali, we would go to our cousin’s place to exchange sweets. The purpose of meeting people is to catch up, spend quality time. For me, that never mattered, I am not much of a people person. I enjoyed Diwali as long there was enough food.
I decided this Diwali would end with sweets. This was not nostalgia or delusion. I can’t eat food and be instantly transported back to home. I don’t need sweets to recall what home is like on Diwali. The evening would be alive with firecrackers’ noise. Mum would startle hearing a burst of a cracker. My dog Jimmy would run around smelling food. He got quickly immune to the noise of crackers.
Dad would watch a Diwali celebration concert on TV. The concert would be terrible but he would keep switching channels. Navin, my brother, would play on his phone or roam the town with his mates. If he is out, he would come home half hour late at the minimum. He always did that making everyone fret over his ETA.
Eventually, everything would work out fine. The entire house would be lit with oil lamps and decorating LEDs on the windows, dry color floor artworks (rangoli) outside the house. The LEDs lights toggle their brightness. It would continue to dance and emulate the twinkling the stars for the rest of the night. The Pooja (prayer) at home would finish quickly while Navin or I would make sure that Jimmy doesn’t eat any of the sweets.
Funny how easy it is to recall mundane memories at times like this.
Auckland is different. There is no startling noise of crackers, no decorating LEDs. But I decided that tonight at least there has to be a meet and catch up. The main reason was food obviously. I made a plan, invited some friends to a nearby Indian restaurant. As I cycled there, I could see which houses have Indian families. It is easy to spot that one house in a lane with LEDs adorning the porch. The house which has oil lamps lit on the veranda. Someone started fireworks as well.
I was not the only Indian out eating today: meeting everyone and greeting them ‘Happy Diwali’ was familiar to the days in India. Over the entire year, no one would say hi to one another, and on Diwali, everyone would greet each other like we are some long lost cousins.
The food was amazing. The essence of Diwali for someone like me was achieved. It was with a bunch of people who I can count on. The familiarity made food more precious. I didn’t miss home today as I thought I would.