Rekindling childhood memories

If there is one festival that brings back fond memories of childhood, it is the festival of lights, Deepavali.  It is not only the amount of crackers we burst, but the camaraderie and the joi de vivre that spread to the whole neighbourhood, recalls  N Niranjan Nikam.

Mothers guide the young ones to celebrate Deepavali.  dh photo

Growing–up years were fun those days. There was no restriction and the green brigade, pollution hazards, climate change were not even words in the dictionaries.

All that mattered for us kids was, come Deepavali, the festival of lights, the preparations to buy crackers and all the planning to see that when it would be lit and the loud sound would emanate.

Lakshmipuram was a very joyous, well-knit neighbourhood with all the children enjoying the festival. It was a different matter that the pile of papers in front of the house indicated the number of crackers burst and with it the one-upmanship that we all so subtly enjoyed showing off.

It would be at least three or four days in advance when we would start pleading with our mother to influence our father to buy the crackers, the flower pots, the bhoochakras, the pencils, the colourful matchstick, the rockets and the sursurbatthis.

It was the crackers or patakis in local lingo that mattered the most. The names went by the sizes and the smallest one came in packs of hundred called kudure pataki, then it was the Lakshmi pataki, the aane pataki , bellulli pataki and China Chua (the thin long one wrapped in green and pink) and of course the atom bomb which was small in size but the sound was ear-splitting.

Rituals

I was quite scared of lighting the crackers unlike my brother and even my mother who were very bold. Of course on the day of the festival, the rituals would begin with an oil bath with everyone dipped in oil from head to toe.

There would be that soapnut powder (Shikkekai pudi) to clean the dripping oil and of course the curses that would flow from our mouths once the powder got into the eyes and it would start burning.

The evening of the festival as the name Deepavali suggests it was the ‘Row of lights,’ in every house lit up with diyas filled with oil and the wick lighted, the glow it spread would bring the joy into every household.

We as children would take turns to burst crackers. Of course on the day, the bursting would begin as early as 6 am for almost an hour. The real fun would begin in the evening. Rarely would fathers be a part of the festival. It was always the mother who would join hands in that secular neighbourhood, Lakshmipuram.

There was this gentleman Chakravarthy who used to work in KR Mills who was an exception. He was a very brave and daring man for us children. He would do the unthinkable.

 He used to hold the patakis in his hand, even big ones like aane pataki or China chua and light it and without batting an eye-lid, even as the crackers burst with a bang, he would remain unmoved. He was the hero for all the kids. However, none dare emulate him.

As we grew up, the magic of Deepavali slowly started fading. Now, it is just a distant memory. The children these days have become very conscious.

Those were the days when spending just Rs 50 we could bring a bagful of crackers. But now the kids are not interested and instead there is a ‘loud no’ to the sound pollution it creates. Celebrate Deepavali with the lamps that glow, not the smoke and sound.

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