Festive spirit

Indian women are recognised anywhere by the bindi or sindoor on their foreheads, Indian men for their ability to discuss politics as though they were politicians themselves and Indian children for their skill in turning living rooms and school corridors into cricket pitches. Likewise there is none as unique about the Indian culture as Deepavali or Diwali that is celebrated through its length and breadth with such fervour and enthusiasm that, I believe can be found nowhere else in the world.

From my earliest memories to the most recent times, Deepavali has a strong association with crackers. Recalling the Deepavali celebrations in Chennai, I remember how the whole colony, which housed many homes in a cul-de-sac avenue, rose at the crack of dawn several days before the day of the actual festival. With an undisclosed competitive spirit in the air, bursting crackers to outdo the immediate and the distant neighbours was life’s sole pursuit for adults, adolescents and little children alike during the fortnight prior to and after the festival. The ear-deafening noisy crackers of Atom Bombs, Lakshmi Vedis and Saram as it is called in the vernacular, suddenly turn into music for the ears during Deepavali. 

I also recall the fun and the surprise elements that came with the bursting of crackers. Just like in a nail-biting Bollywood climax in which the bomb set up by the villain fails to blow up, some crackers will never get ignited wholly and will just fade away with a subdued noise. Whether the dampness of the November month has caused the hitch, or a spell from outer space has conspired, one could never say. Nevertheless, it would elicit loud guffaws from all around, adding to the festivity. At other times, the reverse would ensue sending shock waves to all those cracker-partying in the area. The lightest, mildest contact of the sparkler with the bomb will trigger a huge explosion catching those in the vicinity unawares and jump in shock.

The height of all the excitement in bursting of fire-crackers in the front porch of homes is perhaps the bonhomie and the oneness that warms up the thin air of the winter days. It is not uncommon for residents absorbed in bursting crackers to halt for a few moments and watch the spectacular burst of ambers in the sky from the rockets lit by the neighbours. 

Over the years, crackers and the noise have faded away, no doubt. Bursting of crackers are now replaced with sizzling e-mail forwards and funny SMSs amongst friends. Last year on Deepavali, I got a message from my friend that read “This SMS will explode in 5 seconds..5..4..3..2..1..BOOM!! Happy Deepavali!”

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