Diwali Rituals, Old and New
I must have been seven or eight or fifteen, but the story would be the same. We would be on our standard middle-class Marathi ritual of shopping for our Diwali finery in Dadar, jostling our way through hordes of people as we navigated the thickly populated Ranade Road, buying frocks with lace or Khun parkar-polkas, Taant or “Calcutta cotton” sarees for my grandmothers, or new plants for our little balcony garden. We would be consciously resisting the urge to give in and buy a bagful of gleaming vegetables or a quick parcel of cooling gajras that sat resplendent on fresh green leaves. Occasionally, we would stop for a Limboo Sarbat sold by the only Limboo Sarbat seller on the street—the one who sat on an inadequate wooden stool and tapped glassfuls of synthetic yellow “Keshar” Limboo Sarbat for five rupees a glass at the speed of light, and move on to more shopping. This usually happened at the Graahak Peth—where my father would stop in utter fascination at the stalls that sold rickety inventions that were to make life easier (but never really did), or where my mum would find a handmade bag that would replace the one she had bought the earlier year, or a little gift that would be perfect for the maids—while my brother and I wondered when the ordeal would be over.
The ordeal would, eventually, end at Tripti or Prakash, where we were, invariably, welcomed by a long waiting line; but there weren’t too many other options in the area back then, so we persevered. We would share a table with another family as sweaty and exhausted from their round of shopping as we were; we would watch as the other kids excitedly discussed the firecrackers they’d just bought and catch the silent exchanges between the parents as they realized they had overshot their budget and probably didn’t have any money left to buy anything for themselves; perhaps ours were doing the same. After a meal that would suitably slow us down, especially if we had just gulped half-glasses of cloyingly sweet, nutmeg-laced, sleep-inducing Piyush, we would finally load ourselves and our haul into the car (parked in a lane not close to where we’d been dining) and poor Baba would have to drive us home, at least an hour away—this was before flyovers and freeways. (Even before that, we took the bus—and that took almost two hours with all the detours and stops.) As has been amply established by now, Diwali shopping was a tedious affair, and yet, there was one element about it that was universally looked forward to—the shopping for new books and Diwali Ank.
We are a family that loves to eat, yes. But we love to read much, much more than we love to eat. It is no surprise, therefore, that our Diwali preparation started, not with the making of faraal or spring cleaning the house, but by anticipating the trip to the bookstore. For us children, the real Diwali gift would be the collective bounty of books that we were let loose to pick by our parents and grandparents at Strand or the pavements of Flora Fountain (separate budgets for both!). My maternal grandmother would walk us to Popular and nudge us gently into buying at least one Hindi or Marathi book (we were reluctant then, but now I say, “thank god!”). For the adults, though, Majestic ruled, and still does—between my parents and my maternal grandparents, they covered nearly every Diwali Ank published. To this day, my parents buy the MaTa Ank and shake their head in disapproval and comment on how standards have dropped drastically as they praise a piece from Mauj or Miloon Saarya Jani. As a young girl schooled in the English medium, I hadn’t any fascination for Marathi literature because it seemed so far removed from my reality. I do, however, remember picking up the rather fat issues and browsing through the women’s portraits on their cover (reproduced paintings back then; not sponsored images of overdressed women) and the many recipes inside.
My mother and maternal grandmother would make two or three set Faraal items—Chiwda, one or two kinds of Laadoo, perhaps a Chakli or Shankarpali. My paternal grandmother would make a small batch of Anarse and Chirote if she felt up to it. That’s all. What we didn’t make or eat as Faraal, we made up in Diwali Ank and brand new books. The house would be finally washed, suited up in laundered curtains, spreads and cushions, a lone lantern would go up, and as if on cue, there would be a nip in the air, and we would collectively snuggle up with our new purchases in hand and read in peace while the world outside burst crackers, drew elaborate rangolis, visited friends dressed in too much finery, played cards and god-knows-what.
After three years of Angat Pangat, I had that familiar yearning—to celebrate a Diwali that like me, many of you may have grown up with. Diwali Pangat 2017 is our maiden issue—our very first Diwali Ank. We have produced it lovingly, based purely on the contributions of our members and without any manner of sponsorship or financial support. Every article you read, every photograph you admire, every video you enjoy, has been created by an Angat Pangat member because they wanted to celebrate Diwali with you. In fact, as editors, we have even let some of the “errors” be because they are such an integral part of the personality of this issue. We wrote to some of our popular members, and they were quick to share their work with us; others wrote in with a sincere enthusiasm that I am both surprised by and grateful for.
The Admin team of Angat Pangat (Shruti Nargundkar, Preeti Deo, Hrushikesh Paranjape, Ruchira Sonalkar, and Miheer Khandekar) doubled up as the Editorial team for Diwali Pangat 2017, and valiantly took on the added responsibility of curating this magazine, and then editing, proofreading and uploading the articles on this website. In the absence of remuneration, it is nothing but pure passion that prompted them to do this—I couldn’t have asked for a better team.
On behalf of the entire editorial team of Diwali Pangat 2017, I want to express my sincere gratitude to every contributor for taking the time and helping us to put out this magazine. Dear reader, we hope you will enjoy this debut online issue. Browse through the recipe section and find a surprisingly simple recipe for microwave laadoos, immerse yourself in the sheer artistry of Swapneel Prabhu’s culinary genius in our Specials section, read about Diwali memories new and old by a mother-daughter duo or a tryst with a culinary classic in our Essays section, or try some popular-some lesser known recipes from our Videos; either way, you will feel a little like you’re sitting around a tableful of Diwali Faraal, your hearts full of laughter and happiness.
Do write in with your feedback so we know what you enjoyed and what you would like to see the next time.
Wishing you and yours a joyful Diwali.