Happy Diwali people. Wish you love, abundance of wealth, limitless alcohol, spicy sex and of course, perfect health, blessing and happiness soaring in the sky. May you not suffer from the dearth of anything and shed the darkness for a better India removing religious, caste or class and gender prejudices. May the dream of every child come true and we remove poverty. Let the wisdom prevail so that we become tolerant of each other. Sharing a new chapter from the Pune Memoirs on the Diwali spent in the final year of 2005.
Pune Memoirs 2005/06
November 1, Diwali 2005,
Fergusson College Road:
The last year of togetherness. Lights kindled and flashed inside our hearts. The friendship, lifetime memories carved over three years. Our Diwali moments of celebrating the bond of forevers and evers. Love, unadulterated moments of happiness and the laughter. Who knows where we would be in the next year, separated by the distance or some relations will strangely grow apart.
We wanted to make the most. I was already feeling the emotional pang and shuddered to think that next year, that we may not celebrate together and the Diwali eve was spent planning how to shed the tight pocket-money at MG Road and Laxmi Road to shop for a plain and simple white Kurta. I wasn’t too much into colorful attire during those days and dunno why.
The eve of Diwali started early morning to ensure that I avoid last minute rush and don’t miss anything on earth in the final year, rushing my way to the sweet mart at Dyaneshwar Paduka Chowk that was within walking distance of the apartment. There was no time to lose and stormed past the crowd making a beeline for Mithai but made a quick exit after Neraj buzzed. The man was always on a shopping spree festival or not and he is the best man to take along shopping for Kurta Pyjama and what’s not. After all, Diwali is the time to indulge in the favorite mouth-watering Gulab Jamun on every corner of the street. We hopped on the rickshaw during the early sunshine, plodding our steps under Pune’s scorching sun like flaneurs to explore the shops from the huge ones or the small ones wading past the corridor of old buildings.
Finally, we zeroed on a shop and the shop walla spread the cotton Kurta Pyjamas one after the other on the table where I was almost game to grab something. But, Neraj hard pressed my leg that was his way of protesting not to take, either it was too expensive or the material not good enough for the price. We got out and kept walking to enter shops and exiting as quickly as possible. Me being me, such a difficult person to please when it comes to shopping. I think that we spent the entire day at MG Road and cutting corners in Camp but ended not buying anything. We came back to FC Road. I accompanied K and M to Laxmi Road, wriggling the way among the crowd that occupied every space on the road, feeling lost at times in which shop to enter or not.
Met a classmate and we cheerfully greeted each other Happy Diwali and the festive season is a time where there are bright chances of meeting friends or random acquaintances who are on a shopping fest with family. Now, I am not very sure and faintly remember which Kurta I got and where. But, I did! Laxmi Road offers such a beautiful sight of the shops glittered with lights, displaying the materials, the colorful crowd spreading and unfurling at length on the bustling road teeming with activity.
D-Day arrived on November 1. I haven’t yet got the sweets and after lazing around in the room, having cups of tea or coffee, headed to Savera our college hang out. I went back to the same sweet mart sweating among the crowd to push my way that was an excruciating sort of time to select the different variety of sweet meat. It felt like being in the middle of war. Finally, it was done and time to head back to the room where each and every one of us waited, in turn, to enter the small kitchen to sort out and pack our sweets in tiny dabbas to distribute to our near and dear ones.
Decked in the white Kurta and Pyjama, I trod my steps in the sunshine-laden afternoon and careful to avoid the first splash of crackers on my way while walking towards Model colony off FC Road where the famous Police Ground lingers to meet my favorite and personal Doctor, AB. She was my first doctor when I first came to the city and over the year, I became family. I gave a call or knocked on the door and Ma’am came down to wish me and took me upstairs where I met Sir who along with her run the clinic, greeted me with the mandatory Happy Diwali.
Ma’am ushered me inside the Puja room for prayer and once it was done, the ritual of exchanging mithai was over, I sat by the table where a sumptuous treat waited with mithai and namkeen spread along with tea. I was wondering how to stuff so much in the stomach and my good doctor’s first priority it seemed was to make me taste and eat in huge quantity. I protested but she was like, ‘Aaj Diwali hai. You can go on a diet for the rest of the year.’ Of course, she was not done and as a parting gift, gave me a bundle of sweet variety enough to feed the entire of our flatmates and friends for days that dinner could be deleted from the dictionary.
It was not over for the day. The next visit was at Adi’s parents’ home in the Peth areas and people who know the city will vouch that this region is no less than an explosion ground on Diwali day where crackers zoom in the air. Walking on FC road and dropping at Savera for tea which was a must in those days to meeting friends on the way, exchanging Diwali hugs to finally hop my way inside the rickshaw facing the barrage of crackers exploded by the over-enthusiastic kids on the street who laughed behind you as you jolt your way back and forth. I have always hated and abhorred crackers. As the rickshaw rode past Mhatre bridge to enter the Peth area, it felt like an explosion and being in the middle of war zone, the crackers not only burst and spluttered its might right in front of the passenger as the skillful rickshaw driver spun the vehicle from left to right.
The familiar hall at Adi’s house wore the colorful decorations and sweets were splayed on a golden tray on the table while everyone lined up in colorful attire, Kurtas and saree. I hopped my way straight in the kitchen to touch aunty’s feet and of course, coffee was my obvious choice since she makes the best coffee in the world. It’s Diwali and any excuse is a good one, with uncle telling us to have more, me grabbing the mithai with both hands be it ferni, barfi, ladoo and the favorite Gulab Jamun. We were having the best times of life, laughing and relishing every moment. It’s another thing that between having delicacies, the forwards messages kept hitting the inbox to our generation, who was alien to WhatsApp.
The evening was spent hopping to the restaurant on JM Road for dinner and at first, I refused saying it’s my sweet day but Adi forced me to order like grandpa shouting, ‘Have a proper dinner you asshole.’ The night was spent downing bottles of Kingfisher beer as we squatted on the floor and still in Diwali attire past midnight. The empty beer bottles rolled on the floor close to our legs and feet as we played Truth-and-Dare to unveil our darkest secrets, from the latest crush in college or the one we lusted for. Of course, for me, it’s always Truth and no dare.
It feels like yesterday only when we were college kids celebrating Diwali with gay abandon and as I look back wondering where all those flawless years have disappeared.
hundred lamps lit inside the heart,
years may have passed or elapsed,
emotions of celebrating Diwali and bonding remains,
seasons may change,
the feeling remains intact,
bright and smiling faces,