Monsoon of Memories: The Diwali Duty Chart
To date, I don’t know why, but when I look back at all the Diwali memories I’ve made over the decades, I get most excited about the ones about the day after the festival. Those moments from the morning after Diwali are still fresh in my head. That was one day when I felt super special, and if you would humor me, very artsy-craftsy.
Before everyone at home had woken up, I’d head outdoors with my art kit that included a couple of stainless steel spoons hiding safely in an old cookie tin box. My self-assigned DIY activity involved scraping off the candle wax from the floor where we’d lit the candles the previous evening. Using the back of the spoon, I’d carefully remove the wax from the floor as a single unbroken piece, without harming the shape in which the wax had melted. For that’s where the real charm lay—flowers, constellations, etc. were just a few of the shapes that I saw everywhere I looked. Next, I played with these bits and converted them into décor items, which my family rather forcibly, yet lovingly, appreciated.
That was my Diwali duty. What was yours?
The charming fact of India’s festive season is that there are festivals, and then there’s Diwali which leaves all of us overwhelmed, especially the participation that it requires from all. In most homes, each family member has a designated role when it comes to the celebrations, and of course, the preparations. The major task for the festival revolves around cleaning. The duty of cleaning the home is mostly well-distributed among all with the exception of certain roles like getting rid of the cobwebs on the fans and in the corners of the rooms which fall into the hands of the tallest in the family. Fortunately, my short stature spared me from that. I was happy watching dad take charge, while I helped mum in planning the dinnerware for the day.
We’d take out the special terracotta pots, plates, glasses, etc. The preparation of homemade mithai was another task that I enjoyed taking part in. Mum handed over lumps of desiccated coconut, condensed milk, and a few other ingredients and taught me how to roll them into round and neat laddoos; but if I made a mess, she happily molded them into the right shape. The best part was that sampling was allowed while we prepared these sweets.
Other tasks involved stringing the marigold flowers into garlands by making a knot at one end of the thread, threading the needle, and sewing the marigold heads. We spread them all over the home. Using a concoction of colored powdered quartz, rice, dry flour, flower petals, and colored sand, we made a rangoli at the home entrance and then guarded it well so that no one stepped on it. The funny hop-dance we did around it each time we had to enter the home was quite the highlight.
Of course, the house help was not spared—she had to lift every plant pot in the balconies in the home and sweep under, in addition to draping the freshly dry-cleaned curtains in every room. Despite all the extra duties, nobody ever complained; in fact, they offered to do more. So then, perhaps the phrase, “You need a village to raise a child,” can be extended to the celebrations of Diwali too—you need a village to get it right.
Purva Grover is an author, journalist, poet, playwright, and stage director. A postgraduate in mass communication and literature, she is the founder-editor of The Indian Trumpet, a digital magazine for Indian expats in the UAE. She can be reached at email@example.com. To comment on this article, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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