I grew up in Chennai ,those days it was still Madras and Mylapore where I spent my childhood was full of temples and festivals round the year .
Come January there was Pongal when all the milkmen of the area would parade thier cows and buffaloes in full livery http://hariwrite.blogspot.com/2010/01/pongal-times.html ,
come April it was the new year ( Varshapurappu ) just a day before the malayalee Vishu so to me it was a double whammy ,.
Navarathri celebrations were colourful with Golu or doll arrangemnts and snacks like chundal and music everywhere http://hariwrite.blogspot.com/2006/09/nine-nites.html ,
Vinayaka Chaturthi was another big hit with children for it provided tasty succour in the form of kozukattais but the mother of all festivals was of course the big D Deepavalli
The northeners called it as Diwali festival of lights but for us Madrasis it was always Deepavalli
This is a pan Indian festival ( only exception is probably Kerala where but for a tepid early morning bath which incidentally is routine for every malayalee and nothing exceptional there wasnt much to do in Deepavali in Kerala ! ) but for mallus in Madhras Deepavalli was a s big as it comes .
The exitement would start months ahead .
My dad worked in the Sectretariat T Nadu and the festival fever would start the day he brought the list and catalogue for fireworks and sweets from his office stores
we would pore over it and start ordering
Of course my budget conscious mother would trim it down to a bare minimum but still it would have lot as the office could get it at very reasonable prices ( most of the fireworks companies could ill afford to charge the secretariat staff more for dire consequences )
The next bit was going out to shop for clothes ,we would all troop to Luz corner and enter festooned textile showrooms .I still remember the Nalli showroom near Kapaleeswar temple which had seprate sections for men ,women ,and children ,which in those days were a novelty one could get lost there ! and it was Aircondtioned ,mind you !!
Again with the strict finance minister of a mother trimming purchases with an eagle eye on the budget( her favourite was always Jeevan Jothi stores in North mada street as she was an old customer to them )
The cloth purchasing spree of course had its small tragedies too often my sister would not be happy with a particular pavaddai I would fret over a not so colourful trouser and there would be some arguments finally all would be well
We would then go over to Shanti Vihar for a tasty masala dosa washed with filter Kappi
no thing has tasted as delicous as food of those days in life ,so far and it is still so !
Those were days of little ,but every morsel was enjoyed to the hilt ,there was no wasting , no excesses , no luxuries ,but enough small joys .
I remember once we all including my grandmother went to a photographer for a family photo
( ypu can see me in the right extreme sitting with a quizzical twitch to my eyebrow )
we would then go to bed tired after the shopping .
The days would slowly trundle towards the big event with increasing sounds of crackers and more festivities as it approached it ,my mother an expert cook would make trillions of snacks and sweets and the house would be filled with its aroma
Deepavali eve was a noisy and colurful one with markets filled to the brim, firework shops lit bright ,people crowding the roads ,the buses packed to the hilt ,men hurrying home with laden bags from thier offices to four days of holidays ,streets would be strewn with papers from crackers ,the air filled with a pleasantly burnt smell of fireworks
The All Inida Radio would repeatedly give warnings of caution with crackers and what to do when one got burnt ,there would be bans on some crackers like The Atom bombs ,etc but they still would be available in plenty ! ,
Rockets would zip into the air with thier sparking tails ,flower pots would whoosh thier brilliance inot the dark skies lighting up our exited faces ,whirling lights called chakrams would dance on the floors ,there was also a vishnu chakram which one held in the hand like the lord Vishnu himself ,there were snakes which burnt into fine ash into a point in the ground ,there were trains which were tied to a big rope and fired and then would travel from one end to the other ,there were the famous Lakshmi crackers which made booming sounds ,humble red capes fired from to pistols ,chain crackers would make a continous rattle ,colourful matches and so on and on .
How could one sleep through all this ?
The exitement of the next day would make us insomniacs but we would be tucked in sternly by a not much enamoured by all this mother .
Dawn would see us waking up to booming sounds, it was like a war and we would take the traditonal oil bath and dorn our new clothes and then it would be crackers sparklers and everything else,the coveted collection would be empty by around 7 am .
The neighbours would call us home to give us thier share of cracker and feed us with thier sweets and eats .
One can never get such neighbours theses days the whole palce was like a huge family laughing and enjoying ,pure fun indeed .
The afternoon would see us children going off to just released kids movies and then evening would be another bout of fireworks and finally the big day would end up in a pall of smoke and disappointment for we would have to wait another year for the next Deepavalli
For days after this the talk in school would hover around who bought what and who burst what
It is all in front of my eyes even today ,even though it is more than four decades past,specially today Deepavalli eve .
Happy Deepavalli to all of you .