It’s that time of the year when myriad beautiful memories of Diwali from my childhood come surging to me and leave me misty eyed. I can still see it all, as if I am right there; my little siblings and I running around the house calling out to our mother…

The day would start by rectifying the ‘rangolis’ which we would have made days before Diwali, out of excitement. Conceivably, the breeze would blow over them and mix up the colours into crazed patterns; or a cat or a bird would have sauntered over it leaving incriminating footprints. We would then painstakingly make battis for diyas and make sure that the diyas were soaked in water long enough so they were adequately saturated for us to fill them with oil later. If there was nothing to do, we would just tail our mother through the day as she worked at making the day more and more special for us; all the while, irresistibly appetising aromas emanating from her kitchen.

As evening approached, we would light diyas and candles all around our home and specially around our pride – the rangolis. My siblings and I would then get ready for the prayers and step into our Diwali gifts- exquisite traditional wear of choice. Ma would put teeka for us and then on it, carefully stick a few grains of rice as we’d excitedly stick out our necks to her, each simple ritual more riveting to us than the other. The Puja room would be alit with little lights and diyas and decorated with flowers… with those beautiful, calming, happiness inducing visions in mind we would sit down together and close our eyes and pray as a family. Fresh, hot and wonderful homemade prashaad (sujikahalwa) would follow next.

And then we would prepare for the after-party: we’d grab our bag of crackers and run out to burst them. As we’d inhale the familiar smell of sparklers freshly lit by other kids, our excitement would barely be contained. We’d carefully light the alpha-candle and that would mark the commencement of the adrenaline inducing event. There would be so many children down in our colony and we’d get to gawk at, marvel and clap at everyone’s crackers on display.

When the booty would get over we all would go back home to our mothers and dive into dinner. A large part of our childhood we lived in SF or Separated Family quarters as ourfather, like everyone else’s in the colony, was on a field posting. As papa spent time on the Pakistan border, China border or Sri Lanka, I remember so many Diwalis spent without him, thinking about him. And yet Diwali is my favourite festival. I guess nothing could dampen our spirit. God no! What kind of an infantry daughter would that make me? Or maybe, somewhere, Diwali became symbolic of the quiet strength that my mother exuded all through the year- I’d feel it the most on Diwali. The pure happiness in our home and the effortless festivity maintained therein was the labour of love of the one woman.

Subconsciously inspired, I would test the limits of my own bravado in childlike ways. Even as a little school girl I could take a Diwali bomb, stretch out its string, then holding the bomb with my nimble fingers I would light it on a candle and expertly throw it far up and watch enthralled as it burst deafeningly mid air. My father would advise against it ofcourse, ‘no heroics please’, to which I’d exclaim, ‘that was just a simple pataka papa,you handle grenades daily’. His letter would gently remind me, ‘my grenade is predictable, your patakas are not.’

Today, years later, a mother of two myself, I still cannot resist the urge to be with my parents for Diwali. As if trying with urgency to make up for or clasp at something that I missed out on… As now it can be different. After all these years it finally can be different. As always it is going to be the all engulfing, love filled Diwali which I call ‘Maa ke Haath kiDiwali’.

But this time- daddy’ll be there too.

Ms Aarti Pathak is a mother of two and an Economics professor, who loves to write. She blogs at https:/ / author/ bloggingsparrow/.

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