Festival of lights

I had a very special diwali this year, with an even more special family. Ilina aunty told me visit them for diwali months ago, and like a good Indian I said ‘yes, of course I’ll come’ (and then thought to myself, no way I’ll be able to traipse halfway across the country at diwali). But it’s amazing how things work out, and a week before diwali, Ilina aunty called from my home to remind me, and I was actually pretty much next door to them :) So come diwali, and there I was with Sikandar, Porus and the other generals, Tippu, Dotl and the dogs, Burri, Chotu and the rest of the family.

We lit over a hundred lamps at dusk, and trampled through the fields in the dark to place our diyas there, in the new house, the cowshed and the courtyard. Billo’s ladder looked lovely with diyas on each step. Nagin’s rangoli’s and music set the mood, to a background of sparklers, chakras and from the road rockets!

The Gowpooja was the highlight of the next day, beginning with baths for all the cows and dogs. The cows had beautiful new bells, the big spherical ones from Wardha were especially georgeous, and mirror work tikas. While the food was getting ready inside, the kids made the god and godess from clay and cowdung in the cowshed, decorated with grass, flowers, and an arched doorway. The women of the house started off the pooja, and the cowshed was filled with the smokey fragrance of agarbathi and ashes. The cows were fed kichidi in brand new bamboo baskets. Sikander had a special extra moram full! We ate after that, and stuffed ourselves with diwali sweets to boot.

So of course there was some amount of coma before the lights of the evening. But we were all up in time for dusk, diyas and dancing out to the fields. Buri had mehandi-ed all our hands and we were ready for chicken and rice to ring out diwali. Now I’m back home, and back to looking at malaria data, but every sunset, I see the last rays slipping behind the niyamgiri hills in the distance, and think of the many many families who toil hard to grow their crops, harvest their fields, store and sell their grains so that people like me can buy it (in a packet and all clean and sortex-ed) from the supermarket shelves. Even though it seems surreal that each grain of rice I eat had been scanned by a machine, its good to remember that the hands that planted, grew and harvested it are real.

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