During Diwali, we were taught to worship and offer thanks to the goddess, who is a symbol of goodness and prosperity. My mother told us stories about culture, and how darkness is linked to ignorance, and light is associated with prosperity, and why Diwali celebrates the victory of prosperity over ignorance. In my mother's house, the festival of Diwali lasted for five days with a months preparation ahead of time. The whole atmosphere during Diwali was about celebrating life no matter what the situation was. The only thing that stopped one from celebrating Diwali was death in the family.
I remember those days when I would return from school and the whole house was emptied with mother and sister painting walls, polishing furniture, replanting flower pots, shinning the windows and all the curtains would be hanging on the washing line as the house gets prepared for a whole new beginning. My mother taught us how to make garlands and drapes. She taught us how to make flowers out of crepe paper and silk cloth. We learnt new recipes every Diwali to welcome our guests. We were taught to create designs by making Rangoli, Arti Thali, Giveaway decorative plates, decorative food mats and covers, stuffed toys for gifting little kids, hand made purses and bags for my sisters, facial home made masks and body scrubs to look good during Diwali and so much more.
Besides being a super talented woman, my mother was also a great believer of clearing negative energy by saying goodbye to the old, past, forgiveness, and decluttering whilst teaching us how to welcome the new, the presence, welcoming new friends, being creative and bringing new look. The celebrations was focussed at bringing people together and creating an atmosphere where everyone felt involved and equal. The house would be decorated with home made flowers as we couldn't afford fresh ones and gorgeous colourful sari's were used as drapes, earthen lamps "Diya's" were prepared to symbolise the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.
Each and every person was given a task like making Diwali delicacy from Chakri's, Chevdo, Saffron and cardamom biscuits, Sevmambra, Ganthia, Thikhisev, Sakarpara, Mathia, Fafda, Cup cakes, Ghaari, Gulabjamun, Halwa, Sheera, Paks, Peda's, Nutty rolls, Barfia's, to endless list of super delicious varieties making sure the festival was celebrated with joy of food throughout the week and there was plenty made to share, to exchange trays and to offer guests. Everyone who visited our home was made sure that they were fed like there was no tomorrow.
We weren't well off so this sort of ceremonies were a joy and a treat especially because it was this time of the year that we got a new dress, stitched by my mum. Pair of Shoes were purchased for each and every family member making sure we travelled from places to places to find the long lasting quality and best bargain. Money was always an issue, but the humbleness and simplicity in our home and within each one of the family member made life so easy. By the life style we lived and surrounded by, we were automatically taught to value people and value things that came through hardship.
What really makes me proud when I think of Diwali in my childhood is the time when we got to see guests, some whom we had never met and some we only saw ones a year at this auspicious time. My dad had no family and my mothers side of family was extended and wealthy and everyone chose to come to our home, even though it was tiny little place. We barely had enough chairs or plates to serve all the uninvited numbers of guests- I remember there was no trace of frozen foods as we didn't own a fridge. Food was freshly prepared on the early hours of the day and my mother was strict about how food should be prepared with good conscious and happy heart "She made sure we cooked with happy environment to bring the best flavours in food." There was never a shortage of food or a panic during this events. My mother and sisters welcomed everyone with open arms and smiling faces looking beautiful into our home and shared the cultural event with fun and laughter. Everyone set on the floor on the homemade cushion's and throws mummy made with left over materials she would collect through out the year whilst stitching clothes for her clients.
We never got pocket money as it was least of a requirement or affordability so during Diwali, when we got handed out money by few guests, we felt a priviledged even though the total sum amounted wasn't worth much, but the thought behind it felt super good. Bowing down to our elders and greeting every single person we came across during this event was a must. Every single person would do that be it old, rich or poor- there was no excuse or pride to hold back.
A typical day in our home started with prayer, followed by making a rangoli
A spread of colours created into a pattern that carry's a spiritual angle to create an energy focus placed mainly on the door way which can have a positive impact on people entering the home. My mother made sure we planned this patterns weeks before the event and explained its benefits. She would say, the design should be the pool of energy created by patterns that would motivate and channelise happiness by bringing a positive thought with every eye that spotted it. So, a rangoli is alway's laid on a path where your guests lay their first foot into your home.
During the Diwali period, we had long chanting of prayer and holy songs played through the day. We had to visit the temple every single day, sometimes twice and help out the priest and the community leaders with whatever roll they thought suitable to be delegated. I still can't figure out how my mother balanced her time between doing her business, looking after us, home and keeping to the top of being sociable at the temple.
God would have offerings of extra special varieties served before we all got our hands on them! I remember feeling jealous as a child why the God's got such attention from my mother with best of home made shinny clothes, home made jewellery, freshly made garlands each day and food that was decorated on a silver coated plate which was looked after like a the most precious jewell in the house. My mother used to call her God "love of her life and apple of her eye." Little did I know as a child that it was the believe in her God, that kept her alive and going through all the hardship she endeavoured through her life and kept her strong.
To this Date, I celebrate Diwali no matter what the situation is. I do it for keeping the light burning from my good past. I do it for all the festive cultural teaching from my mother and her believes. With few friends, we get together to make all the delicious food and invite other friends for social fun time at my home. For me, its all about creating memories with my loved ones.
When I think back what this auspicious time prepared me for, I feel so proud and happy. Today, I feel like I didn't need a degree in coaching, decorating, creativity or planning an event as we got the best techniques from being part of a time and era where life was enjoyed and shared between human's without a measuring of time, or materialistic value. Things were done immeasurably without looking at race or returns. The true happiness of every individual was important, not forgetting the respect and value for the neighbour.
As we celebrate Diwali this year, let's celebrate time. Let's celebrate humanity and show our true humble nature we were gifted with, to grow and to flourish in this human race.