Thinking about Diwali the last thing I could recall from school was it being something about light, colour and the return of princess from a dark wood. Arriving to stay with Tushar and his lovely family for the festivities I discovered that I was on the right lines, kind of.
Taking a stroll round the shoppers paradise of Dilli Hatt, Tushars daughter Ritu explained that the story is much more complex and that she has been simplifying it down to explain to her 18 month old son, Parth. Better take that version then I thought..
Family disputes, golden deer and monkey kings…
In the PG version Rama, married to sought after Sita gets exiled for 14 years with brother Lakshman in toe. All is well until Sita fancies the look of a golden deer and is separated from Rama who goes to find it. When Lakshman goes to find out what is going on ,Sita stepping outside a magic circle, is captured by the ten headed Ravanda who whisks her off to marry her. When Rama gets wind of this he is very cross and enlists the help of Hanuman the monkey king to win her back and huge battle ensues resulting in the death of Ravanda at the hands of a magic spear. Wow. This has more twists and turns than an Eastenders plot…
Memory refreshed I woke up excited for the day ahead. First on the agenda was a Puja (prayer offering) at the bookshop owned by Ritu and her husband to welcome in Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity. Settling down for a front row seat I was struck by the beautiful colors, offerings, chants and sweet smell of incense until..
“Hello? Oh hiya mate, nah can’t talk right now, I’m in the middle of doing a Puja innit, give me a call back in a bit…”
Or at least that’s how I imagined it would have gone if the priest had actually answered his phone! In the midst of ancient tradition this really made me chuckle, seems India isn’t too dissimilar to home. Following Puja and the lighting and placing of the deeps (oil lamps) outside it was time for exchanging gifts and for me, sampling my first sweet meats. Made of butter, sugar AND ghee these could just be the most fattening things on the planet, but also the most delicious. I quickly identified chocolate covered Balfie as my favorite, something of a cross between white chocolate and fudge. Mmmm.
Above: Post Puja, sweet meats and trying my hand at wedding jewelry
Evening followed with another beautiful Puja at home, watching the many fireworks outside and even more food. It’s defiantly true what they say about indian hospitality, I felt like part of the family and ate like a queen despite my (weak) protests that I simply couldn’t eat any more . Later myself and the family settled down to a competitive game of cards (betting for almonds) in front of what looked like the indian version of the Jonathan Ross Show and put the world to rights late in to the night. Much like a family Christmas I thought, only with better colors and more interesting desserts….
Above: Many fireworks, deeps, colorful rangoli and flower offerings