Why I had to grow up to appreciate Diwali

Of Laxmi Bombs, Mysore Pak & not having to break the rules anymore
“Oh! We must buy some fireworks this year for Diwali in fact I’d so love to burst some Laxmi bombs….” I stopped. Good God! Had I just said that? Since being mercilessly teased by the neighbourhood boys about THE Laxmi Bomb as a teenager, I had pretty much decided to shun Diwali on principle. What with Silk Smitha painted on every single billboard in town, at that time, the last thing I wanted was to be put in the same category as that bombshell; and being given the alter-ego of a Laxmi Bomb certifiably brought the images of Silk to mind. This was much before The Dirty Picture was released, confirming Silk’s official home in the annals of Indian pop culture trivia. But, apparently the passage of years had dulled the heartache, for here I was, actually pleading with my husband to buy firecrackers—especially phooljhaddis, the sparkly fountains, and uh! The rockets,  those ‘L’ bombs. 

Actually it’s more than that. Gone are the days—I suddenly realized—when I would shudder at the thought of spending yet another Diwali in the bosom of my family. Obviously I had conveniently forgotten the rite of passage of what it meant to be subjected to the cruelty of the hated festive season. Of being slapped awake at dawn by Amma; then forced to squelch til-oil with mustard & jeera on my hair before washing it with the toughest shampoo possible so as to rub all the squish out—ending with hair that resembled a bottle brush; moving onto wearing new clothes and greeting elders; then bursting the traditional Diwali fireworks by 6 am—thus waking up irate neighbours who complained about those strange Madrasi’s next door over their hangover; and finally gobbling up a massive breakfast of the choicest Muruku, Mysore Pak, Kesari & Boondi Ladoo before falling into a food induced stupor for the rest of the day. Yes, guess that was all water under the bridge now.
Where had my dread—of being surrounded by chattering relatives who vied at matchmaking me with that (shudder!) horrible curd-rice eating banker from USA—gone? And when had I turned into one of those ‘older’ relatives who loved to find out more about family politics. Who is divorcing whom? Who is fighting over the family inheritance? Which brothers have fallen out?
Perhaps it had all changed when I realised that I had a choice. I was no longer forced to do anything. In fact I could decide where I wanted to participate, and pick the family occasions to attend on my visits back home (all the better for it was the only time I could wear my gorgeous sarees.) 
At some point over the years, I had become more comfortable with my identity as someone who has the confidence of breaking societal rules. Of course now that I have broken some of them, there’s not much fun in fighting to not fit in. 
More than anything I now yearn to celebrate Diwali to show that understand the value of my roots, for they have never let me down. And of course, it is also the occasion where the Goddess of Wealth who I am named after is in the spotlight; something I never to fail to tell all my West-born friends. Soaking up the wonder they express at that revelation!

About Laxmi Hariharan (in my words): Though born in India, wanderlust drove me out of my home country, and I lived in Singapore and Hong Kong before being based in London where I now live. It was in embracing my roots that I found my voice. My debut novel The Destiny of Shaitan is available on Amazon http://tiny.cc/szqsew. Reach me here:

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3 thoughts on “Why I had to grow up to appreciate Diwali

  1. I guess one main problem (characteristic?) with festivals is the nostalgia they engender. Otherwise, for people like me who live year after year dreading the pollution caused by some of our festivals, we'd look for better alternatives!

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