“Diwali” – The festival of lights is by far the most colorful and joyful festivals, which is celebrated universally throughout the length and breadth of India ... beyond the realms of religion or language.
This year, Diwali falls on October 27, 2019.
Living far away from the shores of India, we miss the color and grandeur of the festival. However, we try to make it as colorful and joyful as possible celebrating the festival from the confines of our homes or among the Indian diaspora of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
But, indeed, the best Diwali for me (as perhaps for all of you) was that during my childhood days.
I lived in a beautiful residential compound called Yarada Park, which we were privileged to enjoy by virtue of my father’s employment in an Oil Refinery in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India.
The compound was truly a microcosm of India itself. We had inhabitants who haled from every state of India, brought together by virtue of their employment, knitted together as one large family and living together in complete harmony. As a result we respected every tradition and celebrated every festival with same fervor and gaiety!
The celebrations for Diwali would begin weeks before. Many of my friends would start making their own fire crackers. Despite their meagre resources, many parents would allow the indulgence of their children for buying the chemicals and powders for making the crackers. Some of my friends were so adept at making fire crackers that were far more superior than the ones sold in the market.
My father, for reasons of his own, was against attempting to try and manufacture any crackers. He thought it was risky and perhaps rightly so did not allow us to do so. But little did he know that I was actually joining some of my friends to make crackers at their homes.
One of my closest childhood friends, Nirmal, whom we called “Nandu” lived just outside of the compound. For them making fire crackers was a like a whole family affair. His brothers, his only sister, his uncles, a host of their cousins, servants and all of us would join in enjoying the process of making the crackers.
We used fill the rolled out playing cards with the chemicals, stuff it tight by hammering the contents into the rolled cards using a bolt and hammer…then sealing the end, tying the rolled card with “twine” thread and inserting a small broom stick!! Yes! The “Tara Juvva” was ready to fire. When the “juwwa” is set on fire, the broom stick helps to guide it all the way into the sky like rocket. There was a great feeling of pride and pleasure to watch our “juwwas” go all the way.
We also made the “flower pots” or called as “Chincu buddi” in Telugu and filled long newspaper rolls with some chemicals to form sparkling “pencils” when lit up.
I used to offer my two bit help in the entire effort. Having enjoyed the whole day helping them making the crackers, while I was going home, my friend gave me three of the “juwwas” as a gift.
I was thrilled and ran home in glee….the joy that I felt was so unfathomable and something that even words cannot express at this time.
But there was a closely guarded secret that perhaps no one except my close friend and neighbor knew. I was mortally scared of holding the “juwwa” in my hand and setting the bottom on fire and releasing it as it started to pick up momentum. Vijay tried to teach me many times but I used always release it before time and the rocket would go all along the ground. Finally I told Vijay, “you just let them go, I enjoy watching it more that I do lighting it”.
There were others in the compound who were the so called “Juvva experts”, Nathan and Ivan were some of the boys who used make fabulous Juvvas.
The Colony had four rows of housed on two flanks the center of the two flanks would be called the “Junction”.
The boys who resided in the bottom two rows would form one team and the boys from the top two rows would form another. At night, they would start the the “Juvva fight”. The top row boys would aim their “juvvas” on the bottom rows and vice-versa. The Juvvas used to come at great speed and the thrill was the skill and dexterity with which we dodged the Juvvas. There was an occasion, where juvva hit, Vallabh, one of the boys and stuck to him as he ran for his life. He was lucky to have escaped without any severe burn.
While this was thrilling to the boys and some sporting elders, who played this dangerous game, there were some elders who were not amused. They were worried about the prospects of the “Juvvas” causing a burn or damage.