Return To Roots


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The alarm went off at 4:30 AM. Considering I had crept into bed at an unearthly hour of 12:30 AM, I hit snooze and burrowed myself in the warmth of the comforter. Then it hit me. It’s Deepavali.

I reached over and nudged Saathi awake. Grumbling, he slid off the bed while I snoozed for a few minutes more. Soon, sounds of brushing, undressed kids squealing as they ran around with oiled hair and the sounds of showers running pointed to a fully awake home. As I adjusted the length of Laddu’s new pavadai with safety pins and used another to let out a stitch to make her blouse bigger, I was taken back in time to another era. Of silk pavadais, pai pinnals and deepavali marundhu.

She stood resplendent in her red pavadai and I turned my attention  to Ammu and Pattu who were in dresses appropriate for school. As I dried their hair and brushed it out, I wondered how much longer they will let me do these things for them.

Badam katli, warm milk, family prayers and the rustle of silks.

As I packed idlis, made dosas for breakfast and sent each child away, the normalcy that was at bay returned. By 8:30 AM, it was just me in my purple and pink gaudy salwar and Laddu in her paavadai. We stood by the window watching cars and buses pass. We turned the string of lights out, walked upstairs and changed into everyday clothes.

Like Deepavalis in my past, the festival was over before it had begun. However, what was new this year was the return to our roots. In the years since I started my own family, we have attempted to celebrate. A half-hearted nod to our heritage. With the children at an age where they are excited by things like holiday lights and rituals, I traipsed down to the basement last night, dug out lights, hung it over our front door. I pulled out led tea lights and set them on our stoop. We gathered around a winking floating candle and lit sparklers in the cold fall night.

As Ammu twirled and made patterns in the air with the lit end of her sparkler, the joy on her face was reflected back to me. We walked inside, anticipation of the morning like a potent drug. I tucked them in, reminding it was Diwali. Pattu made it a point to set me straight.

“Amma! it is Deepavali. Not Diwali!”

“Happy Deepavali” I whispered as I walked away.

I set out new clothes for each of us. Remembered to remove the tags and regretted not making savory snacks. Next year I promised myself. Over the weekend, as a family we shelled almonds, ground it to a paste with milk and turned it into a delicacy with sugar and saffron. This morning we gave in to the excitement that is Deepavali. The early hours, the food filled stupor of the mid morning and the sparse fireworks.

Having children at home makes me view each ritual with new eyes. It reminds me of the wonder that filled mine growing up. It brings back the things I loved most about the festive season. It makes me want to relive my childhood with my kids.

May your life light up like a million sparklers. Happy Deepavali!

6 comments

  1. And a happy holiday to you and yours – what a wonderful thing, to set your memories loose and reimagine them with your own girls. I am picturing little girls twirling and lights twinkling….enjoy!

  2. A nice one…
    Celebration has changed here in India as well with nuclear families.
    But with kids coming into the family changes everything and you want to celebrate everything.

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