It is dusk, the light giving way to the dark as the shadows lengthen in my family room. Laddu is on my lap. I want to lie down and sleep but I am sitting ramrod straight, keeping a wary eye for gurgling noises before she throws up.
Ammu and Pattu sit in matching pista green pajamas featuring the easter bunny. Ammu walks backward, her eyes never leaving the television. She comes back munching on badam burfi, holding a piece in each of her hands. Pattu looks up and emulates her sister, returning with burfis in her hand. I am worried Laddu will want one but she seems to be happy punching my expansive tummy.
Late Friday morning after I was done cleaning up Laddu after her first episode of throwing up, I plopped her in the high chair and mulled making something for Deepavali. My memories of the festival feature sweets, legiyam, smoke filled skies and occasionally rain. I root around in the pantry and the freezer debating between thengai burfi and badam burfi. There is not enough coconut for the first and no whole almonds for the second. I eye the shelled almonds that looks like a pale substitute. Figuring there is not much to lose, I measure, toast and powder. I stir the sugar, rosewater and cardamom. Literally 10 minutes later the plate of burfi is ready. I peel off a small piece from the side. It even tastes good.
The afternoon passes in state of constant alertness. After the second round of cleaning, I entrust Laddu to Saathi and drive to pick the twins for their dental appointment. We return as the clock strikes five. I could focus on dinner and blame a lackluster Deepavali on Laddu falling sick or I could try my best, the rest of the household could care less.
Giving into guilt which is a permanent fixture these days in my head, I measure, knead and roll out giant pieces of flour. The oven makes clicking noises as it heats. I decide to involve the children. After hastily shouted instructions on washing hands with soap and water, the three of them gather around. Laddu on a tiny chair so she can watch standing on it. Ammu and Pattu on either sides of me, forks in hand so they can prick each diamond shaped namak pare to prevent it from puffing in the oven.
A couple of hours later, I watch Saathi clean up the mess that is the kitchen and I stack the sweet and snack on the other counter. The girls are back to the sofa. I wash up and run downstairs to get the LED lamps. Soon we are huddled in the dark, on the stoop lining up lamps. The plastic pumpkin glows eerily, the incisors throwing sharp shadows from the light within. The windows are twinkling and it is starting to feel like Deepavali.
The kids are probably hungry but I am not done. We head to the side stoop and in the breeze hold out sparklers, writing our names in the air. The older girls are prancing on the driveway while Laddu is content to watch. I grab her hand, link it in mine and trace her initials. She smiles, a wan replica of her huge grin.
We troop in, wash hands and sit down to dinner, a mix of leftovers and dishes that do not pair. Laddu sleeps on her dad while I tuck the other two in their beds. I bend over, kissing their temples and wishing Happy Deepavali. I turn to leave the room when I hear Ammu say, “this was fun Amma! I love Deepavali.”
We spend the actual day dressing up and heading over for lunch with the rest of the family. We tuck in and the cousins play, their gorgeous paavadais gathered in their hands as they run. I return home laden with goodies, knowing parts of these two days will have etched themselves in my children.
They will not remember what they wore (maybe they will), or what they ate. But they will remember the smell of ghee and flour, the twinkling lights, the chill in the air, the smell of burnt firecrackers and the rustle of silk.
Someday perhaps they will push themselves to recreate traditions for their fledgling families when they could be resting instead.