The lights will remain dimmed

I remember my early years in school, I always waited for October- November to arrive. The excitement began the day school reopened after summer holidays, in June. As the calendars for the academic year were distributed, I quickly flipped through it for the schedule of holidays. Running my fingers through the white pages, I squealed with delight to see the holidays for Diwali.
My friend’s never understood what thrilled me so much, while I gushed, “I will be at my uncle’s place on those days; we spend Diwali there, as always.”
Come October/ November, a day before Diwali, I rushed back home to prepare for the much treasured holidays. When are we leaving for periappa’s place, I enquired unable to control the enthusiasm any more.
The auto ride from my home to my uncle’s was a joy trip, as I waited to see the familiar sight of the power grid a few yards before my uncle’s place.
An army of grandchildren, three sons and daughters-in-law, every Diwali was a grand get together. Since the time I remember, Diwali was celebrated at my dad’s eldest brother’s home. Like in every south Indian household, we too began the celebrations at dawn, when we woke up as early as 4.
As my elder cousins groaned and complained about waking up so early, I was in a state of euphoria about the whole affair. The highlight of the festival was the new clothes. The clothes too had their share of rituals. A night before, my granddad smeared our new clothes with vermillion. The practice was the Tamil Brahmin way of ensuring auspiciousness in any festival.
For the oil bath, my grandmother lined up the sleepy bunch of kids one by one and sat us on a wooden plank reserved for the nelangu ritual. Nelangu involved applying turmeric and vermillion on our feet. That was followed by the oil massage on our heads before we had a bath.
Much of the festival was completed in the morning, after a sumptuous meal that brought it to the grand close. We burst crackers tirelessly all day till all of us headed back to our homes. We would meet again during Pongal in January.
Years have passed since the first time I got acquainted with the rituals, that I believed were exclusive to my family. Had it not been for my grandparents, who ensured that we followed the customs, Diwali would have been just another festival. We would have never known what togetherness or celebrating with family meant. That was at an age when nuclear families had already become rampant at the expense of disintegrating joint families. When my grandmom passed away in early 2009, we lost half the support. And, now that my granddad is no longer amidst us, the void is more evident.
Diwali shall never be the same without my grandparents. However, the legacy of sense of belonging and attachment among my uncles and dad and in turn between us cousins shall continue.


One Response to “The lights will remain dimmed”

  1. shyam sekhar Says:

    The thoughts go back to how we lived with our elders , communed together with warmth , enjoyed simpler pleasures with such fulfillment and looked forward to the next year. We had less to consume , more to commune. The grandparents played such a strong influence on us with their genteel act of giving so much love and of course a few bucks for a blessing. The namaskaram which was such an important part of diwali keeps me wondering how we have changed and at the same time i cant can’t help pondering why ?

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