Everyone of us will have a favorite Diwali memory (or memories). I have one too. I have had a lot of fun-filled and happy Diwali moments but whenever I think of the festival of lights, this particular one is the first thing that comes to my mind: making it a lingering memory that will stay forever in the realms of my mind! But the interesting fact is: it is not my memory. Neither was I a part of it nor did I witness it, in fact I wasn’t even born then. But then a memory, when seen through the eyes and felt through the heart and soul of someone who made you, eventually becomes yours! Doesn’t it?
My mom absolutely loves Diwali and every year during Diwali, I get to see the child in her. It is indeed an endearing sight to watch her enthusiasm and fervor in everything she does right from making delicious sweets and snacks to bursting a 100-wala! Just watching her makes my Diwali so memorable! But this specific memory actually dates back to 1955! Yes, you read it right. This interesting Diwali story comes from the days when my mom was in her 10th Standard. She is the 3rd of 11 siblings in what you can imagine is a pretty big family and so the fun of celebrating Diwali is also extra-special. So that year as well the Diwali craze had set in with new clothes, delicious sweets, mouth-watering savories, an excited bunch of crazy kids and loads and loads of crackers to make it super-exciting!
But this time, destiny decided to bring them some agony with just a hint of irony. It so happened that some distant relative in the family expired just a day before Diwali. In case you didn’t know, that would mean that the family does not get to celebrate Diwali (or any other major festival) that year. While the others eventually made peace with it, my mom couldn’t accept the predicament. She was crest-fallen and she sat looking at her new dress and her share of crackers for about 2 hours. There was one particular cracker which was her favorite. I don’t think it is available these days (at least not in the form she describes). The literal translation of its name is: the tank/cannon! It is somewhat in the shape of an army tank with a steel pipe and if you fill the pipe with the flash powder (explosive compound) and slam it against the wall and it makes a loud bang!
The more she looked at the tank, the sadder she became. Then suddenly an idea crossed her mind: “What if I can’t have any fireworks, I can sneak in some flower works”, she thought. My uncle (her brother) agreed to be her partner in crime. So they silently sneaked out, lit up a candle and got the big box of the flash powder. My mom broke a small wooden twig from a tree, dipped its end in the flash powder and brushed it on the candle to create beautiful sparks of gold and green. It was her own ingenious hand-made sparkler! Soon my mom and my uncle were engrossed in their secret Diwali ritual!
They were having so much fun that they didn’t realize the small flame that got to the twig when it was exposed long enough to the candle. Completely unaware, my mom dipped the twig into the big box of flash powder for getting a sparkle once again. But instead what she got was a huge gush of colored fire and light which resembled that of a giant flower pot! And this time there were sound effects too. My mom felt a little burn in her hand but she quickly moved away, thrust her hand between her legs and watched the spectacle that unfolded in front of her with great awe. The fireworks lasted for about a minute and the flames hit the roof of the house. Everyone around witnessed this glorious umbrella of colorful embers. It was like fire drops raining from the sky!
But all good things come to an end. And the magic was over in a flash! The neighbors went back to their business. When my mom and her brother turned around, they saw their parents, faces red with anger, waiting to give these 2 kids the beating of their lives. Just when my mom was wondering what sort of a punishment was in store for her, she felt the unbearable pain in her hand which she had completely forgotten about! She slowly took it out to see that her entire forearm had burnt and her skin had come out completely! Now she realized how much excitement it should have taken to conceal such a writhing pain. She burst out to a huge laughter which finally culminated in tears of unbearable pain. My mom was immediately treated to coolants which included coconut oil, ink, dosa batter etc.. and then all was well after 2 months of treatment! My mom still feels that this saved her from some grave unfathomable punishment and made her the center of attraction in the house for about 2 months and needless to say she enjoyed every bit of the attention! And every time my poor uncle would add that he got her share of beating too on that day!
I have heard this story at least 10 times and every time my eyes witness the fascinating spectacle of the giant sparkler-flower-pot, my hands feel an agonizing pain, my heart feels that infinite excitement and I feel my mysterious presence on that night; which makes it “my memory”!
Wish you all a glorious Diwali; be safe and have a blast!
- Dedicated to my dear Mom!
- Dedicated to my dear Mom!