Diwali is the don(well I think so) of the Hindu festival calendar, but also important for Sikhs and Jains. In the UK we know it as the Festival of Lights.
It celebrates the victory of good over evil , light over dark (hence the name) and knowledge over ignorance. It also commemorates the return of the banished Lord God Rama (bit of a hero) and his wife Sita ( traumatised and a patient lady) to Ayodhya after 14years. I’ll fill you in on their story another time (Ramayana) – trust me we don’t have enough time now.
Having grown up in Southall from the age of about 12 I can confidently say that I have had many happy Diwalis here. I would like to share bits of the past and tell you about this one. Southall Diwalis are special!! Not saying yours’ aren’t … but Southall ones are the best.😜
There are some key ingredients that make a great Diwali. Like any good dish everyone has their own spin and favourite element. Adjust accordingly to your taste.
1. Getting the house ready: mum always said to make sure it was clean. I can confidently say that my house is clean, thanks to Rosa. And tidy .. well it’s better than last week and that’s enough of an achievement for me. No Rangolis (a decorative pattern outside the house – both for good luck and decoration)for me. Of course rse I would have done one but the rain stopped me. 😉. Next year for sure .
2. Diwali cards: interestingly I seem to have got worse. Having gone from being the queen of cards. If you sneezed you’d get a card from me. I’ve lost my patience with Diwali cards. If you buy them from Clintons it’s like a furtive operation. Excuse me do you have anything at the back or behind the counter? And they had better be printed on gold parchment for that price. And why is it that India can create silk sarees with a multitude of sparkly,shiny,colourful embellishments and patterns, make gold jewellery in a wonderful array of intricate designs (if you’re that way inclined, me I’m more for the silver). But we/they can’t make decent cards, unless of course they are the wedding variety. Are we just not meant to send them – will a text do? Or how about something radical like a phone call? Hang on one more , a personal visit (don’t please be rolling your eyes. I know that many family and friends are living away- I’m just illustrating a point by exaggerating).
3. Lights : not particularly green you may say and you’d be right. Lights on . Then as darkness descends we’re all out putting candles on the windowsills and walls. And those that are more retro have the beautiful clay divas . Poor simple candles – long forgotten. Who has, like me spent ridiculous amount of time lighting and relighting divas/candles in Oct/Nov in England? What are the chances of them staying alight for more than a few minutes 🤔.
4. Puja (prayers):My way today was to go to the gurdwara (Sikh temple) early and experience some peace and do some seva (service). Then my attempt at doing the aarti both at my Bedford house and my parent’s house in Southall. It’s ok I have everything on my phone 🙏🏽. If this isn’t your thing just be at peace and be kind.
5. Buying of mithai & Giving of Mithai (Indian sweets): this is another interactive tradition that will involve queues at Ambala or Royal in Southall .Or Bala in Bedford. I mixed it up this year – Bedford sweets for Londoners and Southall sweets for Bedfordians. Always helping to broaden the experiences 😂. Unless you know what they like always go for the mixed box- but make sure there’s is some Badam Barfi and Gulab Jamun and Gajrela and laddoos (besan and boondi) .. see what I mean, mixed is best and now you know what I like too. The closer the people the bigger the box (not really !🙄).
6. Wearing something new: that’s like the simplest instruction !
7. Family and Friends: to give you juppis and puppis (hugs and kisses). To be able to share this special time. And don’t forget those that may not have anyone.
8. Fireworks (at all times follow the health and safety rules). – Don’t let off fireworks within residential areas – – Don’t let off fireworks by parked cars.- -Don’t allow industrial grade rockets to be let off by a teenagers. Forgot all of that. And note to self don’t park your car near the house. It was a “firework” fight between the roads. It was the longest display ever. Craning our necks and praying that there were no incidents! One wonders if they should actually be sold to joe public. My nephew found great joy in just playing with Snapits . What happened to the Catherine Wheel and The Fountain: just not big and brash enough for 2018! No need to contact Ealing Council just yet – we are good citizens that clear up our fireworks debris.
9. Food: The most important item is The Food… well I’m sure we won’t need to eat again till Christmas after today. My day started off with breakfast at the gurdwara which consisted of puris / kaale chane/ yoghurt/ laddoo/halwa . I admit I had to take the laddoo away . For lunch I had a samosa and the laddoo wrapped in my handbag! Dinner one in my mum’s house and Dinner two at our family friend’s house , across the road. Of course the gaps were filled with anything fried and sweet – anything else is just rejected.More food is left over than was eaten. All those storage dubbas (boxes) have come in handy.I think we’ll be eating this for days… Nom Nom. Thank goodness for work colleagues.
This is how the community built … in and out of each other’s houses , sharing food, good & bad times. Watching us kids grow and escape only wishing to be back in the homes full of memory treasures.
Southall Broadway was showing off in its full glory of noise , colour and light. The hustle bustle of locals and outsiders who come to get a fix of “India”. Stalls filled with all you need to make your Diwali tip top. Queues in the sweet shops. Jalebis being fried and being eaten – “garam garam” (hot and fresh). Lights from the decorations and the fireworks going off in all directions.Music blasting from cars, stalls, restaurants and we were adding to this on our road by having our normal street party. Come early otherwise you’ll get sucked into Southall traffic chaos and the inner Diwali peace and love may not last.
This year was unusual as no mummy and papa as they are in India. But in their place Simon experienced his first Southall Diwali. “You’re all the same… feeders”! And copes admirably with the “just one more small gulab jamun” routine 🙄. He’s also still not got the obligatory present 🤷🏽♀️.
Before I end …my most traumatic event over last 24 hours remains being called called aunty in Bala!!! 😂 it happened at roughly 2.00pm and the offender should have know better. He was bald and built like a brick house. I said did you just call me aunty!!!😡 He was taken aback and apologised. Said he was going to say sister and just wanted to be respectful 🤦🏽♀️. I said Happy Diwali and moved on with my life.
Saal Mubarak (Happy New Year) to you all . Whatever you have hoped for this coming year I hope you get it and more.
I delight in the drama of life …..that’s what my affirmation card said today. How well they know me …
( don’t worry it will be Christmas shortly)