Deepavali has always started with the practice of having an oil bath early in the morning. No one told me why and when I questioned the ritual, I almost always got chided for asking too many questions. Of course, with age grew curiosity and (a bit of) intelligence to find out the answers to my own questions. With each passing year, the celebration of Deepavali became more significant and the practices made more sense to me. However, on a side note, I still dislike having oil all over my body.
What surfaces without fail every Deepavali are my childhood memories of the festival. For starters, I recall how my parents decided on my outfit for the day. Not to mention how (atrociously) they used to dress me up – that extra layer of talcum powder dabbed all over my face, the finishing touch that was the little black dot on the cheek and my hairstyle that has never changed till today. The only thing that I liked about their choice of attire was the very fact that it was something traditional. As I grew older, my own sense of fashion started kicking in.
I’m proud to say that I have always opted for traditional Indian wear instead of a long sleeved shirt or a polo-tee.
Following the dressing up is the long day of visiting every single relative’s home. At each house you would be presented with a buffet spread of (almost the same) Indian dishes. You would have to eat at every house even if you felt like your stomach was on the verge of exploding. Also, each year, without fail, you would hear your relatives exclaiming in shock, “How much you have grown! The last time I saw you, you were this small!” I was a quiet boy back then, so I would remain silent and grin from ear to ear. But these days, my relatives know better than to say such things to me. (Hee!)
I fondly recall a particular year during which Deepavali comprised of a string of mishaps! It started off with me jumping around my house like a monkey. Somehow I had managed to kick a huge vase that was placed at the corner of my balcony and of course, it shattered! Thus far, that has been the only day on which I did not get a good scolding from my parents for my mischief. Why? Simply because it was Deepavali. Thank God for that! And it didn’t stop there. At one of the houses we visited, I dropped a glass of drink and it shattered – again! Everyone just dismissed it as an act of careless by a young innocent boy. Phew! And… moving on to the next house…
While I was happily sipping my cup of Coca Cola – don’t ask me how it happened – but I somehow managed to bite a portion of the cup with my teeth.
Those who were seated around me heard the crunching sound and panicked. Of course, I didn’t get scolded, yet again. They were far more concerned about me swallowing the shards of glass. Till today, I wonder how I managed to break brittle items on three different occasions, on the very same Deepavali. Unknowingly, I had still kept to my superstitious practice of carrying out tasks in a group of odd numbers, particularly in threes!
These childish mishaps remain etched in my heart together with the happy moments of the festival of lights, such as enjoying the food, receiving packets of money, visiting relatives I never knew existed, getting to dress up, and feasting on ‘murukku‘ and ‘kuehs‘! Most importantly, it is being able to wish people in Tamil – “தீபாவளி நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்!” that I really love! I guess some things don’t change. So… தீபாவளி நல்வாழ்த்துக்கள்!