The days I used to burn money...err...burst crackers seemed eons ago. Last year V did n't approve much of the flower pots and sparklers, more so because of the smoke. This year too I was worried about the smoke making him ill. At his school, a day before Deepavali, they asked each parent to send some food with their ward and V took a bottle of juice with him. I 'warned' the aunties about a potential smoke allergy, when they told me that they will be bursting crackers. When I went to pick him up, without my asking, two of the ladies told me how the little one enjoyed the crackers. He clapped and screamed in joy they said. I did not react. How would I when only the previous day, V stuck to me like a leech and did n't let go of my shoulder, when a 'ground chakra' was lit?! But experience at school had made him a little bolder as was witnessed that evening.
Deepavali has lost its fervor. I am not talking about lesser crackers. I am in fact very happy about it, though the sky seemed to be more polluted than land. I was particularly thinking of the harried pilots who had to fly their planes this dreaded day! Coming back to where I started... T.Nagar and other shopping areas were probably the only evidences of a forth coming festival. Otherwise people burnt their crackers and went home. Only the children seemed to wish everyone, when, that is, they came across pestering adults who interrupted their merriment. I have to admit that we were also some of those adults. At least we took to going out for the sake of the child. H asked me, when we were planning the amount of sweets and snacks to be purchased (for more on this read further) "Are n't you distributing some to the neighbors"? I said, "They never do" and bit my lip. I defended by saying that since we don't 'make' anything at home it did n't make sense in giving something that was bought, which in any case would be given by the companies they work for. The truth is that, no one bothered. We made an effort but nothing happened. Regular phone calls have just become messages. Where has all the 'bonding-during-festivals' gone?
We decided to buy deepavali sweets and snacks as even normal cooking is getting difficult with an inquisitive kid running around. We made the same mistake as last year. We (in this case I) once again made a bee line to the "Grand" old sweet stall of Chennai. The place was crowded like a cinema at 10:00 in the morning. I thought I had timed it right as I had to pick up V only at 11:30, but quickly realized it was a mistake. Though the items required were less, I was asked to wait for a 'minimum half an hour'. When my token number was called for (from the right hand side of the counter) I walked, rather pushed my way through to the left-hand side where the billing is normally done. After a painstaking 15 mins I was told that my billing will be done at the other end. When I again made my way through I found that my bill had found its place at the bottom. The lady who had the tokens and was announcing the numbers seemed to be obsessed with her job and after angry prodding from customers parted with her possession only to hand them over to the person at the other end. It was difficult to concentrate as too many numbers were being announced. Even on normal days, this place has the practice of randomly distributing tokens. So if your number is 101 and if 100 is announced, relax. 101 will not be called for until 99, 105, 110, 68, 303 are called for. But on this day it seemed to infuriate many people who were unaware of the procedure. I held my nerves as I had had the experience of waiting for an hour for a kilo of mixture. Anyway, I made my way out at 11:15 just in time to reach school. Irritated to no extent, we purchased the remaining at a quieter place in Mylapore. I took an oath never to visit the first-mentioned place knowing fully well (like many other chennaites) that it would be broken next year.
The best wish came in the form of a post card. It was addressed to the two of us and little V. It said, Happy Diwali Mom and Dad. The card was filled with the drawing of a lamp (agal vilakku/diya) with familiar crayon scribblings around and on it. I took the card to V and asked him,
"Who drew this"?
V: naanu pannen (I did it)
V: Kool (School)