The streets of Bombay are buzzing with preparations for the Diwali festivities. Diwali, or the “festival of lights” is a five day celebration, with the third day as the official date of Diwali, coming up this Wednesday (Oct. 26, 2011). Shops are packed with shoppers and filled with piles of tiny candles, colorful lanterns, bags of decorative powders and endless amounts of streamers and twinkling lights. I can’t help but think of Christmas when I see all the lights hung over shops and doorways. in many ways Diwali is much like Christmas. It’s the biggest holiday of the year, everyone throws parties and goes shopping for shiny new outfits to be worn on Diwali and gifts are exchanged everyday. The gifts are basically endless amounts of sweets rather than electronics or gift cards.
Door steps are adorned with diyas, small lamps especially lit for Diwali. Outside every door the ground is decorated with intricate designs made with colored powder. All day and night you can hear children lighting up the streets with fire crackers.
The sweet shops are having their busiest time of the year. Ladies are seated side by side rolling out nan khatai, a light melt-in-your-mouth cookie. People are crowding the sweet shops trying to place their order for a box of sweets (no one seems to bother forming a line – the pushiest customer wins). Anyone who comes by for a visit brings a box of sweets as a gift. When Hubby’s father returned home after traveling three days for work, he of course had a big box of sweets in his hands.
I can hear in the distance, beyond the constant honking of cars from the street below, a professional drum troupe is practicing for hours every evening, filling the air with irresistible dance rhythms. Hubby’s family can’t seem to resist the music and every now and then they all break into dance. I wonder how many people in the neighborhood are dancing in their homes as the group practices for more than three hours every night.
In honor of Diwali, Mummy-ji and I made a batch of besan laddoos, which are sweet round balls made from ghee (clarified butter), garbanzo bean flour and lots of sugar. Laddoos are a Diwali time favorite and will be handed out to anyone who comes to visit (besides being thoroughly enjoyed for dessert tonight). We added golden raisins along with almonds, which had to be individually peeled. For thirty minutes, three of us – Hubby’s brother, Mummy-ji and myself, sat peeling a bowl of soaked almonds and I gained a new appreciation for the pre-peeled and chopped almonds available at the store down our street at home. But it became a fun family activity of teasing, joking and racing to see who could peel the most almonds.
Today is the first day of Diwali called ‘Dhanteras‘. It’s a tradition to buy gold today so Mummy-ji went to the jewelery store downstairs and a got tiny amount of gold just to keep the tradition going. It’s a great time for gold sellers. If the preparations for Diwali are so grand I can’t even imagine how exciting the actual Diwali celebrations will be.