Alternate title (as suggested by Nick): Ode to pattasu!
This year, Deepavali (a.k.a. Diwali) was all too peaceful. Not a single matchstick lit, not a film watched in full on TV. Well I did watch the fast and the furious on HBO of course, but that has absolutely no relevance to theIndhia tholaikatchigalil mudal murayaaga, thirayarangugalukkae varaada dumeel thiraippadam .. kaanathavaradeergal (first time in Indian televisions, a film that hasn’t even made it to the theatres, don’t miss it!) that we usually see on TV. Most of yesterday went into reading/commenting on this post by Krish Ashok, and a visit to a temple in the afternoon. This morning, I flipped through my reader again, saw hawkeye’s Deepavali in Madras and nostalgia poured in!
Gone were those days when I used to bother Appa asking when he’d buy (let alone take me to buy) firecrackers for me (roughly two weeks before deepavali began). I used to do my homework right: collect the price sheet from every local shop, tallying who was cheaper, so that I could fit all that I wanted within the budget (which was usually about INR 500-700 – yes, we never had luxurious deepavalis). I used to take all those threats seriously when dad warned me, “if you don’t fare well in the upcoming tests, nopattasu for you this year.” Finally, we used to go over to the nearest TUCS shop (until Subhiksha came into existence of course) and buy till I’m partly satisfied (Appa just always knew how to negotiate with me – I want five, he starts at three, and stays at three). Once my precious was home, I used to sit and adore it until Appa finally decided to split it between my sisters and I, so that we would have no further discrepancies and all’s fair and square. Being the youngest at home (and the only boy) was always an advantage, all that bursts was almost always unconditionally given away to me (even my sisters’ shares).
Deepavali planning and execution used to be with this kid Kaushik, who used to live downstairs. His dad used to buy crackers from town a couple of days before Deepavali (always heard that you could get crackers there dirt cheap). We used to sit and discuss for weeks as to what all we wish to buy, as to how we would finish it up. I’d make sure I witness how the crackers are being distributed – usually fetched me a little bijli packet that would last a good three days. We used to meet up every evening bursting one after the other, trying to burst two together, trying to burst them without killifying the thiri, and when daddy dear wasn’t in the neighbourhood, we’d toss a couple of them to watch them explode mid-air.
On Deepavali day, the day used to dawn early – by four thirty I’d be at my bathed best, all set to start blasting! Appa, being the eldest one at home, used to start with a red-fort, and then I’d go mad with all the tiny stuff that I had -busvaanam, changu chakrams, stones (ever heard of them? tiny things that go on glowing), saatai, and so on. Once it dawns, I used to go home and hog all the amazing food mommy dear’s made, and then go off to visit all my relatives to start my Deepavali collection. Generous 100 rupee notes, all for one namaskaaram and a chamathu payyan expression were always worth the additional ordeal! And in the evening, an additional session in between movie breaks used to go on, and I used to save some up for Kaarthigai – which used to follow up a month later. A couple of years in the middle, I even saved some firecrackers so that I could use them up for New year – yes I was this meticulous kid who used to save stuff up for the future (note the was – mom thinks I’ve done a volte face of late).
And I always used to be particular about getting Standard fireworks. I always thought that the brand spoke for itself, despite seeing this kid go on tv, “Ayyan pattasugal vaangittaene. Ayyan pattasugal, pada pada pada pada, surr zoom, buss, damaal. Deepavali nalla venuma? Ayyan pattasugal vaangunga!”(I’ve bought Ayyan brand firecrackers, and they make all these sounds denoting firecrackers, concluding with a “buy them to celebrate Deepavali”)Appa really didn’t care, “as long as they burst, why do you care what brand name they are? Plus, kaasa kari aakaradunnu mudivu pannitae – kammiya pannaen!“
Now it’s all filled with these Chinese-like firework show! Things flying into the sky. I still remember those days when a box of 7-shots was treasured and we used to go counting the seven, and go outraged when there were only six at times. And Deepavali in Chennai has become all skyward – it’s there everywhere, so the need to buy these is lost too. And with the advent of these ones, a lot of old-time favourites have now become extinct. Here’s a little nostalgic run down to all those favourite ones I used to go on bursting all day:
- Lakshmi vedi. Classic one – the sound would easily scare me almost every time it burst.
- Kuruvi vedi. Sort of like Lakshmi‘s little sister. Could still be attempted to be thrown.
- Bijili. 2 packets of these is what used to make the wait up to Deepavali bearable. You can go on for hours if you have one or two friends for company.
- Double shot. Ah, the good ‘ol burst once at ground level, the second one tosses up and then bursts in mid-air.
- Atom/hydrogen bombs. The long wicks made sure that the wait was scarier than the sound it generated while bursting. Plus, we used to put a coconut shell over it and watch it soar a good 30ft into the air when the thing burst!
- Oosi vedi. These were tiny, harmless things. Just cute things that you can see burst.
- Vengaaya vedi. Whack it against a wall and you’d see it burst.
- Roll cape. Came with a gun usually, but when we had more shells, we used stones to make them burst. At times, even rubbing it against the wall was fabulous.
- Snake. This disgusting thing that sent out so much of smoke was usually part of the ending wrapper burning ceremony, when we used to pile up all junk, throw a couple of these ‘tablets’ and set ablaze – it used to send out black tentacle-like things.
No kid bursts any of these these days. Wish I had the company to burst at least some of them! Till then, a little toast to all those wonderful days when I was younger still! Happy Deepavali to all of you!