Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Happy Diwali!

The biggest Indian festival, Diwali or Deepavali as it is known in South India, is here as a culmination of the festive frenzy that has been around since Dassera! I guess, when it comes to festive season or the holiday season as it is called in the West, it doesn’t matter which part of the world you live in, it’s all the same when it comes to the crazy traffic on the roads, stampede threatening crowds at the stores, markets, malls, and cracker outlets. Man!….even the book store was crowded making me wonder if people are actually reading more during festival time! Anyway, last year, since we were celebrating Diwali after a gap of three years, we felt as if we were re-discovering Diwali in India. This time around, I can say we’ve become more seasoned. For instance, we are no longer annoyed when people burst crackers well past 11 PM or no longer shocked at how much a box of  sparklers or flower pots cost, and no longer upset when four out of six flower pots in a box don’t light up at all!

Anyway, my cynicism should not come in the way of celebrating the true spirit of Diwali and so we indulged Abhay with all the traditional trappings of the festival that celebrates triumph of light over darkness. After some confusion over when does Narakachaturdashi (the first day of Deepavali) actually fall on,  we decided to go ahead and celebrate it the day the State Government says it does, that is today! (whereas the Hindu Almanac declares it tomorrow!) As far as crackers are concerned, our house is probably the only one in which the roles are reversed. Abhay despises bursting crackers because of his legendary aversion to loud noises whereas we insist on lighting at least a few, in order for Abhay to be rid of his Bhay (fear)!
This is the most we could get Abhay to do!
As for picture books on Diwali, I must say that there has not been much progress since last year. This week’s “Young World”, the Children’s Supplement of The Hindu, has a write up about Diwali and the way it is celebrated across the country. “Titto and the Fireworks” a CBT publication by Mrinalini Srivastava and illustrated by Saurabh Pandey. I’d picked it up seeing its title but then realized that it wasn’t an ideal book for Abhay, given his phobia for fireworks. Anyway, Titoo is the naughtiest baby parrot who is always trying  to escape his mother’s watchful eye. Titoo is curious about the world outside and longs to fly out just like his brother and sister. Since his wings are yet to develop strength, Titoo’s mom forbids him from flying unaccompanied. Diwali is the day when most birds stay in their nests and so did Titoo and his family. But Titoo somehow manages to get out and perches himself high on a tree branch.  He reaches out higher and higher until he settles on the highest branch to witness what he realizes are fireworks. As he is startled by the sound, he accidentally loses balance and falls off the tree branch when he is caught by a fellow parrot who takes Titoo back home safe. Titoo’s parents though worried at first are relieved that their son had finally learnt a lesson. Not much of a Diwali story save for the message to stay safe this Diwali!” Happy Diwali to everyone!

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