The past 72 hours it has been raining off and on. Not just a little rain but heavy downpours. This is the winter monsoon that we get in this part of the country. While average temperatures in Chennai hover in the mid-30’s, right now it feels much cooler. I was so cold today I got a sweater out. I haven’t done that since last Christmas. Not all of India gets two monsoons like we do. I think mainly the middle of the country gets both the north and south monsoons, so we get one right after the summer, in June, and the winter one now, Oct./Nov.
This one makes it feel so cold. The floors turn to ice and I have to make sure the kids are dressed warmer than normal. This is also when sickness kicks in, sadly. Logan was the first to get sick this time. He got sick Monday evening, and has had a fever off and on, plus a cough and cold. Can’t avoid it.
Now, at this time of year there is something more than the cold happening. It is the biggest festival of the year, Diwali
(prounounced ‘de val e’), the festival of lights. This festival is probably the local equilvilant of Christmas in the way it is celebrated. It is a time to meet family and friends, to give gifts, and to light the world.
|This is the one I hate. It is pure noise.
For the past week or more there have been fireworks and firecrackers going off at random times, but tonight was the biggie. Hours of non-stop noise, and literal clouds of smoke everywhere. There is so much gunpowder in the air that you can smell it, and the sounds of noisemakers bursting rattles your bones and hurts your ears. This year I managed to convince the kids that the crackers were going off cause people were having a party. That way they wouldn’t cry every time they heard one. Yes, last year was rather traumatic.
The rains do get in the way of the firecrackers, cause you can’t burst them in a downpour and it has to be done outside, but I’d rather hear the rain pour down any day than to have to listen to non-stop firecrackers bursting. Right now there are still a few random ones going off; the majority were earlier in the evening. There is one that I hate. It is actually a long row of firecrackers together, and once lit, it takes at least 30 to 60 seconds to finish. The entire time it is non-stop LOUD noise. It sounds like a machine gun. If you were a visitor here and didn’t know anything about Diwali celebrations, you would sware you had just landed in a war zone. There is that much noise and that much gun powder in the air.
While most people burst firecrackers, there are those who protest by not buying them. They aren’t protesting the celebrations but the conditions that the employees who make the firecrackers are forced to work in, and the fact that most of the employees are children. It is common to hear about accidents and deaths in the wearhouses where the manufacturing takes place, but there is only so much that can be done to stop the top guys who make the money off this. There are laws against child labor but they are not enforced in many places and children as young as 6 are often found in these places. It’s very sad.
I personally don’t have anything against buying and bursting firecrackers, so long as they are being made by adults in safe environments. With us though, we don’t buy them cause our kids are scared of the noise.
What do I like about Diwali? The lights, for one. Buildings are often draped in lights and at night it always reminds me of Christmas. Too bad these lights come down before then.
|Cashew barfi, my favorite.
I also enjoy the sweets
. Giving of sweets is a common tradition, and I have to say, while Indian sweets
are ultra-rich, they are so good. If you have an Indian sweet shop near where you live, you have to try them. There are many varieties to choose from and flavors to savor. It is common for special Diwali sweets to be made with saffron, one of the most expensive spices, and also to be covered with a thin layer of silver paper, which is real silver and is edible.
|A sweet shop display.
Another common gift is a dry fruit and nut basket, though generally the only dry fruit is rasins, and the nuts are usually cashews, almonds, and pistachios. Fancier baskets will include dried apricots, figs and dates.
Diwali is also a time of shopping, discounts, generally considered an auspitious time for getting new things. Gold has tradionally been high on the gift list, but now electronic gadgets seem to be replacing it, at least it looked so to me this year by all the advertising.
Happy Diwali to all.