It was an October evening and there on the playground made green by the lush grass and the receding rains were butterflies hopping from one shrub to another on the lookout for that elusive flower that could provide some nectar.
A group of children were huddled together making huts of mud and sticks where the sticks came from twigs, discarded ice cream sticks and dried branches. In that group were budding potters, architects, masons and designers. They surveyed their creation and now made walls of clay. They planted some twigs that now looked as trees in the tiny courtyard. In that group was a boy who was telling stories of long lost kings and warriors to eager ears as the huts were being built.
The sun which was shining so bright on glazed leaves when they had started off was now beating a hasty retreat behind the large block of buildings in which they lived. A miniature well was getting dug and some kid brought water from the nearby tank and poured it into it only to see it disappear. The next generous lot of water persisted in the freshly dug well to make things look complete. They surveyed their creation and sat for some time as the storyteller among them was fast finishing his story partly because it was getting dark and also it was getting difficult to feed his imagination that was now running wild as the script.
There was some sand that had been dumped for construction by a shop long back and this was used by another group of kids who were designing roads and tunnels across and over it.
A puddle of water made by the overflowing tank in the morning had some kids busy digging canals and launching paper boats. This all looked funny to elders and adults surveying the group below from floors above but nevertheless it meant so much to the children who always descended on this play field and got creative every day to make most of the strip of land to feed their imagination.
With the disappearance of such strips of land in metro cities, imagination that was once put to constructive use in such a lost garden, was now restricted to new games that came up for the new generation…
Diwali is round the corner; that is when I thought of writing this post to re-live good old memories in the seventies and early eighties in a now bustling metro city named Mumbai, or for that matter, Bombay to the so called old timers like me.
For us children, days were divided into 3 parts. One was definitely school time, another was playtime and the third was holiday time that came in the form of winter and summer and to some like me who lived in Bombay, the Diwali holidays.
The lanterns hung up by most households with a variety of shapes and colors was fun to watch and compare. In every household, family members and neighbors would chip in to prepare sweets for Diwali and that would include Laddu , Shankarpali, Chivda, Bombay mix, the Chaklis(muruks for tamil/malayalees) and the good old Karanji. Purchasing the raw materials was a daunting task in itself to prepare all such sweets at home. The preparation used to take a few days after which we used to exchange samples of these with our neighbors who used to give us what they had prepared.
The earthen lamps that used to grace all homes during this festive occasion was another pretty sight to all in the late evenings.
The colorful rangoli patterns on the floor outside every door was a marvel. The whole town was painted with new colors outside each door step bringing out the artist in each household.
This also used to give a divine aura to the surroundings and everyone from the children to the elders with pretty new clothes bedecked with jewelry was always a pretty sight to watch. The illumination was also seen on each face, the innocent joy on children’s as they lighted up crackers and looked at each other. Each group of houses was, a city into itself, plunged in celebrations. The crackers and other fireworks used to light our lives in the night and create a headache for the elderly. With the earthen diyas, the illuminated rangoli designs, the lanterns, and the shooting crackers, Diwali definitely lives up to its name of Festival of Lights. Though the main festival lasted 5 days, for us, it was as long as our sweets, crackers and the vacations lasted.
Here is wishing you, all my readers, who are getting ready for the festival of lights, a prosperous, happy and safe Diwali..