Writing 101 day ten… Happy …..Diwali….
Tell us about your favourite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.
A Country of approximately more than a billion, India is a cultural hotpot. A veritable potpourri made up of a variety of languages, festivals, religions, traditions, beliefs and celebrations. From climatic conditions to landscape to the flora and fauna everything differs from one end of the Country to the other. So as you can well imagine special cuisines and foods vary vastly too from one part of the Country to the other.
Having grown up in one of the larger metros of the Country we took to all the celebrations, all the varied customs, languages and the challenges of life in this metro quite naturally. One never stopped to think or question any of the beliefs or traditions. One went along, enjoyed all the good, avoided what needed to be avoided and embraced everything with an open acceptance.
Our ways and customs may seem exotic or even strange to the uninitiated but to us it was a definite way of life. It was part of being Indian. Irrespective of whether the festival actually was a celebration in your home, if it was being celebrated anywhere in your vicinity, you got involved. You partake in the celebrations, you understand the origins of the merriment, you enjoy the food and rituals associated, and you even exchange gifts if necessary. Of course there were always exceptions to the rule in every situation but very rarely would that dampen the fervour of the festivities.
Food naturally plays a very big role in all celebrations. It is an integral part of all festivals in India and every occasion has a special menu or food type associated with it.
My favourite food associated childhood reminiscence? If I am asked to name one I would have to use the broad heading ‘Diwali sweets’.
This festival of lights, has to be the best time of the year I think. A celebration of good over evil, the nearly week long autumn celebration of Diwali is a festival that any Indian is hard pressed to avoid. Houses are lit up, colorful lanterns are displayed, gifts are exchanged, everyone takes an effort to wear their best, people mingle, perfect strangers are greeted, homemade sweets are bartered with the neighbours for their homemade treats.
My own house would be a beehive of activity in the days leading up to this festival. Every corner of the house would be cleaned to begin with. Cosmetic enhancements to the house if any required would be done during this time. My mother each afternoon would begin preparing various sweets and special snacks in the days leading up to Diwali. As a child these days were my favourite.
First, because it would mean a break from our usual rigorous routine. Second because we knew that the term break was round the corner too then.
Getting home from school to the sight of my Mother standing over the range, either deep frying some divine crispy salty/spicy snack or rolling out dough for a sweetened delight is an unforgettable memory. I would love to volunteer to help out not for any altruistic reason other than getting the first taste of the finished product.
For days after Diwali was officially over left over sweets, broken rejected pieces of fried snacks would be savoured. Laddoos (a ball shaped sweet), Chakalis (a savoury crunchy twist) and Barfis ( a sweet made of condensed milk and sugar)…these are a few of my favourite things 🙂 .
So while I could continue to narrate and try to depict to you the joys of this particular festival, I shall try to keep my rambling succinct!
Although I have not named one particular food as my most nostalgic, I take liberty to include all foods Diwali as my most happy nostalgia. The entire process from preparation to distribution to the actual consumption…..loved it all. The total celebration of the festival, the new clothes, indulging in fireworks, beautiful lights, meeting people and the overall bonhomie of the entire week….my favourite time of the year undoubtedly.
To this day I always look forward to that time of the year. Today I take a stab at home made sweets and special treats, today I attempt to build similar nostalgic memories for my family.