Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saturday 21st – Sunday 22nd October, 2006 – Diwali weekend

I’m sitting on the balcony of the 14th floor apartment where I’m staying with Mrs. Sanyal, and looking out at all the lights people have strung on their buildings in celebration of Diwali, the festival of lights. I am yet to ask what it means. No, let me modify that. I asked this lovely lady at the Airtel phone store what it means, and her explanation was that it was the start of a new business year for most (or all) businesses. Thus, in celebration of this day, all shops and businesses would decorate their premises with lights and religious articles. I think there might be another explanation for it, so I’m waiting to ask Mrs. Sanyal, who is a storehouse of knowledge, seeing that she’s eighty-three years old and counting. Many people started celebrating the Diwali early, throwing firecrackers during the day and the night since last week. I was startled a number of times at the office when I heard loud, cracking (AND booming) noises in the middle of the day. It was later that someone explained to me that people had started celebrating Diwali early.

Chandrana, the mental health consultant at Swayam, asked me what I was doing for Diwali. When I told her I had no plans, she said she would check with her family and see if they were okay with her bringing a guest. She called me on Saturday morning to say that it was fine, that she would come for me at 5pm. I spent most of the day sleeping and then knitting. I had purchased a red and black Salwar Kameez outfit at New market a week ago, so I ironed that and wore that for my visit with Chandrana and her family. They were very lovely.

She came to pick me up with her parents-in-law. We drove through the town to Chandrana and her husband’s apartment, where the mother-in-law got down with us. We went upstairs and had some tea and sweets. I met Chandrana’s husband then, and also looked through their wedding pictures. The mother-in-law was very funny and sweet, and when I told her I liked the food and the outfits, she said she would find me an Indian man to marry. LOL! I told her I was already married, and that also from what I hear, Indian men rarely marry other women who are not Indian. She laughed it off and jokingly said if men married more than one woman, I could also marry more than one man. That woman was a trip! Later on Chandrana and her husband lit some oil lamps, and then we left for her parents’ house. There I met Chandrana’s father, a charming old man who said he had adopted me as his daughter, and I also met her mother, who was ill and was not very talkative while we were there. She has to have round the clock care, so she had a day nurse and a night nurse. While we were visiting the night nurse came in, all dressed up in a very beautiful saree. I took a picture of her.

I then went downstairs with Chandrana, her husband, and two younger girls from the house, to throw firecrackers. It was a lot of fun, and I took a lot of pictures and videos. My favorite was this cracker called “The Butterfly”. When lit, the cracker moves around rapidly, almost looking like a butterfly or moth in flight, and it also changes color. Sometimes it even seems to be following the person who lighted it. Chandrana’s husband lighted one which jumped three stories high!! We later had dinner with chicken patties, salad, and a type of bread that I’ve forgotten the name of. It was a great evening, and I returned feeling both happy and sad.

On Sunday I stayed at home, and then later on when to the internet café for a while. I went to Café Coffee Day, a new hangout place for the youth of Kolkata if they need some coffee and a light snack. I bought a chicken tikka sandwich, which was pretty good, and had it with an iced fruit drink. Pretty okay. I came back home, did a little bit of reading and went to bed. Happy Diwali!

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