The other day I paid a customary visit to the grandma of a close friend residing abroad. The sprightly 82-year-old Dinazmai (who lived, and thankfully got along, with her long-time house-help Shobha) opened the door with a non-customary scowl on her face. Not that it would have mattered had I not inquired about her not-so-chirpy mood, she ranted, “Already there is so much fog in aapru Bombay! Now Diwali ma double awaaj ne dhumaaro karse!”
She parked herself back into her favourite teak-wood-ni-rocking chair, pulling Shobha’s 5-year-old son, who she lovingly called Baku, onto her lap, and started rocking back and forth. I tried pacifying her, “People are more sensitive now – there will be lesser sound and noise pollution this time.”
“Arre nai re nai! People are more senseless now than ever!” she insisted, flicking Baku’s hair side to side while pulling his chubby cheeks and feeding him Shrewsbury biscuit freshly procured from Pune’s Kyani Bakery. “Maathu dukhaan! Last time also, my migraine and affan (asthma) were playing chor-police in my head for nearly a week! Do you know what it feels like having a throbbing headache while choking for breath?”
Every time I hear about the crazy gender-identity-and-pronoun madness that has gripped the West – I nearly told her. But I bit my tongue, because I knew, that as per Dinazmai, the solution to every global crisis ended with the Brits taking over the world again.
“But the world celebrates Diwali, Dinazmai!” I said. “Us Parsis also love celebrating all festivals – it’s so much fun!”
“Arre! What fun? What fun?? Diwali ma bichara lok bari jai, Holi ma andhra thai jai, ne pela Ganpati Bappa Morya na festival ma putla ne dubaavta-dubaavta potte dubi jai! Aevu fun? That’s fun??” she yelled, even as she stuffed Baku’s mouth, this time with batasa, that her neighbour had brought her from Udvada.
Even as I was trying to word a response to placate her, little Baku decided he’d had enough of Pune’s Shrewsbury and Udwada’s bataasas for the day. Jumping off her lap, he whispered something in her ears, smiling coyly. Dinazmai stared at Baku with her famous deadpan look for a minute, then broke into her adorable, semi-toothless smile, got a hold of her walking-stick, and started walking towards her newly painted Godrej ni cupboard. Opening only the right side of the door, she pulled out her fifty-year-old fish-shaped, plastic red pouch from the upper shelf, brought out two crisp Rs. 200/- notes and gave it to Baku. He hugged her tight for a few brief seconds, grabbed the notes and ran out.
She doddered back into her favourite easy chair, gently rocking it. “Poor kid wants to celebrate Diwali but has no money for his favourite crackers. How expensive these chakris and rockets have become!!” Ignoring my smile, she went on to speak about other lesser exciting topics… about why Parsi girls won’t marry Parsi boys anymore and how anyone harming street-dogs should be charged with first-degree man-slaughter.
I left after an hour, with the best grasp ever of what it is to simply love people – beyond it all – culture, race, religion, beliefs, age or preferences. It’s heart-warming to see the enthusiasm with which Parsis partake in virtually every Indian festival’s joy and revelry. Truth is, we celebrate the people more than the festival – we sweetened the milk indeed… laying our rightful claim to all those amazing Diwali mithaais!
Have a Safe, Sweet and Happy Diwali!