A Bittersweet Goan Diwali

I’m really not in the mood for writing. Crabby & exhausted – mentally & physically from 3 days of celebrations. No, definitely not in the mood for writing, which is why I need to write. Unending rituals, entertaining guests, constant eating, firecrackers, the rush to get stuff organized and then the worst part of all festivities, clearing up after…all fun in short bursts…but exhausting collectively. Also, it has finally sunk in…Diwali will never again be the same. The vacuum left by my brother’s loss will never be filled, and so an undercurrent of sadness runs through the festivities and my heart. I thought I could deal, but the tears come unexpectedly, triggered by seemingly random events, thoughts and things people say or leave unsaid. Sunday was especially difficult…it was ‘Bhaubiz’, a day that celebrates the ‘brother-sister’ bond. Lets just say it’s no longer on my favorite festival list.

Alright…enough. I didn’t intend for a festival post to be morose, and it’s not like we didn’t enjoy, so on to the happier things…Thursday night, the night before Diwali, we set out to survey the ‘Narkasurs’ on display. ‘Narkasur’ is the name of the demon that Lord Krishna killed on the eve of Diwali. He had hidden himself in a fruit that Krishna crushed with his big toe!! Talk about easy 😉 In Goa, it’s customary to make effigies of the demon and burn them early on Diwali morning (4 am), a sort of Indian Guy Fawkes. This year the unseasonal rain put a damper on the event though…the effigies are stuffed with firecrackers and those were wet and ineffective when the time came to light them. Still, we took Ishaan and did the rounds and though he enjoyed himself, he is now going through a ‘I’m scared’ phase! Anything new scares him, from a peacock feather to a demon 😉 Here are a few effigies we saw…rarely scary and often downright hilarious!!

Don't miss the Demon six-pack 😉


Deadly fangs & a serpent!
No neck Demons!
This guy just made me laugh out loud 😀

We spent Diwali morning @ my brother-in-law’s place. We ate different kinds of ‘puffed-rice‘ dishes (another Goan custom based on the assumption that Lord Krishna loved ‘puffed-rice’! Why couldn’t he have loved chicken?), before which my sister-in-law did a little puja for her hubby and daughter, my hubby and Ishaan, who of course was the star of the show. He’s older now and impatiently interested in everything that’s done, which makes him accident-prone and me temper-prone (that’s not even a word, I know!). After the puja was done, we all relaxed and Ishaan got to his favorite activity – playing cricket 🙂 That evening we worshiped the Goddess of Wealth, Laxmi. We had a small puja in Dad’s shop (he sells auto spare parts), as did the rest of the shops in the neighborhood. More rituals, more crackers, more ‘prasad’ (sweets) to eat! Later we had guests and by the time the last one left, it was after 9 and we were all pooped! Granny and Mom had been up and on their feet since 5 am, cooking and getting stuff organized for the puja. None of us was particularly hungry and hubby in fact had a bad tummy upset. We turned in early and were dead to the world as soon as head hit pillow! Saturday was relatively quiet and I took the opportunity to visit my favorite bookstore and get our next Bookclub selection – Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia, among others. It was welcome relief from all the madness at home, what with sick hubby and whiny Ishaan. In the evening I went out again to another favorite – Fab India, for some last-minute shopping.

Searching for his reflection in vermilion water, symbolizing Demon blood.
Are we done yet?

Sunday was Bhaubeez, as I mentioned earlier and hubby’s brother’s family come over. A difficult day for me. My niece did a little puja for Ishaan and they exchanged gifts. I’d got her a neat pair of silver earrings from Fab that she loved 🙂 Then we were off to Goenchin for lunch. Let’s just say Lunch didn’t turn out the way I had planned. Oh it wasn’t the food, which was wonderful as it always is in Goenchin; nor the company. No, it was Ishaan, who had a tummy upset and lets just say I barely got to sample some stone cold starters and a bite of the main course between trips to the loo. I didn’t handle the situation maturely (a polite way of saying I lost my cool and my displeasure evident), and my already frayed nerves reached dangerously near breaking point. Everyone else seemed really cool and calm, which just served to piss me off further…yeah, what can I say…I was just having a really, really bad day. I survived. We all did and back home again, were able to relax. Ishaan of course was quickly back to normal, being his charming entertaining self, making everyone laugh, once again showing off his cricket skills 🙂 The resilience of children impresses me yet again. How I wish I could bounce back like he does. Or perhaps it’s his innocence I yearn for.

The 'brother-sister' bond 🙂

Sunday evening we visited my best friend Beena’s parents and looked through her brother Vinod’s wedding album and video. The album is a book…very well done with gorgeous pictures of the couple among family and friends. We’re in it too 🙂  and it was wonderful reliving that happy time. And then Aunty brought out Beena’s wedding pictures from 18 years ago and we relived a fresh set of memories, from a time when we were all so much younger, innocent and ready to take on the world, unaware and as yet untouched by major tragedy. Good times, happy times 🙂

And so ended another Diwali. Bittersweet and rather forlorn for me on a personal level. But Ishaan had fun, especially with the crackers and for that I am thankful. Next year, I’m thinking of an out-of-town Diwali…might help with the bitters…we’ll see.

Until then…Stay Happy People!

p.s. There was no getting away from President Obama this Diwali! Local media went overboard with their coverage of his visit! Surprisingly International media didn’t seem to think the visit too important…other than a mention here and there, I rarely caught a glimpse on CNN or BBC!! Wonder why?!

p.p.s. This post has taken me two days to write…sigh. Ishaan is becoming increasingly clingy and it’s tough to get even a few minutes of uninterrupted time 😦 Oh Pushpa…where art thou?

9 thoughts on “A Bittersweet Goan Diwali

  1. I liked and share your wonder why Krishn (I prefer to delete the a after Krishn; this way it looks a bit mysterious) should not like KFC Or the big Mac??
    Besides that I, too, remember my first Diwali (6 yrs), ie, slaying of Narkasur by a man ‘hiding’ behind Krishna (that was a bit of a disappointment). The music was supplied by Bharati (6 Yrs) crying inconsolably and My father and Sindhutai trying to do the impossible. I was wondering why she was crying and still do not have the answer. Recently, it appeared she remembers it,too. However, I did not question her as one does not ask personal questions in front of lot of peple.

    1. True Kali bhai! He could have liked fried prawns or chicken cafreal too 🙂

      That is an interesting story. My exposure to Narkasurs happened only after I came to live in Goa. We cousins used to go watch the competition in Panjim and then go listen to some tin-pot band play the latest Bollywood hits – badly 😛 We always had a blast! I guess children cry for unknown reasons…I know Ishaan does 😉

  2. I’m so sorry, Harsha. Holidays have a way of amplifying our losses, especially when those losses are new. I’m sorry you felt that sting this Diwali. Your brother must have been an incredible person.

    Here’s hoping you find solace to help you through your loss. Hang in there. I’m sending many hugs to you from the United States!

    (And as always, you’re Ishaan is just so beautiful!)

    1. Thank you Maura. This is the second Diwali after he passed and I thought I had it under control. Harder than I imagined. Thank God for Ishaan…without him and friends like you, I would have been lost in the wilderness.

      Hugs, Harsha.

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