Mumbai Calling! – Press 8 for Festivities!
दिवाली की शुभकामनाएं
The office was decorated, with a certain buzz and excitement to it, not dissimilar to Christmas, it’s the beginning of November as I continued to work in India, and this weekend was special! It happened to be the Hindi festival of Diwali.
This turned out to be an amazing experience, you can see everyone pulling together in unison to decorate the offices, shops and streets! Market traders appeared at the roadsides with makeshift stalls selling everything from Fireworks, clothing, clay pots and sweets (gee)! The celebration in the Maharashtra district was to last for five days.
The key difference I’ve experienced is that back home, marketing and advertising start way too early for our Christmas celebrations, and usual coincide with kids going back to school in August, so by the time we get to Christmas Day we’ve all had enough! In India, it didn’t appear to be the masses of advertising and shops plugging the event until a couple of weeks beforehand, and just as quickly, the event was over, everyone returned to normal. I felt that kept the spirit of the event alive.
If I thought the city was full of shoppers before, the city’s shopping centre was very crowded after Puja, the women wearing their best Saree’s and the men their best Sherwani. It looks to be an amazing (if not time consuming) amount of needlework that created these spectacular clothes, due to the volume of sequins, gold thread and jewellery sewn into them. I wanted to take photographs at the time, however as my team wasn’t with me, I didn’t wish to run the risk of offending anyone!
During that weekend, I had the privilege of receiving an invite to a member of my team’s home for Diwali. I realised this was an honour, as this is their family time, I accepted, and then… in a blind panic spoke to reception at the hotel to find out what a suitable gift would be to bring to my hosts home. Turns out, that sweets is a common gift and so I made a trip to Chitley’s (or Chickley’s as I incorrectly pronounced it) to purchase some Mango Burfi and other sweets made with Gee (Condensed Milk).
When I arrived at their home, the door was open with candles and lights burning, and my host had created Rangoli patterns entering in to their home, the picture featured above is one of my hosts creations. This is to welcome Laxmi into their home to provide wealth and prosperity for the coming year.
I was treated to some genuine Indian home cooking (something I was really looking forward to), but at the same time since arriving in India I’d also had a very Jippy stomach, I don’t think it was something I ate, it was the Anti-Malarial tablets I was taking, the feeling of nausea increased about 40 minutes to and hour after taking Malarone. That said, I never mentioned this to my hosts, as I knew they were probably worried about giving me spicy food.
Back home, I generally associate spicy food with heat, i.e. Chilli laden, but the meal they created was absolutely first class! Spicy, yes, but in a really tasty way, and without the mouth searing heat to go with it. What I didn’t realise was the quantity of food they’d prepared, and whilst I was busily munching through what I thought was the main course, turned out there was still more to come! I’m not used to eating such huge quantities of food, so I’m hoping I didn’t offend them. Unfortunately at the time of writing I can not remember the names of the dishes, and so will update my entry when I have them.
At some point in the evening, my hosts and their friends went out side to play “Crackers”, or fireworks as we call them. The difference is that here, we’re taught to light a firework at arms length and run faster than Usain Bolt away from the firework whilst we watch them explode in a colourful display. Nope! not in India. The fireworks were lit with Sparklers, and I was worried their Saree’s would catch fire, and we stood very close to the fireworks. (Nerve Wracking!)… Where we would use Catherine Wheels, they’d be nailed to a post before being let loose, here in India, they are lit on the ground and the trick is to avoid being sprayed.
As for Crackers, or Bangers as we call them, I swear some of these must have been munitions, as you could feel the force of the explosion push you back.
That said, I had a very enjoyable evening, experiencing fantastic company, superb food (much better than any restaurant back home) and a great time.
These are pictures of other Rangoli patterns I took during Diwali.
Rangoli Outside Furtados Restuarant