So Diwali has been over for a while now but so much happened I’ve only got round to documenting it now! They’ve been other small festival days since – to be honest I’m not sure how Indian people keep up – in fact, I’m not sure they all do, Manju regularly checks the papers to see what she should be doing festival wise – but personally I think Diwali has to be my all time favourite. There’s a constant excuse to make loads of noise, set something on fire and eat til you’re ready to explode. And there I was thinking I’d lose weight in India!
So let me tell you all about my wonderful Diwali. Will and I were especially blessed to be invited to three different celebrations, which was so heartwarming. Diwali, festival of lights, is the traditional Hindu festival welcoming home of Rama with candles and lights after 14 years of exile. When Diwali first began in Jodhpur, I have to admit, I wasn’t sure whether to be enthused or not. My already dubious air-conditioning was unplugged in favour of the fairy lights for outside, a main part of the celebration seemed to be setting off firecrackers at all hours of the day and night outside my window– giving Jodhpur a distinctly civil war feel – and it was not uncommon to see a rocket go up only to swerve accidentally and land in a cluster of houses. Fun, definitely. Safe? English health and safety institutions would positively faint. Surely however, this only makes it more fun. The risk of imminent maiming and death means you HAVE to enjoy every moment, right? Plus, you can’t survive Diwali without having a sense of humour. Happiness all round!
Celebrations began at Achal Niwas, where Manju kindly put me in one of her Rajput dresses. A bit oddly for an Englishwoman, lots of Indian women still dress according to their caste. Manju is Rajput (warrior/royal caste) and hence wears Rajput dresses rather than a saree… you’ll see lots of the Indian women wear their sarees differently according to caste also. Manju loves my skinny jeans, and often laments that she can’t wear them because of her caste! I’m pretty sure that in many places no-one would care, but in Jodhpur at least the Rajput dress is basically like her uniform! There’s also other rules – sarees are for married women, salwar kameez for singles apparently – but I’m super relieved to find out there is such a thing as a ‘ready-made’ saree, there’s hope for clueless white women like me yet! I’ll be purchasing one shortly… 🙂
The main event at Achal Niwas was us making prayers for Diwali. This was prescribed a set time (once again given by the paper, to the minute precisely!). I really enjoyed this and I’d like to imagine it was the first time the sign of the cross had been made during Diwali prayers with Manju! Manju said we should all pray to our own gods, because essentially ‘gods all same same – no?’. I like this attitude. The first 10 minutes of praying seemed to be devoted to squabbling over the final touches of the offered thali however, as everything had to be just right! It was really lovely though. The ‘Diwali’ set Ramsingh had purchased even included hymns in Hindi along with lots of sweeties and candles, so Manju and Bhanu sang along whilst Ramsingh seemed to nod and say the occasional word at randomly chosen moments. We all then made our wishes for life and the coming year and a feeling of hope seemed to fill the whole room, only intensified by the new friendships forged in the last few months. As Manju correctly pointed out, ‘Last year we were a family of 3, now we are 5’. I couldn’t help but smile!
After Achal Niwas we headed out of town to meet Amit and his family, as well as going to our friend Sanjay’s house for dinner. Will got changed into kurta pyjama and I swapped my Rajput dress for my Salwar Kameez – much comfier! Will and I thought we would take fireworks to Sanjays as a gift, but we needn’t have bothered! We walked in to find a whole room covered in fireworks! Such was the extent of the firework purchasing, that Will and I went to Sanjays on Saturday and were still setting off leftover fireworks, with more to spare! The Catherine wheels that spin round on the ground were my favourite, although firecrackers seem to be the go-to explosive! Health and safety here is basically non existent. Sanjay’s wife, Surbhi, is an amazing cook. We had the best pakora ever and Will and I got so carried away with the starters our eyes literally almost popped out of our heads when we told there would be a main! The best part of Sanjay’s though had to be the company. I had probably the best night I’ve had in India so far that evening, with some of the best friends I think I’ve made during my time in Jodhpur :D. This made me very happy indeed!!
Even after a day or so after the official Diwali I sat on the roof of Shivam Guest House (they do the best pizzas) and watched the whole city let off fireworks continuously. It literally never stops. So much so in fact, that the air became thick with smoke and the smell of gunpowder, to the point where only one star in the sky was visible. Imagine Bonfire Night on steroids and you might get an idea of the magnificent chaos constantly going on! Will and I were even witness to a firework going straight into a neighbouring building, much to the shock of the guests sat having food on the rooftop! As exciting as that was, I thought it might be best if we take our food inside for the rest of Diwali….