“Hurry up”, Jayu said to her older brother Shrikant.
They were running late; it was 10 am. All the other kids had already gathered in their backyard to start their favourite Diwali activity. Shrikant finally found the large box that he was looking for, tucked at the back of the small attic. He lifted the box with both hands and passed it down to Jayu, before carefully jumping down the attic. They rushed to the backyard with the box. Many of their friends were waiting for them there. As soon as they saw the box in Shrikant’s hands, they gathered around to see what was inside.
Inside, there were figurines of animals like deer, lion, crocodile, and others. Also, there were models of trees, shrubs and flowers and those of a royal family – a king, a queen and and a princess. The kids had brought thesespecial festive attractions from the local bazaar.
There were more such toys. The other kids had brought soldiers. – figures of ‘Mavle’ the fighters from Shivaji’s army. Some had brought small swords and shields, horses and elephants. A figure of Shivaji on horseback also graced their collection
“Let’s start!” Rohan shouted at everyone. They formed a big circle, in the middle of which they made a rectangular level clearing, to build the fort.The fortress-making began with great gusto. They gathered soil and stone. They knew from experience that the fortress would not be built in one day.
This activity went on till noon. When the sun got unbearable, the kids decided to retreat to their houses. Later that afternoon, the mothers in the neighbourhood summoned the kids seeking their help with making the Diwali faral (snacks). Kids, especially the girls, helped make Karanji and Chirote, the traditional Maharashtrian sweets. The children dutifully made the sweets, only to go out and play in the evening.
Thus were spent the days of the Diwali holidays, in activities that are now-forgotten. The firecrackers the children got, were limited. But the experience of the Diwali festival was more than bursting crackers and buying new clothes. There were colourful, paper-cardboard lanterns to be made with the help of friends. Rangoli’s to be drawn for hours in the verandah of the house. Some afternoons were spent playing cards or board-games at a friend’s place.
There were no digital distractions to replace the bonhomie and bonding with friends and family. This was Diwali, Circa 1970…