A Happy Diwali to All My Friends !

To my Countrymen in general and Hindu brothers and sisters in particular :
“A festival full of sweet childhood memories,
sky full of fireworks,diwali-img
mouth full of sweets,
house full of diyas and heart full of joy.
Wishing you all a very happy Diwali!”
My parents never told us that Diwali was a Hindu festival. My maternal grandfather would take us to town bazaar where we buy ‘QANDEELS’ the scintillating colored lamps, “Kheelen” the rice puffs and “Khand Ke Khilone’- the Candy molded toys. Qandeels would decorate the central places, between the arched pillars of our house, and gave a romantic exotic look that appeared mysterious also. Few senior villagers who had survived the ZAMINDARI ABOLITION of 1952, and were nostalgic and compassionate enough to remember their Ex-Zamindar would bring the handmade sweets to our haveli. My father would welcome them with open arms, a warm embrace and a plate full of local sweets. Tea was not popular in those days. My mother would prepare a jaggery-milk concoction with a touch of saffron for the special guests. She would send in ‘MARDANA’, the hall for males, silver goblets, filled up to brim and perched precariously on a fancy tray. The Diwali guests were given the family status and all our siblings would come out to offer our respect and greetings to our Chowdhry Tayajis one by one. It was the payback of hospitality and courtesy to those who had come all the way from the villages to recall the good or bad times when Zamindar was next to the king.
As I cherish memories of my childhood, Diwali occupies an important space upon that canvass. Diwali was one of the most joyous times of the year. I can still vividly recall our old haveli bathing in fluctuating lights of the traditional tiny oil lamps. The small earthen cups were positioned on windowsills and paths leading to house. Electricity was a luxury and few could have boasted that privilege. Our parents kept reminding us to be careful as we ran to avoid catching fire. We were conservative Muslims but we loved to celebrate ‘Raksha Bandhan’ and ‘Diwali.’ These were our festivals.
Other exciting aspect of Diwali for us was the fireworks. These came in a great variety – sparklers, Catherine wheels, Roman candles, rockets, firecrackers, etc. There were restriction set that forbade us to enjoy loud crackers and heavy rockets. We would crackle the Khand toys rice puff all through the day and visit the decorated, glittering noisy bazaars in night with our father to enjoy the razzle dazzle. In the main market, the sweet shops used to offer infinite varieties of Indian sweets – laddoo, halva, burfi, rasmalai, jalebi, etc. Our Hindu friends would exchange sweets and often trendy clothes with the neighbours, friends and extended families.
Uncle Mathur would remind us that the day was the celebration of Return of the Raja Ram and his brothers after exile.
With the razing down of the Babri Masjid and death of the father, these celebrations have become the memories of past. Speeches of myopic politicians and torch bearers of divisions in society and their likes have extinguished those flames of love, excitement and respect for the common heritage. Decades after independence, the miasma failed to rekindle the spirit that my family had kept alive for generations. Still, I hope and pray the return of those good old days. Again I wish all – A Very Happy Diwali.

Naim Naqvi

Did his graduation in Science discipline from AMU in 1972-73. He was Secretary of University Ali Society in 1970 and M.M. Hall Literary Society in early 70 's and member of Tayyabji Literary Society. Did his Diploma in Bakery Administration from HTT College Oxford Street London in 1987. Worked with National Herald - Delhi, Blitz - Bombay as Trainee Journalist and in Production Department with 'Naya Sansar Pictures' of Khwaja Ahmed Abbas at Bombay in early 70's. Traveled for study and training purposes to Germany, U.K., Switzerland, France, Dubai, Oman, AbuDhabi, Bahrain and Philepines.

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