With Diwali celebration over and everyone back to their routine life, I can safely write my very banal and commonplace observations about the new dimension to Diwali celebrations in the recent times. This new dimension added to the simple and rustic way of celebrating Diwali has given it a new face which I find not very appealing. Perhaps I am an old fashioned person and advancing age has made me more of a censorious person than I used to be, once upon a time. Lets start with the sweets that are distributed on this festival of lights. In our days, that is in late sixties, when I was around 10-12 years old and capable of forming my independent opinion about Diwali celebration, it was very different. Nathu Halwai of the Lower Bazaar Shimla, a very famous sweet shop on the west end of the Lower bazaar catered to most of the people of Shimla when it came to purchasing sweets. The other famous sweet shop was Mehru Halwai at the east end of the lower Bazaar. It seemed as if by mutual cooperation both the sweet shops had an agreement to supply sweets to people of Shimla based on the geographical location of the buyers. As I don’t find any other convincing justification for the location of both the shops at two very strategic ends of the Lower Bazaar. Every family in our neighborhood would bring sweets from Nathu Halwai as nothing less would ever be acceptable to anyone. it seemed sacrilegious to bring and distribute sweets bought from any other sweet shop, though special Karachi Halwa from a shop ( sorry I am not able to recollect the name) near Sabji Mandi was specially acquired! And in the evening when we had offered sweets to Maa Lakshami, Maa would put some Kheel, Patasas and sugar Khilonas along with some pieces of sweets in a thali which would be covered demurely with a white crochet rumaal. Some akhrots and badaams would also, very proudly, accompany the sweets of Nathu Halwai in that thali. It would be a job assigned to us, the children, to gift this thali to all houses in the neighborhood and to bring back the thali. The receiver would empty the contents of the thali but always keeping something in the thali and return it to us. All households would do the same. And late in the evening each house would have variety of sweets along with all that they had initially bought from Nathu Halwai! Such variety in mouth watering colours and shapes!
These days people buy different kinds of sweets. One which they HAVE to gift to their big boss. This gift pack has to be unique as your annual confidential report, plum assignments coming your way and promotions etc. etc. all would depend upon the kind of Diwali gift that you present your Boss with! The bigger, oops, the costlier the better seems to be the reigning Mantra. And the worst part is that you never aspire for a return gift in the form of sweets from your Boss. It is one-way-entry zone! But it surely brings prosperity to you as you have pleased the big Boss!
The second type of sweet packs are meant to be bought for the people living in your neighborhood. You know that you’ll get back what you gift on the Diwali day. Smart as the people are, they buy only few sweet packs and then wait for the neighbors to come with the sweet packs. And very cleverly gift the sweet pack gifted by A to B and the gift pack gifted by B to C! I find it so funny as all they have to do on Diwali evening is to keep track of who had brought which gift pack! I am sure that you learn os many business tricks by dealing in this exchange offer that throughout the year you remain vigilant in give and take situations and bring prosperity to you and your family. A good bargain!
The third type of Diwali gifts concern the left-overs. After the doors are securely closed, people peep into whatever gift packs are still left with you. You open it very cleverly, peep inside and evaluate the kind of sweets it has. if it is of some reasonably good quality, it goes to your big fridge compartment so that you may offer it later to s guests who come visiting you, if not eat it yourself, and earn accolade for being a good host. And if the sweet packs are not of good quality, you can still gift them in the morning to you maid servant, the mali and your mil-man! You earn their gratitude and good will and get rid of all that you wanted to get rid of.
I have detailed all the reasons how and why Diwali sweets are distributed these days. And it is for this reason that I don’t ever gift sweets either to my Boss, or in my neighborhood or to any of the maids! I am an anti-social element anyway! I prepare some home-made sweets and offer them to people I really care about.
I have not written about Diwali gifts which are in fact a publically sanctioned form of open bribery that exchanges hands on Diwali day! Long live Diwali tradition of exchanging gifts!