Cracker of a festival

The beauty of Deepavali as a festival is that it uniquely unites both those above the Vindhyas and those below it. NO, wait. They celebrate it for one reason and we for totally another. Also, as far as I know, the South celebrates Deepavali on Deepavali day, whereas the Northies begin to celebrate Deepavali — quite naturally —- after Deepavali is technically over.

OK, we will now give this one more try: The beauty of Deepavali as a festival is that it uniquely unites both those above the Vindhyas and those below by allowing the two to remain disunited.

At this point, I must also point out the difference in the Deepavali of the 80s and that of now. Today Deepavali is celebrated because it is a festival. But back then we celebrated Deepavali because it was a festival that had, at its core, crackers and fireworks.

Crackers were a huge attraction with us boys because they produced plenty of sound and smoke. Youth of today may have no need for them, because they have their heavy metal music shows. Crackers also performed the supplementary task that boys are eternally fond of: Scare the street dog and make it flee frantically in search of safe corners.

The subject of dogs is a good one to establish to the world as to why the twain of boys and girls, despite all talk of increasing parity, can never really meet.

Standard reaction upon seeing a mongrel in the street:

Girl: (In a mushy voice) “How cute and chhweeeet”.

Boy: *Looks for a cracker to tie to its tail*.

Anyway, the preferred crackers then were Kuruvi vedi and Lakshmi vedi. There was a major difference between the two; the first went: pataar while the second, as a variation, thrillingly went: PATAAR. And, of course, there was a third, the dreaded ‘atom bomb’,  which was very popular. Because it produced more sound? No it made bigger dent on the road.

One of the rites of passage of Deepavali celebration was for the colony boys to keep exploding the ‘atom bombs’ at the same spot on the road so that by the end of the season it sported a massive hole. (Some of these craters, as a matter of fact, are still maintained in their original condition by the Roadways Department (Heritage Wing) in most cities in these parts).

Before all of you think that ours was just decibel Deepavali, I must bring up the ‘train’, which was neither a firework nor a cracker. It was the Manmohan Singh of the cracker family — soundless and useless.

You needed a long string, usually tied between two poles, to ply the train. ‘Zzrrrrrrrrr,’ it went in one direction. And in the return direction it went: ‘Zzrrrrrrrrrr’.  Sometimes it wouldn’t do even that. On such occasions, we guys ran the thing manually with our hands also provided the backup vocal ‘Zzzrrrrrrr’ in our own voice. So what was the charm here? What gave us the kick?

They were fun because the string on which it streaked generally gave way half way through, and the newly liberated train usually, and unerringly, went for the next-door uncle. Seeing him scamper with a fuming train hot on his heels was a sight we relished because there was also a possibility that he might trip on his dhothi and go sprawling on the ground. On such happy days, we generally spared the neighbourhood dog.

And then there were the ‘rockets’. They were popular because they involved the use of bottles, which is another object that never ceases to be attractive for people falling under the gender: Male.

For a scientific understanding of how the rockets of our times functioned, here is a technical chart:

1)      This is what you did: You lit the rocket’s fuse

2)       This is what it did: It went up in the general direction of the sky.

No fireworks. No blast. No nothing. But yes, you are right, years later, they designed Chandrayan right out of this prototype.

On the ground, we also enjoyed what was generally known in Tamil as Paambu Mathappu; they were pint-sized tablets that threw up the most murky and dark smoke that is technically possible outside of an actual inferno. When it was lit, reams and reams of black a tube-like thing emerged out of the tablet that we had to assume to be a snake. In actuality, it looked exactly like it would if some swarthy gremlin was taking a dump from below.

Let us face it, we guys who had our formative years in the 80s had more fun out of Deepavali because we knew how to enjoy, by which I mean, we didn’t mind being irresponsible and careless.

But today, you young fellows cannot burst crackers on the road because it will impede the traffic. You cannot burst them on the terrace, because it will be unsafe for the building. You cannot burst them within the compound because it will be too close to the parked vehicles. At this rate, the only place where you can possibly enjoy the Deepavali with all those crackers is the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

Which is kind of apt. For, a cricket stadium is the only place where those from North and South of the Vindhyas seem united.

So Happy Deepavali and all that. And may this season see a lot of fireworks from, especially from Tendulkar.