Mumbai ki Diwali
I was in Delhi last week and was surprised when someone told me that Diwali started in Delhi more than a month ago. I scratched my head to figure that one out. Were we looking at the same calendar? Had I missed something? My Delhi friend clarified with a laugh. “All I meant was that the famous taash parties started a month ago.” That was funny. For most Dilliwallas, Diwali only means cards. And parties are carefully structured around gambling tables. Everything else is incidental. As the same host put it, so long as there is enough daaru, nobody cares. The stakes in Delhi are always high – metaphorically and literally! The Festival of Lights is now officially known as the Festival of Cards. Mumbai has its taash fanatics as well, but they are nowhere as hardcore as their counterparts in the Capital. In fact, this year in Mumbai has been mercifully brighter but not noisier, thanks to stepped up vigilance that has inhibited those over enthusiastic phatakawalas from lighting ear shattering pre-dawn bombs loud enough to wake the dead. Mumbai is at its prettiest during Diwali, and it’s a treat to drive around streets that are ablaze with diyas and kandeels. I went to Girgaum as usual for my Diwali shopping and was distraught on discovering a few significant changes in an otherwise lively locality. Two of my all-time favourite stores had changed hands. The laddoos simply did not taste the same. And the fragrant oils I used to buy from an old ittar shop, are not available any more. But the old gajrawalli is still there, even if her beautiful shevanti gajras are now priced at thirty rupees. It’s really quite incredible how Mumbai miraculously gets it all together for a few short days, and every person participates joyfully in celebrating Diwali - India’s answer to X’Mas.Let’s hope this spirit of bonhomie and good will spills over to the days ahead, which may be rocky, given the rapidly changing political equations. What is still more amazing is the quantum of money floating around , despite spiraling costs and absurd prices of everything - from diesel to diamonds. Did anybody foolishly mention inflation?
Bollywood is at its glittering and most glamourous best during Diwali. As always, Sunita Kapoor’s Diwali tofaa was declared the uncontested winner by all those fortunate enough to receive it. I still have the spectacular candles she sent two years ago. And her gigantic, hollowed out wooden ‘Books’ this year are equally impressive. To make a Diwali statement year after year, requires not just an abundance of resources but an equal amount of good taste, imagination and an artistic vision. Anil is one lucky man! And so are those of us who enjoy their generosity year after year.
I’d say one of the most fun evenings during this festive period was meticulously structured by ‘The Boys’ ( Abu-Sandeep) for ‘The Girls’. What a novel idea! And how supremely well done! Mumbai and Delhi…. a tale of two cities that couldn’t be more different. The contrasts become even more glaring during Diwali. Discretion over vulgarity. Taste over excess. But ….hey – who cares? Diwali hai! Maja karo!