Friday, November 09, 2007

O Bhaiyas, where art thou?

Diwali often makes NRIs nostalgic. In my case, it depresses me. I start missing the festivities in India and no matter how clean my house is, how beautiful the rangoli around the house is, how nice my new clothes are, how tasty the kheer I make is, how ethnic the hand-painted diyas at my doorstep are, how pretty the henna on my hands is, I miss certain things very very much. I basically miss the festive spirit in the air, which, in spite of the public holiday, I don’t feel here.

Even though I have been scared of loud firecrackers when I was young, I miss the smell of the barood in the air. Even though I have always hated sweets, I miss the exchange of mithais that happened between neighbours. Even though I hate crowds, I miss the crowded lane just before the ‘gali ka ladi bum’ was lighted.

And I miss the Bhaiyas.

The Bhaiyas were a rare specimen that knocked on your door every year a few days before Diwali. They were like Halloween kids, except that they were seventeen and to my six-year-old self, very very tall, and very very cool. They were also known to all grown-ups in our neighbourhood as ‘the good-for-nothing ruffians who had never given darshan at the college gates’.

***

Flashback 1986

The doorbell rings. Mom asks me to open the door.

I look through the peephole. It's the Bhaiyas of the neighbourhood. I like them. They let me fly their kites, ride their bikes, spin their tops and field during gully cricket.

I open the door.

Bhaiya 1 - Is your Mom in?

Me - Yes. And Dad is in too.

Bhaiya2 - Oh shit!

Bhaiya3 - Okay, can you call your Dad?

Me - Dad, Bhaiya log are here!

Dad comes to the door.

B1 - Namaste, Uncle.

Dad (suspiciously) - Haan namaste namaste... what is it?

B1 - Happy Diwali, Uncle!

Dad (glares) - Diwali is next week.

B2 - Yes yes. But we have to prepare beforehand, isn't it?

Dad - Prepare for?

B1 – The celebrations, uncle!

Dad - Just exactly why are you here?

B3 - Uncle, 50 rupees...

Dad - 50 rupees?? Why?

B1 - Uncle... chanda...

Dad - Chanda??

B2 - Diwali donation, uncle!

Dad - Diwali donation?? For??

B2 (nervously) - Uncle, everyone is giving...

Dad - But why??

B3 - Uncle, ladi bum!
(I'm sorry, but there's just no other way to spell it if I want to do justice to the way they pronounced it!)

Dad - Ladi bum? What's that??

B1 (grins with delight) – Uncle, it's a firecracker. For the whole neighbourhood!

Dad - For the whole neighbourhood??

B2 - Yes, uncle! We are going to buy the 1000-rupees wala ladi bum and line it from one end of our lane to the other.

Dad (dirty look) - Huh?

B3 - And then we will light it at 10 pm. It's for everyone who lives in this lane... You can come out and watch.

Dad - Watch? Watch what? Watch you people set fire to a 1000-rupee note?

B2 (murmurs) - Ufff... Yeh banker log...

B1 - Uncle, please?

Dad continues to look at them sternly.

B2 (tries to look beyond Dad's shoulder) - Aunty, please? Samjhaiye na Uncle ko...

Mom looks at Dad helplessly.

Dad - I will give you 20 rupees. That's it.

B1 - What will we do with 20 rupees, Uncle? If everyone started giving only 20 rupees, the ladi bum won't even reach the end of the lane!

Dad (glares again) - It will reach all right. Just don't subtract your alochol money from it.

B3 - Alcohol? Uncle, what are you saying?? Alcohol and us??

Dad - I know your ways. You will use 50% of the money for your ladi-wadi bum, and I know where the rest will go.

B1, B2 and B3 look at one another in mock-horror, and then silent resignation.

B2 - But Uncle...

Dad - 20 rupees. Take it or leave it.

B1 - Okay fine, Uncle...

Dad hands 20 rupees over.

B2 - Thank you, Uncle!

B3 - Happy Diwali, Uncle, Aunty!

Dad – Theek hai, theek hai, bye.

B1 (to me) - Bye! 10 pm, okay?

Me (delighted to have been spoken to) - Bye, Bhaiya log!

"Good-for-nothing gundas..." Dad mumbles, shakes his head in disapproval and goes back to reading the paper.

***

Sometimes I wonder where all the Bhaiyas are now. I imagine some of them as pot-bellied uncles probably, trying to sweat it out in the family business. Maybe some of them really made it big. Maybe they are all are married by now, bogged down by office and family responsibilities and stolen of their infamous gunda-image. But to those who still have that spark and remember the Diwali-chanda days two decades ago, I want to extend my appreciation.

You guys were an integral part of the years I had spent in India, and my Diwali-nostalgia will always always include you.

.



21 comments:

kashika said...

GOLD!!

kashika said...

Strange, I read the whole post and still no comment. Er...but then maybe that's because everyone's so busy at Diwali and maybe this proves what a loser I am...Oh God, sorry Sayesha I was lost in my own thoughts. Anyway, Wish you a VERY HAPPY DIWALI and I know that nothing I say is going to lessen the nostalgia so I'll just keep mum on that front.
Enjoy!

Adorable Pancreas said...

Happy Diwali!

Didn't have much of one this time, though. Classes! :(

Sanket said...

SILVER!!! as 'adorable pancreas' didn't claim it ;)

First of all, Happy Diwali to you and Viv :)

Just yesterday, I was talking to my colleague in US. I asked him how is he gonna celebrate Diwali and are they allowed to burst crackers. He said that for crackers, they have to book a ground in advance and even 'diya's are not allowed outside the houses. Do what you want inside the house (taking care of the firealarm!). I hope things are better in Singapore, you at least have a public holiday.

Bivas said...

HAPPY DIWALI! :-)
The ladi's are definitely the dessert.
We are celebrating the festival at a friends place today and we got all the crackers in the morning...just the Ladi was missing when someone remembered thankfully! I hope the neighbours wudn't mind. :-)

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

BRONZE! as bivas didn't claim.
HAPPY DIWALI to everyone at sayeshaz! yes diwali makes us all nostalgic for home...

Harshi said...

It all comes to life when you speak. It was so good reading..it was as if I was right there feeling the excitement in the air! :-) Happy Diwali Sash.

Duhita said...

Happy Diwali:)

Sakshi said...

Happy Diwali.

Bit Hawk said...

Nice story of Bhaiya Logs! Loved it!!

sd said...

Happy Diwali!

Amey said...

ladi bum... took me some time to decipher. I guess the line "line it from one end of our lane to the other" did it for me. :D

Sowmya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sowmya said...

दीपावली की हार्दिक शुभकामनाये , Sayesha! :)

-Sowmya

Vijay said...

Happy Diwali!

visiting after a reallly loong time and i likes the new layout. cool fresh and blue!

flashback 1986 and diwali makes me think of Om Shanti Om.

can we expect a review? :)

K said...

You get a holiday?? You lucky you!
Happy diwali (though it's almost over by now).
And yeah, to save myself the trouble of clicking on favs to come here again n again...blogrolling you. ;) Do stop by @spaghettithoughts.wordpress.com

pradeep said...

Gr8 post!
Being an NRI (a newbie though) myself, I can understand what you said. I did miss Diwali badly :(

Bizarre Kid said...

*Smiles*
That was a good post :)
You have a new visitor to your blog!

zahid said...

I remember myself as one of the bhaiyyas of my locality- the eldest one... Was very proud when every other kid had to call me 'bhaiyya' ..

Now, a grown up lad in a tough world...having to call others 'bhaiyya'

Great post..

Chk me up too...

Aham Asmi said...

that was a nice post. quite nostalgic indeed.

Arun said...

Will your parents be in S'pore for Diwali this year (2010)?