Last week, I took a drive downtown into Masjid India, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. In what has now become an annual ritual around the weeks before Deepavali, I brought my parents out to do some shopping. Yes, the annual Deepavali shopping. The shopping trip that almost all in the family looks forward toward, except, perhaps the one who is funding the trip. The trip with my parents, brought back old memories of similar trips with my mother and myself and later on, with my brother, to outlets such as Globe Silk Store and Tangs located just outside of Masjid India, along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.
Back then, my mum, brother and I, would board the bus in the morning heading to Globe Silk Store. We would first go into Globe Silk Store and then Tangs, located a shop or two away, sifting through shirts and pants, finding one set that we liked and more importantly of the right size and within the budget. After spending a significant amount of time, we would finally make our choice. During that time, mum would pick a set for our father.
Once we were done, it was time to follow mum to the various textile shops that sold materials as well as sarees. Mum would painstakingly go through the material over a few shops. After spending considerable amount of time at each of them and looking into what is left of the shopping budget, she would make her purchase. Then, depending on how much was left, we would get some savouries, to mark the conclusion of the shopping trip, before heading home by bus.
Aside from shopping, the other major preparation was the making of traditional savouries. My mother, in cooperation with some ladies in the neighbourhood would get together after lunch, to make different types of savouries and complete them by dinner time. Different savouries would be made on different days.
My brother and I contributed to these activities too when we were not away at school. Our official role, was to assist with bringing over the raw materials when the ladies were comfortably seated by the stove, washing of the utensils and later on, arranging the savouries into the designated containers as well as the post-cooking cleaning.
Then, there was our unofficial role as the food taster. Unofficial, because none of the elders were aware of such a role. Food tasting would be done stealthily by first removing the said artifact to a secret location and then savouring it before being caught red-handed. One of my fondest memory of this part of the preparation was that try as hard as I may, I never could locate the savoury filled container, once it is hidden away, until the day of Deepavali. I never quite figured out how my mother managed to hide it, in a little house, even till today.
The final days before Deepavali, would then be filled with the annual spring cleaning. Curtains would be brought down and washed, while a fresh set would be hung up. Cushion covers and bedding would be removed and washed, while fresh sets would be put in place. Fan and lights would be dusted and wiped. Cobwebs would be cleared. The floor would be swept, scrubbed and then mopped. Every single surface and corner that we can lay our hands on would be cleaned. Late nights were the norm. With lack of sleep and sheer exhaustion, tempers tend to flare before cool heads prevailed.
The eve of Deepavali was typically spent with all of us glued to the t.v. screen after a hearty dinner. The few available t.v. stations would play the latest Tamil movies for our viewing pleasure, helping us usher in Deepavali. As typical Tamil movies goes and adding on the numerous advertisements consisting mainly of Deepavali wishes as well as the late night news, we would end up sleeping way past 1 or 2 in the morning.
The morning of Deepavali would be spent with baths, excitedly getting dressed up in new clothes, seeking blessings from parents and more importantly, receiving our annual bonus, in the form of Deepavali “ang-pow”. After that, it was off to the temple by bus while our father would follow on his ever reliable “Rolls Royce”, his ever dependable Raleigh bicycle. Once we were done with prayers and quick visit to our relative’s house, it was time to head home, rummage through the containers of savouries that have magically appeared and most importantly doing justice to them by consuming them, while watching, again, the various Tamil movies being aired on t.v.
These traditions or rituals, pretty much remained the same with some differences, as my brother and I grew up through our teenage years, before going away to the university and then becoming tax-paying citizens of our beloved country. The differences were in how involved we were in the preparations prior to and even up to the eve of Deepavali. Mum would still do her annual pilgrimage to Masjid India to buy new clothes for us, with the difference being, without us most of the time. Mum would still prepare savouries for Deepavali, with us being absent through most of it. Mum and dad would clean-up the house, with us making occasional appearances to help out.
During the transition between the teenage years, young adult and then adulthood, the significance of the festivities changed. It was no longer as exciting as it used to be as a child. It was just another annual affair like the many other festivals scattered throughout the year. For a time, it became an event that we arranged annual leaves around, get together and spend time with ones that we love.
Over the years, as my parents aged, I matured as an adult, started my own family and then my brother got married and started his own family, I have begun to appreciate these age-old traditions and festivities. More so, as my wife and I embarked on our own journey as parents with our little boy. I realise that I have gone a full circle in regards to how I viewed these traditions.
I was again involved in Deepavali shopping with a slight change in the role, in that I am now the worried financier of the shopping trip. This year, there was also the added shopping, for our little boy. I was again involved in making Muruku at home with my wife. I was again involved in cleaning up the house as comprehensively as I could, with my wife. I will most likely spend time watching whatever movie is being aired on the t.v., on the eve of Deepavali.
Going back to last week in Masjid India, after almost being done with our shopping I took my exhausted-internally-yet-putting-up-a-strong-face-externally parents for much-needed lunch. Over a hearty vegetarian meal, I realised how grateful I was to God for giving me the opportunity of a happy conversation with my parents. We spoke about the old days and the mischief that my brother and I would get into. We spoke about how my little son is working hard to live up to those standards. We reminisced a little on some events of Deepavalis past. Thanks to traditions and festivities, I realise that I am able to create more wonderful memories and opportunities with my loved ones. Memories and moments created with the help of traditions and festivities, that remains with us for as long as we live. Something that I hope our son will cherish when he is older. That is indeed something to look forward to.