All this seems a far cry from what Diwali used to be 20 years ago. Remember whitewashing the house a month ahead of the festival; taking out your best bedsheets and curtains from the trunk; lighting coloured candles bought from the neighbourhood store; gorging on barfis, ladoos and pedas without fear of adulterated khoya or diabetes and exploding the noisiest crackers without dreading court rules and deadlines?
Have those days been truly blown away by globalization and satellite television? Maybe not yet. There are still some constants within the churning. Pujas, sweets, parties, gifts, shopping, facials at the mohalla beauty parlour, resplendent lighting – all the wonderful elements that made this festival sparkle are still alive. What’s new is their 21st century avatars. Now, there are aromatic diyas, Chinese lanterns and lights. online shopping discounts, Diwali nights at the mall, designer room and wardrobe makeovers, botox facelifts, baked samosas and gujiyas and sugar-free rasmalai… The essence is there, but the flavour has changed.
Sweet edible photos
If you have a sweet tooth, then the in-thing to do this year is to bite into cupcakes. “Mithai is so old world,” says Gauri Pant, a 30-something homemaker in Delhi. “No matter what people say about buying jewellery, painting their homes and the like, if the goodies are not nice, there is no glitter at all,” she says. “Every year, I try to do something new. This year, my specialty is fruit-filled chocolate tarts and cupcakes. I ordered them from a friend who caters from home.”
Indeed, cupcakes seem to be the gourmet crackers. Gayatri and Anushka Kakkar, who started their cupcakes kiosk at a South Delhi mall last year-end, say they are looking at the “best business” this Diwali. “Not only do we have cupcakes in all kinds of festive icing, we even have photo cupcakes with images of diyas, ‘Happy Diwali‘, the shubh labh symbol and so on. These are turning out to be the season’s favourites,” says Anushka.
Corporates, too, want a slice of it. “Companies are giving us their logos to put on cupcakes, which we are making into hampers,” says Anushka.
Not just that, if you want to gift relatives your family photo, then do it as photo cakes which have edible ink.
“This is taking off from the western idea of Christmas and New Year cards with family photos,” says Akhilesh Kumar, who has ordered 50 cakes with his family portrait on them, for family and friends. “Who has the time to visit everyone anymore? This way, meetha ka meehta bhi ho jaata hai and people can think of us fondly too,” says this Mumbai-based businessman.
The easy availability of almost anything you crave in the shop round the corner is certainly taking its toll on cooking at home. “Even three years ago, I used to make everything at home,” says Zareen Malik, a management executive. “From namkeen to laddoos to sherbet. But now everything is so easily available in the market,” she says.
But some are still holding on to tradition. “I still make small samosas and besan laddoos on Diwali,” says Reema Kaushik, a homemaker in Delhi who has two small sons. She has fond memories of her mother making puran polis and puran ki sabzi during her childhood in Maharashtra. Media professional Maya Venkateswaran is a whiz at churning out crisp dal vadas but the Mysore Pak sweet that her mother used to make on Diwali still fails her. It seems an era is passing with the older generation.