Saturday, October 21, 2017
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This Diwali, let’s look back

A bit of nostalgia, a dash of extravaganza, the festival today is more about celebration and less about tradition14 Oct 2017 | 1:25 AM

Where is that quintessential mithai ka dabba? Haven’t seen it in a while. It boxed humble, traditional Indian sweets and was tied with a sacred red thread.

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Ashima Sehajpal Batish 

Where is that quintessential mithai ka dabba? Haven’t seen it in a while. It boxed humble, traditional Indian sweets and was tied with a sacred red thread. Try to locate one at an upmarket sweets shop and you will instead find fancier clones — made of wood or brass, bedecked with glitzy embellishments. What they contain is even flashier — mewa and chocolate bites, wrapped in a golden wrapper, akin to the packaging of Ferrero Rocher chocolate. This can be your first indication of how Diwali was then, and how it is now. Millennials know the difference the best. They have been a witness to both — Diwali celebrations that were beginning to get extravagant, yet were simpler, and those that don’t value anything “sober”. 

Wishful thinking

‘Wishing you a very happy Diwali’ is not the same as it was once. Diwali greeting cards would be hand-picked. Some would be hand-delivered, some posted. The landline telephones never encroached upon their market share. Till mobile phones happened, and what came with them — complementary low-cost call rates. ‘Wishing you a very Happy Diwali’ was now heard over the phone, but at least it got registered. Technology is known to “make our life easier and simpler,” and it did precisely that by introducing us to bulk messages. In the barter went away the personal touch. Even for the message that you “send to all”, your fingers need not type. A further short cut to forward an ‘already forwarded message’ or send a GIF was treaded happily. Result: You reach your destination at lightning speed. Only you can’t map it, neither in your mind, nor in your heart!

Gods get a makeover

From plain paintings by Raja Ravi Varma to porcelain figurines by Lladro, Hindu gods and goddesses have got an incredible makeover. They came for free on annual calendars. Their Chinese versions could be bought at a reasonable price. But did you ever imagine these could cost you half a million too! Lladro added Lord Hanuman to their range of figurines for the festive season. Besides a limited-edition Ganesha — merely 1,800 units — has also been launched for Rs 4.5 lakh. The Spanish company started its operations in India way back in 2000, but it is in October this year that they launched their online store. “The demand increased in tier II cities like Jaipur, Ludhiana, Chandigarh and Lucknow, hence the online store,” says Nikhil Lamba, CEO, Lladro India. The company has also launched Ek Onkar tealight. The region’s market boasts of many who can afford these.

Play your cards right

A Diwali party is not meant to be simple — it has to have the best Scotch with the gains and losses that run in five figures at betting sessions. Menu won’t be complete without a few Oriental and Lebanese dishes. Who is bothered about the camaraderie? Table setting has to be perfect to host low, high and super high stakes. Being generous with blinds is taken as a sign of your audacity to lose. More the number of parties you are seen at, more impressive the social standing is. Ask the regulars formally about it, and they will refuse to even acknowledge the tradition of Diwali cards party. Don’t forget that gambling is legal only behind closed doors. “A cards session begins around 11 pm, and continues till dawn. At no other time of the year, can you sit and enjoy with your friends for so long,” says an avid cards player. So true!

In the shopping cart

Splurging is what bonuses in offices were meant for. The Diwali shopping list was intimidating:

Home linen, upholstery, crockery, electronics, clothes… it would run on. And if you left home with the resolution of ticking all items in a couple of hours, a traffic jam would ‘welcome’ you. Not that traffic congestions are any less now. But the medium of shopping has changed, if not for all items, for most at least. Amazon offered the Great Indian Festival sale, and Flipkart lured with Big Billion Days. Flipkart broke earlier records by registering an increase of 40 per cent over gross sales last year, as reported by Redseer Consulting. It sold goods worth a staggering $1.5 billion ( Rs 150 crore). Someone’s gain is someone’s loss. And in this scenario, our local market traders and shopkeepers felt the heat. “There is an evident drop in customer footfall and, as a result, in sales as well. Earlier we would hire helpers during Diwali to attend to customers. For the last two years, however, my son and I have been able to deal with the clientele without needing any help,” says a shopkeeper from Chandigarh. 

To some, it might sound regressive — online shopping is fine but how does one buy fabric without feeling it, shoes without trying these on and furniture without sitting on it!

Cracker of a ban

Green Diwali sounds good, smells even better. But does it go with a sparkling Diwali? Not quite! As Chetan Bhagat says bursting crackers is a part of our tradition. But going overboard with crackers is certainly not a part of our tradition. Bursting a rocket sparkler with 100 shots — no, bursting a cracker garland of 5,000 crackers, in one go — definitely no. Till a decade back, people seldom talked about green Diwali because crackers were bought and used and rarely anyone spent Rs 20,000 on these. But now that people are, we strictly “deserve” a green Diwali. 

This Diwali, let’s look backDifferent take: Prepacked gifts, unending card parties, online shopping bonanzas are giving the festivities a new meaning altogether
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