I’m 10 years old. It’s the last paper of the 1st term exam, and holidays are just 45 mins away. It’s a stupid subject and I desperately try to write as fast as I can, but somehow it seems that fast is not fast enough. Finally, the bell rings and I pack up my things and cut through the benches to get out of that classroom as fast as I can. I flash a biiggg ( and I mean BIIGGG) smile when I see that baba (dad) has surprised me by coming to pick me up. He’s happier than I am, and I run towards him. I remember that he has taken a half day leave and will go to office after dropping me home. I’m thinking about the cricket pitch that my friends and I decided to make today, and I anxiously ask him whether the work has started. He has anticipated this question and replies that they cleared the grass and stones, but the watering and rolling will begin at 4 in the afternoon, so I have enough time to have a quick lunch and a nap.
The routine is set for the next 20 days. I get up at 8, and reach the ground at 8.45. then it’s a couple of matches, till maybe 11 and then I head back home for some late breakfast. Taai (my didi), serves lunch at around 1.30 pm, but we thrash the hell out of each other before that. Then a quick nap, and cricket again from 4 to 6.30 ( or till it becomes too dark to see the ball properly). Then some fun with Aai(mom), Baba and Taai, and then cricket again from around 10.30 to 11.30. Dad too joins the gang, which by the way, also consists of all the other dads of the colony.
Diwali’s just a week from today now, and we all set out for shopping. Aai buys a decent saree, and leaves me puzzled by always stating a range first. She and Baba buy clothes for Taai and me without looking at the tags. Baba’s innovative reason for not buying anything for himself notwithstanding, Aai buys him a terrific shirt. We have dinner at a fabulous restaurant and head back home. Next day its the firecrackers, and we literally empty Baba’s pockets, but for him our happiness is the best Diwali bonus in the whole world.
It’s Naraka Chaturdashi today. Baba wakes us up at 4 am, the darkest hour before dawn. It’s time for Abhyanga Snaan. Baba puts on an audio cassette by ustad Bismillah Khan’s shehnai or Sudhir Phadke’s Geet Ramayan . Aai and Taai massage my head, arms and legs with scented oil and Aai bathes me with utane ( a natural scrub made by grinding some herbs). I’m the first one to bathe. As soon as I enter the bathroom, Baba starts bursting crackers outside. He stands in front of the door and shouts at me through the din, asking me whether I heard the sound of the crackers. I’m ecstatic and yell back. After I’m done, Baba and the rest follow, and now it’s my turn to burst crackers and yell at a closed bathroom door, asking for confirmation.
By the time I’m finished with my last cracker, the sun has risen. And the Festival of Lights begins.