Home and Living………………………..
Diwali Goes Old-school
(featured in Masala Lite in November 2012, Thailand)
[For original click on the link below]
Five ways to bring back that childhood magic. By Reena Karim
Let’s be honest here: Diwali isn’t what it used to be. Chances are if you ever did the whole cards parties, dinners, gifts, aarti, pooja, firecrackers package, you don’t anymore. For many, Diwali is now just a namesake holiday. Gone are the days when the anticipation would drive mummies up the wall, papas running around to get the house painted, and kids bursting little crackers days before the actual event. This Diwali, we want to bring back that old charm, complete with rangoli, shrikhand, and great gift ideas.
History 101: Know your Diwali, yaar!
Diwali, or Deepawali, known as the festival of light, is celebrated in five elaborate days from the month of October to November (depending on the year) and can have several different meanings to Hindus. The most popular reason according to the mythology in northern India is the return of King Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshman from
a 14-year exile and a war in which they triumphed over the demon king Ravana. It is said that people from his kingdom, Ayodhaya, lit the way with diyas to welcome them back. However, legend in southern India also includes the story of Lord Krishna who captured the evil King Naraka of Assam and freed tens of thousands of civilians. Either way, the philosophy behind Diwali is to shun darkness, which is often considered as ignorance, and welcome light—hence all
the diyas. Spiritually, Goddess Laxmi is worshipped as a symbol of prosperity. At home, it is considered auspicious to start things afresh, be it with clothes, cars, delicious food, or a fresh coat of paint.
1. Deck the doorstep
We know: Who has the time these days? What a mess it makes! Who has the art skills? Say what you will, Diwali means a rangoli at the doorstep, and whether you live in a condo or a house, nothing will bring in the holiday spirit than attempting one of these mandalas with the family and children. Start with finding simple stencils online or coming up with designs of your own. To avoid the mess that powder brings, use coloured chawal instead. Make it at home with food colouring. If your building is fussy, decorate the corners of your living area, or try making rangoli on glass tabletops for a cool effect. For design ideas, go to rangolidesigns.in.
2. Leave a trail of leaves
As you know, or as you may have forgotten, mango leaves are an integral part of the decor for many traditional Hindu homes. If you don’t have a mango tree handy, fronds of fern and casuarina trimmings can make stylish decorative items around the house or on the table as centre pieces. Here’s an idea: take a brass or clay handi and place a coaster at the base for stability. Fill it with water, throw in one or two lotus flowers, along with leaves of your choice, a few floating diyas and drops of scented oil. For a complete look, line the base with fern leaves or pieces of marigold flowers.
3. Let it shine
Sure you can buy them at the store, but if you’ve ever lived in India, you’ll remember the childhood joy of making your own diyas with atta dough from the kitchen. Start a few days before, and make your regular roti dough with flour and water. Pinch out small balls from the dough and shape into diyas, either tear drop–shaped or just round ones. Leave them out to dry in the sun or bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until hard. Once cool, decorate them with beads, mirrors, or paint. To finish off, you can roll out cotton wool to make wicks, add oil or ghee, and light away. Tip: to entertain kids during a house party, set up a diya-decorating contest, minus the oil and fire, of course. If you have a balcony, try lining the corners with diyas placed over flower and leaf arrangements for a cosy feel.
4. Gift-shift ho jaye
Rather than the usual mithai and dried-fruit box, here are three more unusual ideas. (1) Rangoli paintings and Indian art, easily available online, make a lasting gift. Check out Gallery Soulflower at the Silom Galleria on Silom Soi 19 for works by Indian artists or Ananta Gallery on Charoenkrung Soi 38. (2) Get a plain white or origami lamp (available at IKEA), pick up some watercolours, download a fun print from the internet, and paint away on a lazy afternoon. (3) If you have to
do a gift hamper, do something original. Get a wicker basket, or ten, from Jatujak, line it with a square piece of satin fabric, and put in chocolates, sweets, diyas, or even a set of wine glasses. Wrap in transparent cellophane, tie on a bow, and you are ready to go.
5. Make something meetha
Shrikhand is one of those desserts pushed aside for moti-choor laddoos and kheer, but come Diwali, this one reigns. Tasty and quite simple to make, this stand out yoghurt dish is infused with saffron, cardamom, and nuts, and you can play with the sugar ratios if you’re calorie conscious.
• 2kg yoghurt
• 7–8 strands saffron [kesar]
• 2 tablespoons milk
• ¼ blanched almonds, sliced
• ¼ pistachios, sliced
• Powdered sugar
• 1 ¼ teaspoons powdered green cardamom [elaichi]
1. Dissolve saffron in warm milk and keep aside.
2. Hang yoghurt in a muslin cloth over a jar or bowl for three hours in the fridge, until the whey has drained out.
3. Prepare a jar with a clean muslin cloth over the mouth and secure with a rubber band or string. Place the thickened yoghurt and ¾ cup of powdered sugar for every cup of yoghurt over the cloth in batches.
Using a wooded spoon or spatula, rub down the yoghurt through the cloth. Scrape and save the mixture that’s left on the cloth.
4. Add saffron, almonds, pistachios, and green cardamom powder to the mixture. Cool in a large glass bowl in the fridge.
(Recipe courtesy of Sanjeev Kapoor at sanjeevkapoor.com.)
Too lazy? Many Indian sweet shops will make it on special order, so make a call.