Diwali celebrations become more special when they come with the warm hug of a doting grandpa or when sinking your teeth into a delicious mithai made by grandma. In the UAE, it is not uncommon to see three generations of Indian families coming together to ring in the auspicious festivities.
CHANDRIKA AND DARSHIT MOLLETI
Growing up in the southern Indian city of Madurai, Chandrika, 76, reminisces the joyful Diwali celebrations she used to have with her parents.
‘I would get a new dress, gifts from our elders, spend the whole evening bursting crackers with friends and visit all our neighbours,’ she recalls.
Now living in Dubai with her son and his family, Chandrika, even as she rues missing celebrating the festival in India, ensures that she makes Diwali a memorable day for her grandchildren.
The Diwali festivities in their household, she says, lasts for five days, beginning with Dhanteras, Naraka Chaturdashi, then Diwali, the new year and ending in Bhai Dooj. ‘I have taught my children and grandchildren all the rituals that I learnt from my parents - touching the elders’ feet as a mark of respect, performing the Lakshmi pooja together, making rangoli and cooking certain delicacies that have been made in our families for years,’ she says.
As Chandrika’s extended family is spread across the emirates, Diwali is one occasion that brings them all together. ‘Five of my brothers live in Ajman with their large families, so Diwali is an occassion when we all meet for prayers, exchanging gifts and chatting for hours,’ she says.
Her 11-year-old grandson Darshit shares her excitement about the festival of lights.
‘This is my favourite festival and I help my grandma and mom at home with the rangoli, in lighting the diyas and setting the pooja thali. I also like to be part of making of the yummy mithai preparations, especially mysore paks and mohanthals that we all relish together,’ he says.
For Darshit, post Diwali the annakut pooja has always been a day of wonder watching the amount of food getting prepared. A feast of several dishes are prepared as an offering to their diety. ‘I help in serving the dishes. There are so many sweets and snacks made on this day that it’s truly amazing. I enjoy khandvi, shrikhand and basundi the most,’ he shares.
The best message of Diwali, that Darshit has learnt from his grandma, is to spread happiness. ‘As my grandma always says, on Diwali throw away your worries and don’t be sad.’
NEELAM SAGAR AND AAYUSH RAVI
Diwali celebrations in Neelam’s home begin almost a week before with the deep-cleaning and shopping. The 57-year-old grandmom actively takes part in every Diwali ritual. ‘Whatever I do on Diwali, I learnt from my mom, so I feel the next generation should also know all the rituals - whether they follow it or not. What is important is that they are aware of them,’ she explains.
Her only grandson, 10-year-old Aayush, is an integral part of her Diwali preparations. ‘On Diwali, he visits us and helps me with the rangoli and the lighting of the diyas. I enjoy the time we spend doing these little things together,’ she says. She admits that both she and her grandson do not have a sweet tooth. ‘Although I make many sweets at home, it’s the savoury snacks that Aayush relishes. I make chivda, tikha gathiya, jeera puri and fafda for him.’ This Diwali Neelam plans to make undhiyu, a Gujarati mixed vegetable dish, and lapsi, a broken wheat sweet dish.
One of the highlights of Diwali, for Aayush, is that he gets to dress up in traditional wear and decorate his home and that of his grandma’s with tea lights. ‘I also love making the flower rangoli with my grandma and doing the pooja with my grandparents,’ he says.
Neelam, who grew up in the Al Fahidi area of Dubai in 1960s and 70s recalls the love and bonhomie shared with her neighbours during Diwali. ‘Those days we used to make everything at home. It would all start a month before Diwali and then for days after, we would distribute sweets among our neighbours,’ she says.
Now, Neelam lives with her husband and father-in-law in Al Nahda, Dubai. While her daughters are married and living in the same city, her son resides in Portugal. ‘Four generations of our family celebrate Diwali together in Dubai.
‘Over 50 members of our extended family meet post Diwali for a mega lunch. Being the youngest, Aayush enjoys all the attention from his grandparents. ‘I look forward to our big family lunch and receiving cash gift from my grandfather,’ he says, with a smile.
As a long-time resident of the UAE, Neelam admires the way all the festivals are celebrated with much passion in Dubai. ‘Be it Eid, Diwali, Navratri or Christmas, people in Dubai celebrate all festivals with so much joy and positivity that it really uplifts our mood,’ she says.
SURESH KUMAR AND JAYADITYA SHIVASTAVA
Every year around Diwali, Suresh Kumar and his wife Gitanjali visit the UAE. As all their grandchildren are based in Dubai, it is important for them to celebrate the festival with their grandkids.
‘If for any reason we are unable to visit Dubai, our children fly down to India to be part of our Diwali celebrations. We want our grandkids to experience all the traditional rituals associated with the festival that is considered one of the most significant Hindu celebrations,’ says Suresh, 76.
He shares that as Diwali is a time to ward off negativity and to usher in positive vibes, the cleansing process in their house begins with deep cleaning including dusting and sprucing the nooks and corners, followed by repainting the walls, changing the upholstery and shopping for new clothes for the entire family.
On Dhanteras, a couple of days before Diwali, he says, ‘It is considered auspicious to buy any kind of metal, usually silver and gold. The day of Diwali begins with the lighting of the diyas and the prayers, where both his sons and their families join in.
‘We burst small crackers in the garden and then sit down for the most cherished meal of the year -- the Diwali dinner,’ he says. Some of the delicacies prepared in their home include samosas, matar kachoris, gujiyas filled with khoya and dry nuts and nariyal ladoos.
After Diwali, the Shrivastava family also celebrates the Chitragupta Pooja. ‘On this day we worship our account books, pens and inkpots.
‘We also write a few holy verses in a diary. I involve my grandkids in the prayers and tell them to keep their books in the prayer room and put their signatures on them,’ he shares.
For Jayaditya, 20, his relationship with his grandfather is incredibly special. ‘He has been a mentor and friend to mes,' says the young man. ‘It is always memorable to celebrate Diwali with my grandparents. I love spending time with them and enjoy the whole experience of the festival - right from wearing the traditional clothes to the pooja, eating the delicious dinner spread and lighting the crackers.’
SUDHAKAR AND SAANCHI SHETTY
he day of Diwali for Sudhakar Shetty begins with tailam abhyangam (coconut oil massage) followed by a bath. It is a ritual he has been practising since his childhood days in India and one that his children and grandchildren follow even today. ‘While growing up in my village, right after the bath we would go into the nearby woods to pluck fresh flowers. In Dubai now, we get them from the flower shop and decorate the house with various blooms,’ explains Sudhakar.
The Shetty household gets busy for the evening pooja that begins usually at sunset. Apart from all the festivities for Sudhakar who celebrates with his four grandchildren based in Dubai, the priority has always been to spread the goodwill message of Diwali. ‘I tell them that Diwali is more about imparting knowledge of believing in the idiom 'live and let live’ - about thinking of the greater good of the planet,’ he says.
Twelve-year-old Saanchi, his eldest granddaughter, says she never gets tired of listening to her grandfather’s wise words. While her grandfather is full of positive peptalk, it is her grandmother she turns to when it comes to learning Diwali recipes. ‘Diwali is when I get to see the traditional recipes being made by my grandma. Along with her, I make the chaklis and the boondi ladoos. A must have in our home on Diwali for breakfast, is the methi (fenugreek) dosa smeared with loads of ghee. It’s very healthy and flavoursome,’ she adds.