The Most Festive Night Of The Year
Written by Nandini Sethi
I eye the yellow gharara piece laid out on my bed. It is bejeweled with silver sequins and embroidered with a beautiful stitch on the corners. The bright yellow, usually, is a bit much for my taste, but Ma said that this Diwali called for it.
I washed my face and put on my make-up: a soft peach blush with a vibrant pink lipstick, and a winged liner, of course; it was Diwali after all. I curled my hair, even doing the back this time, and watched closely as my beautiful locks get burned and grilled. It’s okay, I told myself, the outcome is worth it.
Two hours and one perfume shimmy dance later, I was finally dressed. The kurta complemented my curves so well, it was as if it was made just for my body; my earing dangled with every step I took, and I stomped my high heel-clad feet just to feel the bounce of my freshly done curls against my ear. It’s times like these I’m reminded why being a girl is so much fun!
I picked up the large package kept on the vanity and ran my fingers through the crisp, colorful orange wrapping paper. The gift inside was a limited edition, expensive and extremely exquisite, but Ma insisted that we splurge for our guests. Again, this Diwali called for it.
The house was beautifully lit up. The fairy lights draped all over the rooms and terrace made the house look like the night sky adorned with firecrackers, and the aroma from the incense sticks gave Diwali its customary scent: festive and merry. I breathed in the smell of November – the fragrance of a rainy night amalgamated with sandalwood and campfire, and smiled to myself, pinching myself, Diwali is finally here!
The doorbell rang, reverberating all through the house, and I watched Ma jump out of her seat to attend to the visitors. From behind the wall, I took a little peek, but all I could make out was the outline of familiar figures, holding enormous golden thalis, decorated with my favourite assortment of mithai.
In my head, I planned a whole escapade – I would steal all these sweets and make a run for it. I was nervous to greet this family, but still somewhat looking forward to it.
“Suhana! Come here”, Ma called out. I didn’t want to give her an opportunity to get mad, so I ran towards the door, greeting everyone with a dumb smile. I looked at her, and she raised her eyebrows, telepathically asking me aren’t you forgetting something? I mentally slapped myself, as I ran back into the house, the click-clack of my heels disturbing the overall aura of calm and peace. This time I returned with the humongous orange package, handing it over to Ma, too shy to gift it myself.
They accepted the package, thanking us warmly and smiling all around. But I was looking for something, rather someone, standing on my tiptoes and trying to see if he stood behind aunty and uncle, and little Sweetie.
Ma welcomed them into our house, seating them and serving them our homemade kachoris and ladoos; since it was Diwali, so there was no concept of disciple: having dessert before main course was acceptable.
I locked eyes with Rahul and looked down coyly. I was embarrassed so I knew there was a heavy blush colouring my cheeks, but then I was too embarrassed to show any emotion, so I tried to think of sad things to feel normal again.
Of course, Ma noticed my girly antics, and to add salt to the wound she spoke loudly, “Why don’t you two lovebirds have a chat out on the terrace?”
Rahul choked on his badaam and I coughed a little too loudly. Ma and aunty shared a look, both smiling from ear-to-ear as they attempted, but purposely failed to hide their giggles. Rahul’s dad gave us a thumbs-up, his way of telling us that he approved of this idea.
Walking out to the terrace on Diwali night was truly magical. There was a chill in the air, not yet icy, but not too warm, just enough to make locking hands comfortable. I looked at Rahul and he gave me a lazy smile. He told me my dress looked pretty, and I corrected him – this is not a dress, it is a gharara. Then he told me yellow was his favourite colour. I pretended not to know.
For a minute, none of us spoke. Racking my brain for conversation starters, I told him, “Only 65 days left to go.” He gazed at me, as if still shocked that we were actually going through with this.
Despite having known each other for months now, I still felt giddy and day-dreamy. I was just about to bring up his outfit when he said, “I still remember the first time Aunty and Ma forced us to go to the terrace and talk”, he shook his head fondly, “that feels like ages ago.”
I replied, “Because it was”, a pause, “ages ago, I mean.”
I can recall every single detail from that night. The awkward first encounter, serving Ma’s tea and samosas as if I had made them myself, and finalizing all the details. That night, the countdown was at a 100. I was over the moon to marry the man of my dreams. Even today, I am buzzing with adrenaline.
Rahul held onto my hand a little tighter. I smiled, then tried to look away. He pulled me by the waist, and I squealed, what if someone is watching? It was as if he read my mind, “then let them watch.”
He brought me in closer and kissed me on the lips. That was the moment I knew Diwali will always be special to me. The soft, sweet kiss ended with a burst of firecrackers, lighting up the night sky, and sounding the music of celebrations. The fading sound of one was followed by the next batch of crackers.
The magic was never going to end. My fairy-tale had just begun.