For some people, Divali means oil baths with gingelly oil. This is untoasted sesame oil, poured on your hair and skin. You would use sandalwood soap in the bath. This would leave a thin sheen of oil on your skin, which my Pa says acted as a form of sunscreen for the those working In the fields. The light didn’t harm them. Melanin helped, I’m sure.

A long time ago, a bath meant using a dipper. The bathrooms had a built-in deep container lined with cold pastel coloured tiles. Peering into it meant you could imagine immersing yourself into the whole thing, and run your fingers along the tiles, imagining how big or small they really were because the water told lies through refraction. Of light.

For me, it used to mean sparklers. And purple packets with a ringgit or two in it. Sometimee ten, but seldom more. For my Pa, it means good traditionally cooked food. For me it means too much meat and oil, and badly made raita.

Why do the Indians like their yogurt sour. I prefer it when the yogurt mixture isn’t allowed to gather whey. When it’s still unctuous and mildly sweet from the milk.
Not too rich.

Today, it means visiting one house to see everyone. To make chat. To watch the children play computer games and laugh raucously, without pausing to smile whole heartedly.

Today it means watching earrings glisten on aunties’ ears. And sneaking to my iPad to read food blogs because it feels like a more sincere thing to do, than watch my cousins’ wrinkles appear more pronounced each year.

But perhaps there will be chickpeas. Or mint sauce.

Or my Pa’s loud voice, telling his family about his wild adventures.


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