News & Reviews

DI-lightfully DI-wana DI-wali Author:Amit Ukil   Posted On:2023-11-15


Bang! Boom! ... and chimneys of kaleidoscopic smoke. No, these did not feature at the DI-wali celebrations this year. Yet, merriment and tradition were very much alive as the DI heralded in the festival of lights, focusing on ‘how green was our Dalhousie’!

Colourful lights and decor are important components for celebrating festivals, and this was exactly what met the eye when members and guests arrived for the festivities at the DI last Friday evening. The eyebrows accompanying those eyes elevated when the immaculate and tastefully-decorated rangoli, the carefully-placed diyas, the hangings at the Diwali selfie stall and the stall itself were perceived.

Admitted one can get stencils nowadays that help in arranging the designs, but the ideas and the efforts executed by the Entertainment Committee members and their helpers were an example of a display involving perfect symmetry and aesthetics. And even as the senses of sight were digesting the decorations, enthusiastic children welcomed the entrants with a red tilak, a shower of petals and a “Happy Diwali” chant. The rainbow and the atmosphere had been appropriately invoked.

Once folks had settled down at their tables on the lawn, the children were called upon to light up the greens (fireworks, not the lawn!). Fuljhuris and sparklers of all shapes and sizes were at hand and in hand adjacent to the Children’s Corner. Some had one, some had two, and some were trying to see how many they could light. Toddlers like Sierra had to be handed the lit wands as they thoroughly enjoyed waving them around and chanting the magic words. “We loved the green fireworks this time,” beamed a happy Jayden. But the slightly older, more daring age-group did miss the booms and bangs and ‘high-tech’ display of previous years. “The lighting is beautiful. I miss the fireworks, though,” commented Biswasalil.    

Much on display were the ethnic dresses and costumes both the kids and the adults had adorned themselves in for the occasion. Kurta-pyjamas, ghagra-cholis and embroidered saris were as eye-catching as the decorations.

Members had set up stalls too, setting a DI-wali mela tone to the evening. Avanti Bhatia had an array of diyas and decorative items as well as kurtas, kurtis, dress material and even patta shawls, each boasting of pleasing ethnic designs. Bhaswati Choudhury of Cherryn Crafts had a variety of munchies, ranging from wheat bakes and muffins to an assortment of low-sugar sweets made with cocoa and maple syrup. Hand-made soap and wax sachets were also on sale for a cleansed, fragrance-filled aftermath. Samantha Fonseca’s artistic traits were evident in her sketches and paintings, be they objects, portraits or scenery. Under her brand ‘Love, Lilo’ (named after her cat), she also had a variety of knick-knack decor items like buttons, broaches and ear-rings based on Christmas themes. “The items were more of a precursor to the next festive season,” she explained. There may not have been brisk business ... “we were here more to interact with the members, get new ideas and a bit of exposure,” summed up Srimati Ray, who promoted the Sugar Pop brand of modern cosmetics and costume jewellery.

Do many of us DI members know that Imran Qaisar’s musical team is called ‘Mosiqi the Band’? The popular vocalist has been providing Hindi music at our club for quite some time without several of us knowing that the band was formed in 2011. He was there for the DI-wali Nite too, performing Bollywood numbers one after the other along with Rupam on synthesizer, Ayan on bass, Shubhankar on lead, and Tushar on drums. “I started with Pyar manga hai tumhi se to set the Diwali mood,” he said and, soon enough, requests started coming in. “The audience was good. I get a lot of love from the members, and DI has become my second home,” the musician opined, adding though the music was enjoyed, the real dancing to his tunes takes place inside (the main bar) in a not-so-open format. Some of the numbers were over four decades old, but still evergreen. Rajashree Kundalia later pointed out: “Imran Qaisar’s music sure did take us back in time.     

It was 10.40. The final dinner gong had sounded. On counters set up by Sanjha Chulha were a variety of veg and non-veg dishes mainly from the northern states. Among the uncommon were corn palak, kesariya paneer tikka, rajma galauti, Kandhari chicken and gilafi seekh kebabs – all tasty and very filling. But there had to be some space for the roshomalai! “There were plenty of options to choose from,” said a contended diner after the buffet fare.

The evening was enjoyed by all age groups, as was evident from the dancers on the floor in the second half. The toddlers tried to match their moves to the beats, while the elders did so with modulated manoeuvres. Septuagenarian Vijaya Doshi, assisted with a walking stick, was at the DI because “I find new life each year on Diwali. The festival makes me forget my age and I join the 4-day celebrations in usual Gujarati style,” she said with a beautiful smile. She especially liked the lighting at DI and preferred the ‘no fireworks’ event. The joy in her eyes was evident as she spoke.

Why does Alisha Alexander, perhaps the best ethnic-dressed lady of the evening, keep coming to DI on Diwali? “It’s a childhood ritual I love. With or without the fireworks, the festive feel remains the same. Everyone comes together dressed beautifully in traditional attire.” As an afterthought, she added it was better without the fireworks as she had grown up enough to understand that it is better for the environment. A member since 1968 and celebrating Diwali at DI since ’84, Brian Sweeney recalled he looked forward to fireworks since they were done by the members themselves back then. He mentioned a DI tradition with a tinge of hope: “Each year on November 5th, a bonfire, with Guy Fawkes stuffed with fireworks, used to be lit.”

Unity in diversity has become an essential character at DI, where we celebrate festivals, irrespective of our religion and ethnicity, with equal enthusiasm. An example of this was so much evident at the Puja Prelude held at the DI last month that heralded in the festive season folks in Bengal anticipate so much. Along with traditional décor, ethnic costumes and street food found while pandal-hopping, a fairly unique event took place – members took part in the traditional and skill-demanding dhunuchi naach. A professional dhakai beat the rhythm that set the trio of Anup, Raja and young Jayden – all spruced up in customary attire – to hold and dance with dhunuchis lit with choir and flavoured with camphor. And did they display some skill that evening! Balancing the burning embers in the earthen urns so that none fell on the floor, swaying and twirling to the beat, the dance for Durga was carried out to much applause from the audience. This was followed by live Bangla folk and pop songs by Indicred.

Enjoyable evenings sure have become a part and parcel of DI culture. We await more!

 (with significant contributions by Debjani Basak)