Saturday, October 25, 2008

Happy Diwali

It is so heartwarming to celebrate festivals through the eyes of our children! This Rangoli or floor art that is traditionally created to welcome goddess Laxmi was made by my son, Aman Ghildiyal, with his grandmother, my mother. She taught him, much the same way she once taught me.

The wheel of time has turned again and Diwali the festival of light is back. For any food lover, Diwali is the perfect time to be in India. Any festival in India is incomplete without food. Whenever we talk of festivals we think of the special dishes prepared for the occasion since festival cooking is a part of all celebration, but Diwali is when everything becomes larger than life.

Delicious homestyle festive treats of the kind I grew up eating, at the Diwali tea I hosted at one of my favourite restaurants, Soam (Thank you, Pinky for making it perfect!).

Diwali (also known as Divali or Deepavali) is the Indian festival of lights, which to Hindus plays a role similar to Christmas and New Year in Christian society. Diwali, celebrates rebirth and happiness, honors the goddesses Lakshmi and Parvati and Lord Rama and is the beginning of the accounting years for the trading communities. Traditionally welcomed with firecrackers and a flurry of sweet sticky treats, this is a joyous time in India. All over the country Indian sweet makers, or halwais, have been busy gearing up for their peak season.

"Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye" very tidily sums up the attitude of Indians to sweets or Mithai. Literal translation would result in a grammatically incorrect sentence, but this often used phrase means that "the occasion calls for sweets"."Mithai" means something sweet, a sweetmeat or sweetie and derives from the word Meetha. The occasion being celebrated could be anything, from the most auspicious, such as festivals, the birth of a child, or marriage to the smaller milestones of life, like success in examinations, purchase of a new home or car, or even guests for dinner!

This year, we were in Dehra Dun in Sept, our usual must dos when we are there include a visit to Bengali, and a sampling of whatever is on offer, heres a selection of some of the things we sampled including the best Rasmalai in the world.

In a culture where sharing is tradition Mithai become a vehicle of sharing ones joy that overcomes all barriers of caste, creed or religion and Mithai is distributed whenever an occasion to celebrate presents itself. In India one does not need to know someone to share in their good fortune, you could be passing a shop that has opened the same day and the owners will come running out to offer you a sweet something, or, you could be at an official meeting and find someone is distributing sweets because his son passed his exams!

The word Meetha is also commonly used to classify Indian Sweets and puddings, the spectrum of which encompasses a wide variety of Sweet offerings, from fresh Homemade Halwas and Kheers to drier, more easily handled Mithais sourced from the local shops. The brilliance of Indian Mithai is that a vast range of offerings actually revolves around a surprisingly small handful of core ingredients usually found in most Indian homes: sugar, clarified butter (ghee), milk and flour from cereals or pulses, seasonal vegetables and fruit, rice or wheat, spices for flavoring and Dry fruit to enrich. Only the best ingredients go into Mithai, as it is the belief that a generous use of the best ingredients will result in superlative offering.

Over the years, many women have enriched my life, women I felt would do well to meet one another, because my friends truly are my biggest wealth. So, I used Diwali as an excuse to bring them all together for a ladies who... well tea (as opposed to lunch, so we would have the restaurant to ourselves) Here from left to right are Vijaya "the honey lady, Deepika the official photographer, Moi, my lovely sis in law Archana, Sushan from RD, the beautiful, gracious Pinky, my awesome mom, Heena, and the lovely, gentle Meghna of the lovely "The Farm Cafe" my newest discovery. Mila and Supriya from Me magazine and Jerroo Irani joined us a little later. I also missed many, including Uma, Manasi, Reetha and Latha from Navdanya and Sugatha. (Next time ladies!)

For me personally it has been a year of many changes. It's been a year of ups and downs, two new additions to the family, beautiful babies that make you rejoice in new relationships, getting over losing loved ones, finding new friends, love, laughter, tears, personal and professional triumphs, sorrow and exhilaration, LIFE has carried me along in its most unique, oh so characteristic way. Today, surrounded by celebrations light, love, luck, good food, friends and family I am thankful for everything I have. As we celebrate Diwali in India on October 28th, my family and I wish for you all the love, luck, good fortune and happiness in the world.

My life's biggest achievement, my precious children, this year is Natasha's first Diwali, while Aman is just learning to appreciate the importance of the festival and it's traditions from his grandparents.


1 comment:

stuti said...

I agree--Bengali makes the best rasmalai I have ever had