Memories of Diwali

Written By

Mamata Kolte

Memories of diwali-02 Loading

We lived in old Bhopal when we were children.  For every festival, my siblings and I used to accompany our father to a huge sweet shop in old Bhopal which was very famous. Near this shop were some shops in unclean shanties, serving poha-jalebi.  Every time we went to this sweet shop there were always a few children begging for money. The owner of the shop always shooed them away.

Our father used to let us choose our own sweets inside the big shop, while he remained outside, chatting with the owner. We would spend a good few minutes deciding on what we wanted to pack and what we wanted to eat there. Father would ask us to sit inside the restaurant and instruct the owner to take down our order. Most of the time, we were not even able to finish what we had ordered. Our father would go out and return a few times to check if we are finished. I never liked it. I wanted him to be with us and eat, but he wouldn’t. I remember this as one of my oldest memories.

On one Diwali, we went with him to this shop. As was his routine, he made us sit inside the restaurant and me and my sister ordered chole and my younger brother ordered lassi. We also ordered sweets to be packed, a lot, as it was Diwali. I realised after a while that it had been more than a good 20 minutes that he had not returned to check upon us. I got up and went to check the entrance in case he was standing there, but he was not. My sister called me back and asked me to wait. Another 10 minutes passed with no sign of our father. This time we all stood up. I asked my sister if I could go and check outside. I checked from the entrance with no luck.  As I made to go out, the owner of the shop stopped me and asked us to wait inside. We did what he said but I was anxious. The next time we stood up, I ran outside without even looking at him.

I started walking towards the shanties and my sister stood near the entrance of the shop and watched me as she held my brother’s hand. The owner of the shop stood behind her, and as I looked back, the owner crossed his arms. My sister immediately went in with my brother. Those days, almost 25 years back, in a small place like Bhopal, a little girl like me would not dare to disobey her elders. I turned back and started to cry. As I looked to the left, I finally found him, sitting inside those dirty shops with a few children. They were eating poha-jalebi. I ran towards him crying and he quickly stood up and said, ‘’what happened dear? Are you all finished? Wait for a few more minutes and I’ll come back.’’ I obeyed him. As I walked inside the shop the owner said, “Those pigs wanted to eat poha-jalebi today, you go and finish yours.”

 I had already lost my appetite. On all these visits when he chose not to be with us, he was actually feeding those hungry children. After this day whenever I went with him, I never went inside the shop to eat. I chose to be with him. As the children surrounded him, I saw him asking them what they wanted to eat, instead of just giving them anything or leftovers, which he could have easily done. He happily gave them whatever they demanded and even packed more.

I once asked him why he did it. He remained silent and put his hands on my head. Then he said that he knew exactly how a hungry child feels. The owner of the shop heard his words but acted like he didn’t. I remember that he never ever ate in that restaurant and never bought new clothes for himself on Diwali. He never ever told anyone about this and the only person who knew about his generosity was the shop owner and now me. I am sure that this celebration of his was not just limited to Diwali and he never waited for an occasion. There were bed sheets, clothes, sweets which we bought that I could never find at home. And I knew that there was much more that he was doing.

 But as the adage goes, the good die young. After his death, we moved to Mumbai and Bhopal was left behind. We still used to visit the city to see my cousin but very rarely. Sometimes I used to think about the children begging near that sweet shop and the rude owner who used to chase them away. What must have happened to those children?

On one such visits I passed by the same shop and thought of stopping by. It had almost been 16 years that I had not been to this shop. I went to the entrance and saw the same person still at the counter. My eyes began to search for those children before I realised that they must have grown up as well, and I smiled. I went to the new “chaat counter” opened by the shop just outside the gate and chose what I wanted to eat. Two children appeared and started demanding samosas of the man serving the chat. The guy called for the owner and said  “inka to roz ka hai”. Before I could even decide that I would buy them samosas, the owner came out and looked angrily at the man. He then asked the children what they wanted to eat and served them himself.

The hungry children ate 3 to 4 servings and also took home more samosas. The owner did not recognize me, but I did. He was the new angel for the hungry children after my father.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mamata is an energetic, optimistic person who believes that anyone can do anything if one wants to. She loves to travel, write poems, watch movies, cook, garden and sing. Mamata follows her heart in anything that she does and thus can not do any thing just for the sake of doing it.

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