We had initially planned to go away this weekend. The kids had three days off of school, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to go to the beach, or to go hiking in an old growth mountain jungle. Diwalli after all, had no meaning for us as foreigners. It was just an extra long weekend. We are glad that plans fell through.
Diwalli is not a one day affair. It extends over several days. It helps that depending on where you are from, you either use a solar or lunar calendar to decide which day is the big day and whether you do all your partying before dawn or after dusk. So our neighbor waking up the whole street with a cracker bomb at 6AM; well, that was because he is from Tamil Nadu and they did the big thing on Monday before dawn if they were traditional and after dusk if less so. The rest of the neighbors are from Hyderabad and Mumbai, so the big day was yesterday.
Naturally, if someone has the principal day, then it is an excuse for everyone to party in the street and blow up the world, one cracker bomb at a time.
Both Monday and Tuesday, all of the neighbors drew chalk designs on the streets, sidewalks, driveways and doorsteps. Then they “painted” those designs with brightly colored powder. Photographs of vendors selling this powder is one of the cliché photographs of India; where arrays of metal plates, each piled high with a different color powder abound. Well, those vendors exist because there is a market for them.
After our kids sponged off of the neighbors’ fireworks on Monday evening, I rode with a couple of neighbors to one of the ubiquitous fireworks vendors. If our kids will be blowing up Bangalore, we can at least help foot the bill and let their kids sponge off our fireworks in return. They have a huge, red “Standard” banner; Standard being the brand name. The banner actually looks like something from a circus. There is an enormous cluster of these kiosks along the highway in Hosour. We had driven past it on Sunday and my thought at the time had been, “Is there a circus in town”?
In a way, yes.
Darkness fell and we forced an overly exited five year old boy to wait until after dinner before we started setting them off. By an hour after sunset, all the neighbors were out on the street with the adults supervising the kids lighting small firecrackers and lighting off the ones that were too dangerous for kids. Then one of the neighbors produced a package of enormous, dual fuse, bottle rockets. We put the first in an empty wine bottle and lit the fuses. It soared up into the sky and exploded, releasing a flaming ball of phosphorous suspended by a parachute.
Then we put another in. The engine turned out to be a dud. It went up ten meters and kind of flopped into a palm tree. The explosive was not a dud and we had a brightly colored explosion in the palm tree; which left behind a flaming ball of phosphorous.
The tree sort of started smoldering.
Luckily, it was not one of the drier ones on the street, which might have gone up like a torch. I grabbed a garden hose and spent the next five minutes spraying the tree, trying to put it out.
To all of this, a neighbor could only say:
See! He’s American! Dave! You’re supposed to point that thing at Pakistan!