The news paper is my husband’s shield and ally.
It is his armour against the torrents of words that are often directed at him and he gratefully hides behind it. He reads most of its contents with a cursory dispassionate interest, but an inexplicable agitation grips him when he reads reports of festivities in the farthest and most inaccessible parts of the city.
I sometimes think my determination to attend all these events as soon as I read about them, may have something to do with his strange behaviour - but I always dismiss this thought as soon as it occurs to me.
An exciting and agitating news report about a Diwali Bazaar once appeared at the beginning of the century, and it landed us in Pune’s Budhwar Peth.
After, we had bowed our heads in reverence at the Daghdusheth Halwai Ganpati temple there I launched myself on the scattered shops and their potential bargains.
Arrogant in my prowess at sniffing out the best bargains, I rapidly moved from the crowd of shops selling diyas, earthen ware toys and coloured animal shaped candy in an open area, to the shops in the surrounding alleys. Icy courtesy and reluctance met me there, but I put it down to the unwillingness of the shopkeepers to part with their wares at a bargain. Excitedly I persisted in dodging and ducking into the maze of shops there in a semi trance.
As I waltzed down a certain lane, too busy to notice that courtesy had been replaced by curiosity and then by downright questioning gestures, my phone rang.
Annoyed at being interrupted in my dogged pursuit of bargains; especially since the caller was the man I imagined was just a few steps behind me –my husband, I turned around with a deadly frown.
And then my jaw dropped.
In my excitement I had failed to notice that I had walked into a lane populated exclusively by women. In their garish clothes and make up, they were standing around in suggestive postures and looking expectantly at my poor husband who stood awkwardly at the entrance of the lane stoically staring at his toes.
I beat a hasty retreat and asserted my claim on the distressed man.
The ladies were kind enough to refrain from laughing out aloud.
A mad frenzy usually grips me on Diwali. There is so much to do on that one day that I am left twirling on my toes. The house must be neat (impossible when the husband and daughter are around), the decorations have to be hung up, rangolis have to be made, diyas have to be lit, dishes that I never otherwise attempt have to turn out perfect and of course I have to wear my best outfit and ensure that it doesn’t catch fire.
A certain fail safe recipe then usually rescues me and here it is.
1. Set a big bowl of curd.
2. I usually use my biggest Borosil dish and set as much curd as it will hold. To set curd, take some readymade curd and spread about 2 to 3 tablespoons on all the walls of the bowl. Now pour in milk at room temperature and mix. Leave the bowl in a slightly warm area in the kitchen until it sets.
3. Once the curd has set, take a large sieve and cover it on the inside with a muslin cloth (or a handkerchief).
4. Place this over a bowl that can hold it and pour all the curd into the sieve.
5. Cover the sieve with the curd in it with a plate and place the whole contraption in the fridge overnight or for a whole day. The water from the curd drips out of it into the bowl below and you get hung curd.
6. On Diwali day, put the hung curd into another bowl. Mix in four or five tablespoons of Complan in the Kesar Badam flavour. Add some milk if the curd is too dry. Taste it and add more Complan if you like.
7. If it is not sweet enough for you, add some powdered sugar and mix it in. Taste again.
8. Chill the dish and garnish with a few strands of Kesar and a few slivers of almonds if you like.
Stand around and bask in the glory of your dish as it is devoured.