Wednesday, November 16, 2011


A Diwali rangoli, created by my granddaughters Parvati and Swati
This year’s Diwali was Danielle-Kartik’s Thalai Diwali, the Diwali they celebrate as a couple for the first time. I sent them a mail from which I quote two or three sentences:
“In those days – I am talking about 75 years back -- newly-married couples used to wait eagerly for Diwali, the reason being they had to wait a year or so to start living together as man and wife.
“The boy with his parents used to go his in-laws’ place to celebrate Diwali.  If they (I mean the newly-married couple) were lucky they would get a few moments to themselves, to hold each other’s hands and for some daring boys to steal a kiss or two!!”

Kartik and Danielle
 Thanking me, Danielle wrote back saying she enjoyed reading my mail, bursting out laughing when she read “steal one or two kisses”.

My parents

Well, life was indeed very different then. My parents got married when my mother was eight years old and my father 14 -- that was in 1902. They were together for 70-odd years, till 1972, when my father passed away. Through thick and thin, through ups and downs, through sadness and happiness they were together bringing up their seven children and settling them in life. They did not understand the word LOVE, for there was no such word in their dictionary, but they cared so much for each other in their own way. Both of them had shared their fears and anguish for each other with me.

My third sister , me and my eldest sister
My three elder sisters were married off when they were 12, 13 and 14, respectively. I was not even born when my eldest sister got married. She was older to me by 13 years. So I have no idea how her Thalai Diwali was celebrated. I was 10 years old when my second sister got married and went to her in-laws’ place within two-three months and was with her husband and his family to celebrate their first Diwali. Since they were living in the same city the whole family was invited for lunch and my sister and Athimbar were presented with new clothes.

With my second sister
Though we are Tamilians, we are third-generation families who have settled in Thiruvananthapuram (capital city of erstwhile Travancore state). We have been more influenced by the culture of Travancore and developed our own style of celebrating Diwali including the Thalai Diwali of newly-married couples.
When my third sister got married and moved over to Trichy with her husband before their first Diwali, gifts were sent to them.  I was in Delhi with my husband a month after my marriage. We were sent money to buy whatever we wanted. I was 17-plus when I got married in 1945 and that was regarded as rather late for a girl to be married off. When my 23-year-old niece’s marriage was put off till 1960 because she wanted to finish her graduation, so many comments were passed.

So customs and rituals were being changed to suit each family’s convenience and the times they lived in. 

Nowadays there are hardly any set rules and laws. That is only right. With each family having its members spread all over the world it is very difficult to stick to old rules. I feel each family should be given the freedom to celebrate the festivals as they choose to, in their own way. 


Jennifer Kumar, Cross-Cultural Coach said...

You have such an international family!!

flowergirl said...

I have always wondered why this thalai deepavali walso important!

It seems a peculiarity of TN?

Vasanta said...

Thalai diwali I thought, is a relatively new phenomenon,at least in Kerala.This is probably, because Kerala is the only state , where Diwali is not such a big affair.Vasanta

Vasanta said...

Thalai diwali I thought, is a relatively new phenomenon,at least in Kerala.This is probably, because Kerala is the only state , where Diwali is not such a big affair.Vasanta

shalini mehra said...

A friend of Gowri i always look forward to read your write ups...simplicity and honesty is so touching ... you inspire me..
Shalini Mehra

Viji said...

Lovely post Ma : ) Our Thalai Diwali was jsut a couple of days after our wedding he he !! How lucky can one get !!

Sudha said...

Dear Maiji (is it ok to call you that, or is it only for family?),

I heard about your blog last December when I was in Madras for our school reunion. I went to school with your grandson Sankar (yes, I learnt from your blog entry of the 10th of Feb that that is indeed what he is called at home!).

The idea of an Indian lady of your generation taking to blogging piqued my interest, and at the earliest opportunity, I had a look at your blog. Indeed, I went through much of the archives too.

And how glad I am that I did! I absolutely love your entries. You describe the old days so beautifully, and make them come alive. Your take on events, both current and of the past, is refreshing. I also find it amazing that you continue to take such an active interest in so many things – knitting, cooking, describing Vishu or Kolu, your visits abroad (how I enjoyed that one about helping with footwear selection!), and weddings. Your latest on thalai Deepavali was hilarious (never associated the older generation with kisses, let alone stealing them :-))

I look forward to reading a lot in the weeks to come – the absence of entries for an extended period earlier this year was noted and missed!

Am I allowed to say that you remind me of my own grandmother?

Warm regards (namaskarams!),

reshmi said...

I love reading what you write. It is such a wealth of information and experience. Thank you :)

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