Whenever I hear the word Diwali, all sorts of images fill my mind. Delicious South Indian mouth-watering sweets, bright lights, colourful fireworks that light up the skies, and the grumpy old man standing by with his bucket of water on Diwali night, to splash out any lit crackers in his compound.
With Diwali just a day away, I'd like to share some of my Diwali stories from the past about firecrackers.
Don't you just love firecrackers? I do! And I know for a fact, the children certainly do!
Then there are kids that do exactly the opposite when it comes to playing with fireworks, don't you agree? Back in the day, R (Raiwaqa) children had a tendency of getting into trouble with firecrackers.
They'd know that if a growling Wood Pecker doesn't scare you, then the thunderous Wido Maker will make you run. These were two very prominent brands of firecrackers back then.
Yes, there were days when we got burnt from exploding firecrackers, but nothing bad to keep us under the spirit of Diwali. For the record, these firecrackers have been banned.
A familiar sight was seeing children all huddled together at a point, then they'd spread out running in all directions before a big bang went off behind them, then an empty cooking pot went flying in the air.
Almost every kid with strikers had a pot to mess around with. What they would do is strike the Wido Maker and place it under a pot. Then boom!! It's almost like a bomb going off, as the force of the cracker shoots pot and all into thin air.
Strikers were the choice crackers for almost every kid in R back then, simply because it was powerful than fused-crackers.
I vividly recall my friend Toma, who saved his school spending money to buy a packet of 'Wido Maker' (Strikers). One night before Diwali, we used up the whole packet on an empty pot, taking turns.
We'd ignite the striker, place it on the ground and cover it with the mouth of the pot, then boom! The pot shoots high into the air. It was only after Toma's mum came after him with a sasa broom that I realised Toma had pulled his mother's cooking pot from the kitchen for our little fun experiment. The thunder striker was loud but Toma's screaming was louder when she gave him a good-hiding. Me, I took off as fast as my feet could carry me. That was the last time we messed around with his mum's pot.
Then there was my good friend Tina.
She went screaming past my house one Diwali day.
Behind her, a boy half her age in pursuit with only a sparkler lit in his hand yelling hiyaaâ€¦.hiyaah!!
Tina in full flight yelling wailei! The funny thing is, she had a lit sparkler in hand too. So why was she running? Everybody knows Tina is a scaredy-cat. She's scared of every kind of firecracker. I found out later that her cousin miraculously managed to persuade her to hold a lit sparkler in her hand, and lit one for him too. He told me he couldn't resist giving her a little scare and told her that if she dropped the sparkler it would explode. Tina freaked and ran. If Tina is reading this, I wish you a happy Diwali.
I see the Festival of Lights as a day that not only brings joy to our Hindu families but to all families. Why? Well first of all it's a public holiday! Everybody loves that, and, there's firecrackers galore!
That being said, I as a Christian, must say, we all celebrate Diwali in our different ways, and different it was in my neighbourhood.
Since I still live in the same neighbourhood, I won't name anyone, just in case my good old friends might feel a little exposed, but in this instance, I'm sure mentioning just one name won't hurt at all, in the spirit of Diwali.
Then there was my good friend Sam, who was always on top of things on Diwali night.
He'd mention things like "Riga's mother bought him one big plastic of crackers, come let's go help him light it, save those ones (ours) for later". Or, "hey, let's go to aunty up the road and ask for curry leaves and she'll give us some sweets".
Somehow his plans always worked.
One Diwali night, Sam came to me with a very excited look on his face.
Ashneel from up the road had given him a parachute. (A missile-like cracker that explodes with a red flair attached to a tiny parachute). Back then it was the master of all crackers.
I recall how Sam was so happy, that he even did his very weird and funny victory dance! Move his hip back and forth as he walked. Boy was he excited.
That Diwali night, the skies lit up with fireworks. We could see them from as far as Samabula.
Everything was looking good, we had sweets, firecrackers and managed to light a whole packet of Wood Peckers in front of Mr Grumpy's house and got away with it. Sam planned it all, saying "let's go and pay Grumpy a little visit".
Anyway we attracted a lot of the neighbourhood children to come watch Sam light the parachute.
Sam kept talking to the onlookers as he placed the rocket in an empty bottle, more like showing off.
"OK guys, this is what you call a fire cracker. Vakarau! Vakarau! (Get ready, get ready!) the rocket is ready!"
He pulled out a lighter put it under his leg and lit the rocket.
This guy was the main boy as far as we were all concerned. He then did his victory dance and walked back to us. Just then water came flying from nowhere, splashed on poor Sam and soaked his parachute rocket too.
It was Mr Grumpy. He chased us with a stick, and that was the last time we messed with him on Diwali. So on behalf of Toma, Tina and Sam, we wish you all a very happy Diwali!