December 7, 2011

First Diwali in Singapore

Last year was my first diwali in Singapore or for that matter, first ever diwali outside India. Diwali was middle of the week day with just one holiday at office. To be really honest, my expectations of celebrations were really low, for many reasons – no extended family, just one holiday, ‘how can diwali be fun outside India’ etc. However I was pleasantly surprised. My diwali here was really action packed and full of fun. This city is amazing; at least half the year goes in celebrations. From Oct to Feb, it’s all celebrations, holidays and festivity. It begins with Diwali where Little India becomes a month long festive fair followed by a big grand Christmas where it feels like the whole city is one grand Christmas tree decorated with the best decorations ever designed and ends with bright red celebration of Chinese New year, when not just China town is decorated; even the rest of the city offers deals, discounts, decorations, dragon dance, orange plants etc. It makes you feel like there is a place for everyone and anyone to make home here, to make it their own here and even everybody else’s.

Anyway coming back to my diwali, it started with card parties beginning from two weekends before diwali and a weekend after diwali so that is continuous four weekends of dinner invites and cards. Now these dinners are a real serious affair, you block dates weeks in advance and you host the best Indian food. The house is beautifully done with rangoli of flowers and lit up with best candles and most ethnically done diyas, gone are the days of simple mud and oil diyas. Some enthusiastic hosts even had themes to the party. One of the good ones that I attended was  themed on ‘Indian streets’ where the food served was all Indian street food; batata vada, pav bhaji, keema pav, sev puri and then yummy jalebis. No it doesn’t end here, the icing on the cake was the banarasi paan. The host really took a lot of efforts in logistically organizing all this. The paav (Indian bread) came from Mumbai with some friends and the paan also came a week in advance from India and was frozen – now that I call as some planning and enthusiasm. Food, décor and now comes the clothes - for all these parties the dress code was best Indian fineries. Everyone was in best saris from Sabyasachi to Calcutta prints to Banarasi silks with sexy blouses. I had left all my heavy Indian clothes back home in India thinking I will never need them in Singapore, so I had to make do with the couple of saris that I had, but I survived beautifully well.

Now comes the turn for my party. Firstly I didn’t know that I would have to host a diwali party so I wasn’t prepared from months before to organize anything from India. So I did something intelligent, I kept the theme of my party as ‘Patiala house’ where everything was Punjabi. Now anything Punjabi is my comfort zone as I am one. The food was chicken tikka, fish tikka, handi chicken, chole, aalo chaat, gulab jaman. Except for the chicken & fist tikka, everything was cooked at home by my helper or me. The dress code was Punjabi salwars as this saved me from not having another sari. And the mood was most Punjabi thanks to my husband’s Patiala pegs and my collection of Punjabi songs. The house was full of flower and diya decorations. All in all it was a fun night and everyone had fun. I lost a lot of money in the card game and that too dollars and not Indian rupees and I got drunk. In between all these parties, there was a diwali gathering in my condo where my son lighted diwali sparkles with his friends. So that’s a tick for the crackers part of diwali, without which diwali would have been incomplete, especially if you have a kid at home.

If my thoughts trigger a thought of your own, do leave a comment. I love reading your comments.