Over the years, Diwali has become one of those things you used to enjoy more when you were a kid... I remember childhood Diwalis (or Deepavalis) spent with countless phuljhudis, rang mashals, tubris and chorkis and enlivened by the occasional rocket or string of kali patkas. In contrast Diwali this year was a sad and lacklustre affair. Especially since the two youngest ones weren't at home, no one really felt like it I suppose.
Of course it was a different say even 10 years back. We all (meaning ALL of the family... including all otherwise disinclined members) gathered on the terrace, around 9 at night. The young ones would grab all the bags of fireworks and candles and rush up and down the stairs, faces gleaming with barely contained excitement. Ma would insist that we eat dinner first and change into cotton dresses even as we were raring to go.
Finally the golden hour would come, we would eagerly light up a fat candle stub in a corner and come out with our arsenal of sparklers and crackers. We would with baited breath as the first sparklers were held to the fire and erupt with joy when the colourful streaks of light would break out. After a few minutes of playful twirling with magnesium wires and blinding rang mashals, the serious aspect of lighting the first chorki or tubri would begin.
My father used to be a very enthusiastic participant those days (later he would of course become more reticent). Anyway he was somewhat of a specialist the fine art of lighting a tubri or a chorki or that other great pleasure, a rocket! My older cousins would gladly assist him and we would all watch with joy as the chorki or tubri would catch fire and burn with fizzing light and sparks.
I was far too scared (though I wonder why?!) of chorkis - though I loved watching them spark and splutter into a fizzing circlet of light. It was a matter of great interest to me how the chorki actually worked (in fact I once hid in a corner of our balcony one whole afternoon trying to disassemble a chorki and finding out the mystery behind its wizardry... not that I was very successful anyway).
My great joy was the tubri - especially old fashioned ones which came in small earthenware pots covered by a patch of thin kite paper. A touch of the magic-wand like phuljhudi and a tree of light and a shower of glittering stars would erupt. Gorgeous! The best ones used to come from a gnarled old man called (of all things) Khokababu! I have no clue what K-babu or his family did for the rest of the year, but for Diwali, they turned their front room into a baaji making workshop and set up shop! Of course he never followed any fire safety norms or anything... but it still looked like a lot of fun.
Anyway, back home, when the fireworks were exhausted, we would build up a bonfire with the empty wrappers and cardboard boxes. In would go the shaap baaji pills and out of the acrid smoke would come the fat black curling snake that disintegrated at a touch.
At the end of it all, we would settle in different corners of the terrace and check out what fire power our neighbours had in stock that year. We never got the really "fancy" stuff so it was a thrill seeing a rocket break into a million stars or a phanush with a bright twinkling garland of lights gently gliding along the night sky.