Happy (almost) Diwali! Our Saffron 59 kitchen is busy with our own Diwali-fest with Indian inspired bites like Chicken Pakora with Bengali Style Chatni (Tender fritters served with coriander and green chili dip). So, meet our guest writer of the week; the fabulous Jay Dehejia!
The five-day festival of lights will be celebrated in early November this year. This celebration takes different forms in different parts of India. In my community of Gujaratis, we would spend evenings getting dressed up in colorful clothes and organize folk dances. This year, we will celebrate Diwali with friends and family on November 3rd. This autumn festival brings back such wonderful childhood memories for me.
Diwali, for me started with ‘Dhanteras’, the 13th day of the waning moon. The day is dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi to provide for the well being and prosperity for the family. That is the day we would light hundreds of oil lamps all around the house and the garden.
As a young boy, during the week leading up to Diwali day, my mother would help my brother and me draw a new ‘rangoli’ each day in front of our house. “Rangoli’ is a form of folk art made from rice flour, colored sand, and flower petals. Each day, we would come up with a different design and make it as colorful as we could. My mother would also bring flowers, mostly marigolds, which we would string together and make garlands. These would then be strung along the front door.
I always enjoyed the anticipation of the big day leading up to Diwali. I would save the noisiest and the biggest firecrackers (crackles; bottle rockets; ‘flower pots’; and lots of sparklers) for the evening of Diwali. All of our family would take turns lighting the oil lamps and sparklers to light the firecrackers. What fun and so much excitement!
No Indian festival is complete without exotic food; with lots of different types of sweets on the table with abundance of dishes from aromatic Chicken Masala to marinated BBQ Stuffed Lamb with fresh roasted spices. Diwali comes only once a year and the excitement and delicious foods is just irresistible.
For Gujaratis, November 4th is the start of Vikram Samvat year 2070. Let us take time to enjoy being with our family and friends, and wish for a festive and successful year.
Jay Dehejia is a “FOS” (Fan of Saffron 59). Jay and his wife, Vidya, splits their time between Goa, India and the UWS, New York.