Sunday, November 07, 2004

Deepavali crackers a few days early

November 5 was Guy Fawkes Night, otherwise known as Bonfire night. It has been celebrated for the last 400 years, ever since Guy Fawkes - one of England's most famous traitors - tried (unsuccessfully) to blow up the Houses of Parliament... sometime in 1605, I think. Tradition has it that the Londoners lit bonfires that same year for joy that his plan didnt succeed (and that he was tortured and executed - bloodthirsty folks they were!). And that tradition has been followed ever since, only with ever more elaborate fireworks displays in addition to the bonfire. Personally, I tend to wonder if the whole thing started not in celebration of Guy Fawkes' execution, but as a (sneaky) way to honour his attempt to do away with the government!

Whatever the truth, Fireworks Night is something I really enjoy. I also see it privately as an early celebration of Deepavali. After all, crackers are set off well before the actual Deepavali night in Chennai! When I was in India, my favourite "patas" were the ones that looked lovely while going off and didnt make too much noise - flowerpots especially, that looked like fountains of gold and silver when they were lit, pattering back to the ground in pearls of fire. They never lasted long enough for me and there were never enough of them bought. Left to me, I would have spent every last paisa on big flowerpots alone!

I also liked "tharai chakrams" (catherine wheels?), sparklers and rockets. What I HATED absolutely were the sarams, atom bombs and hydrogen bombs that temporarily deafened anybody within hearing range. The sarams especially made me want to scream abuse at those who set them off. (Well, actually I DID scream abuse - only nobody ever heard me because of the damn noise!)

The fireworks display that I went to see here yesterday night was absolutely fantastic. Made better by the fact that it was a clear night despite having been a cloudy, drizzly day. No rain to make the fireworks display a damp squib (pun alert!) ;-) What I like best about the fireworks here is that people cant just set off crackers anywhere they please - it has to be done in an open area, preferably in a field with no houses close by. So that cuts down on the noise level straightaway and thank GOODNESS for that.

But by far the most pleasing factor is that people dont seem to bother with the saram-type of ear-splittingly noisy crackers (probably because of the noise pollution laws). They go in for rockets instead - and oh what beautiful patterns those rockets make in the sky. I wonder how fireworks are made so that they form specific patterns when they explode - chrysanthemums, stars, etc. I mean, they cant be controlled to do specific things... once they're lit, it's literally out of human hands. And then there are the slightly time-delayed explosions as well, where the rocket goes up and scatters into a dozen little red lights which fall for a few seconds - then those lights explode in a shower of multi-coloured or gold and silver stars.

I could have watched those fireworks all night, they were so beautiful - and like so many beautiful things, so ephemeral.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i just don't have the time da, but do go into and read up the latest scandal _ the kanchi shankaracharya being arrested and make that ur next blog entry. caio. Gee