High on Festive Spirit - Dussehra and Diwali Special

The month of October marks the beginning of the festive period this year. It is a time when every household is full of diyas, the sky is full of fireworks, our mouths are full of sweets, hearts are full of enjoyment, and our minds are full of sweet memories. The festivities begin with Navratri and Dussehra and lead up to Dhanteras and finally, the most loved of all Hindu festivals, Diwali. Right from cleaning the house and decorating it with flowers and rangoli, to preparing fresh delicacies and buying new clothes, the festivals brings excitement and joy in people’s lives. The celebrations of each of these may vary slightly, but the one element that remains common is the importance of family. Indians celebrate every festival joyously keeping their family and loved ones close.

Diwali is the most eagerly awaited festivals for Hindus—both at home and in the diaspora. The promise of a new beginning, well-being, and prosperity fills everyone with hope and happiness. Shopping is done weeks in advance for new clothes, puja items, household products, and firecrackers. That over with, everyone is all set for a cracking great time. Since last year the festive spirit was dampened by the Covid-19 pandemic breakout, Indians across the globe are eagerly awaiting the festival this year. We can already feel the fervour in the air as everyone is gearing up to rejoice the festivities with much pomp and show.  To usher in the festive spirit, You & I gives you a sneak-peek into some homes in Hyderabad, whose residents welcomed us with great warmth and shared some of their celebratory moments with us.     - Niharika Keerthi

Samarth Bajaj and Sasha Rawal Bajaj

Diwali is the most celebrated festival in our household. It’s also my favourite time of the year. Diwali celebrations begin way before the actual date, with several parties happening all over, which I love attending. On Diwali day, however, I like to begin the day by either going to an orphanage or an old age home and distributing sweets. We then decorate the entire house quite extravagantly. My mother heads this endeavour and all of us follow suit. We then do our pujas at home and in the offices. Finally, we end the day by partying with friends and family and really enjoying the merriment that the festival entails. ”He goes on, “One thing I do not do is burn crackers. I’m completely against the idea of doing so.”Samarth is a talented and hard-working lad who enjoys creativity and entrepreneurship and his work life is an amalgamation of these two passions of his. He owns companies that dabble in jewellery, real estate, indoor entertainment, films and digital education. His beautiful wife Sasha is in the fashion field, and the couple shuttle
between their homes in Hyderabad and Mumbai. Sharing his fondness for the festival of Diwali, Samarth says,“

“Dusshera, on the other hand, is most about religious ceremonies and pujas, in our house hold. Navratri has a lot of significance to my mother and we have a haw an at the end of Navratri every year,” he says.

The last two years have been very unique for all of us and although the last festive season was by far the quietest, Samarth and Sasha hope that things will be close to normal this year. Samarth says, “I’m looking forward to celebrating Diwali in a more normal manner this year, but will be taking all precautions while doing so.” He goes on to explain why he enjoys the festival so much by saying, “Diwali is by far the most favourite time of the year for me and has always been so. It’s such an amazing blend of culture and celebration. The atmosphere around is just so different. Everyone around is happy and celebratory. I really enjoy the general positivity and atmosphere that exists around the festive season. People forget about the rat race we generally live in for those brief moments and just live. That’s what I enjoy most about the festive season.”

Anusha, Krishna and Ananya Garimella

Anusha works in the Human Resource division of a pharma company whereas Krishna works for his family business of poultry, Diamond Hatcheries Pvt Ltd, and together they have a two-year-old daughter named Ananya. For Anusha and Krishna, the festivals of Diwali and Dussehra are very close to their hearts. It is the time when they take a break from work and celebrate with their family and friends. The couple has many fond memories of the festivals from their childhood. From looking forward to the long vacations from school and celebrating with family and friends, they reminisce the revelries as they chat with us.

“Dussehra, the festival of triumph over evil, is a significant one for us. We begin our day with the most exciting part of dressing up in new and colourful clothes. We then do a puja at home and also for our cars after which we meet our families over a scrumptious traditional meal,” they share. Diwali too is a festival of joy, and apart from lighting up their own home, the couple enjoys watching the entire city being illuminated with diyas, candles and firecrackers. “There is a lot of positivity and celebrations around us,” they say. The week-long celebrations feature the couple gather and meet up with family and close friends every day. On the main festival day, they dress up in new outfits, visit family and exchange sweets. Anusha explains, “In the evening, we decorate our house with diyas and do a Lakshmi Puja. Our daughter Ananya loves lights so we are planning to make this year very special for her by decorating our house with a lot of flowers and lights.”

Talking about how they plan on celebrating the festivals this year, after having been locked in for almost two years due to the pandemic, Anusha says, “Diwali was a grand celebration for us earlier. However, the pandemic hampered our plans for the last couple of years. We were even more paranoid due to Ananya so we avoided any kind of gathering. This year, though things are getting better, we still intend to be cautious and stay away from large gatherings. We plan to celebrate with only our families and extend it to a few of our close relatives.”

What do they enjoy most about the festive season, we ask, to which Anusha says it’s the playing dress up, relishing delicious and authentic food, and getting together with family to decorate the house. Anusha and Krishna conclude on a sigh of hope saying that they pray and hope that things go back to normal soon and we all go back to celebrating our favourite festival in a grand way with all our loved ones!

Anindita S Chander and Drishika Chander

For the sisters, the festive period of Diwali and Dussehra is an absolute favourite. Their celebrations revolve around family, friends and spreading positivity. After being locked in for almost two years, this year the duo plan on going all out celebrating and being merry. When asked what they enjoy most about the festive season, they responded, “The Diwali parties, yummy food, and dressing up. Indian festivals are all about togetherness and spending them with our family and close friends makes it all the more special.” They added, “These tough times have reminded us that cherishing life and our loved ones is of utmost importance. So, this Diwali is going to be about making new memories that can be cherished for life. Diwali represents a new beginning, so let’s leave behind the negativity of the last two years and look forward to a new and positive future.”A practising lawyer and partner at Allied Law Offices, Anindita is an artist by passion and an older sister to Drishika Chander. Drishika is an actress and model who has appeared in two Tollywood films and is currently shooting for a Hindi feature film and another Telugu film. Her film Manasanamaha has qualified for the Oscars and has won many more accolades for Best Film and Best Performance. It has also beenshowcased at several film festivals across the world.

Shreya, Abhishek, Samaira and Aadhya Reddy

Shreya comes from a political family of Telangana and hence Batukamma is a big festival for her and her family. Bathukamma is a floral and cultural festival celebrated by women in Telangana. It is a time when flowers bloom in vibrant colours across the state and women hail these flowers. Revealing what she does to celebrate this festival, Shreya says, “We travel to our native place in Nizamabad and celebrate all nine days with great festivities. Dussehra is a feast day, it’s all about eating great food and time with family. Post my marriage, Diwali has become an important festival as it is celebrated in a big way by my in-laws. We have pujas in all our offices during the day and in the evening my mother-in-law prepares a large spread, including the yummy Nellore prasadallu. So as a family we get the added bonus of enjoying the festivities for a month.”Abhishek Reddy manages an infrastructure company named VD BInfra and shuttles across India on work, whereas Shreya works for her family business that is into manufacturing of industrial packaging, along with her mother. The couple has two children named Samaira and Aadhya.

The mood during this season is very festive, and for Shreya, right from meeting family, catching up with friends over cards or just decorating the house with diyas, makes for a fun time. Telling us what the pandemic taught her, Shreya says, “The pandemic has made us realise the importance of our traditions. In fact, I taught my children some of these customs, like making a bathukamma and drawing a rangoli, during the lockdown. It gave us time as a family to embrace our traditions and teach them to the kids.” She adds, “We started a new tradition of learning how to make bhakshalu from my granny.On the morning of Dussehra, we go to her place and make them with her. In a way, the pandemic made us understand the importance of spending quality time with our family, especially the elders.”

Anuj Rai, Shruti Chopra and Mishika Rai

Having been brought up in a joint family, Diwali was always the biggest festival that Anuj celebrated with his family. The celebrations span over three days in his home during which family, friends and neighbours visit to wish them. But it’s the great food, crackers and fun card games that they indulge in that takes centre stage during this time.

An artist manager by profession, Anuj lives with his wife Shruti Chopra who is a fashion designer and their new born baby girl named Mishika. He shares his plans for the festive season by saying, “The last two years have been tough for everyone owing to the pandemic, but I am looking forward to the Diwali parties and gatherings this year. Moreover, this Diwali will be very special since I have a new born daughter.” The unmissable excitement in the air as well as all the dressing up, eating good food and spending quality time with family and friends make the festival more special for the family.Anuj says, “For me Diwali has always been about new beginnings and a fresh start.

I hope and pray that things go back to normal from this Diwali and we can go back to our regular lives soon.”

Vinita, Lakshman, Aman and Shreya Chainani

Diwali 2021 will be very special for the Chainani family as Aman and Shreya got married a few months ago and this will be their first Diwali as a married couple. Aman and Shreya live with the former’s parents and hence, the festivities will be a grand affair, and since Navratri is right around the corner, the festivities have already begun in their household! Sharing details about their celebrations, Aman says, “It’s almost a month-long celebration which involves us spending time with our extended family and close friends, wearing new clothes for the pujas, cleaning and decorating the house and eating a lot of mithai!”

Diwali has always been Aman’s favourite festival since his childhood. He says, “It is the Festival of Lights and the city has a totally different charm and vibe when it is lit up. Meeting family and friends, decorating the house with flowers, diyas and rangoli, watching the fire crackers light up the sky, and indulging in a great spread of food and sweets is how we spend Diwali as a family.” In addition, Aman, who is a restaurateur and partner at Farzi Café in Hyderabad, celebrates Diwali with his entire Farzi family. “This gives me the feeling of unity and warmth that we have for each other as a team,” he says.

Although Diwali isn’t the same as what it was earlier, when the family would celebrate it with their cousins and extended family who would visit from across the country, it remains all about togetherness. Aman reveals, “Every year on this day we gather together with our relatives and enjoy the festivities by eating sweets, bursting a few crackers, and making memories. I have so many memories of the festivities spent with my family that I hold close to my heart and will cherish forever. We look forward to spending time with our loved ones
and attend intimate gatherings this year too.”

Padma Somireddy

A well-known interior designer from Hyderabad, Padma has two grown up boys who are studying in the US. Together with her husband and children, she celebrates this festive period with great pomp and show every year. They start the festivities with a deep cleaning of the house a few days prior to Diwali. They then buy new clothes, decorate the front door and puja room of their house with flowers and diyas and start the day with a puja. Their afternoon goes in sending wishes to all their family and friends and the evening consists of a celebratory gala with people from their community.

But what is it that Padma loves most about the festival, you wonder? It’s the house and the entire city being lit up and beautifully decorated. The festive spirit in the air and the brightly lit houses and buildings gives a sense of warmth and happiness to Padma. This year, she plans to celebrate the festival in a quiet way with her close family at home. She concludes, “The pandemic is still ongoing and we have to be careful and not let our guard down.”

Mansi Agarwal with Aadi and Maya

Talking to us about the significance of Diwali and Dussehra, she says, “As a child, Diwali and Dussehra was always about the decoration and puja at home and involved visiting my parents’ factory to distribute clothes and goodies to all the staff. It was also about a lot of amazing food and sweets. However, I’ve never been a cracker person.”ansi is a mother of twins and she spends all her free time with her children Aadi and Maya. On the work front, she is a fashion designer and has recently launched a new handloom line called Desi Collar.Over the last few years, Mansi has partnered with her friend Manissha who is a mental health coach and a meditation facilitator, to organise multiple online and offline workshops. This led them to start Live Pure Co., a brand of healing candles and other lifestyle products.

This year, the designer plans to celebrate these festivals with her five year old children who are now old enough to understand a lot more things. Mansi wishes to educate her children about these festivals and wants them to learn the significance and value of them. When asked what she loves most about these Indian festivals, she says it’s the“ food, the colours and the light”.

Although the festivals were not celebrated in a grand way last year owing to the pandemic, it was special for Mansi as she launched her brand of aromatherapy candles, Live Pure Co., around the time of the festival. “I’ve grown up being told that Diwali is a very auspicious time of the year to start anything new. Thus, I started my brand during this time last year,” she says.

Vaibhav and Kanika Sondhi

On Dussehra and Diwali, Vaibhav and Kanika enjoy spending time with family and playing dress up. Meeting their extended family over a meal and sharing stories and anecdotes from the past is another thing they look forward to. Food always takes centre stage at any Indian festival and on these two festivals too, the couple enjoy devouring traditional treats. Sharing her fondness for Diwali, Kanika says, “Diwali is a festival of lights and is a time of  happiness, hope, new beginnings, and new bonds.It’s a great time to start something new too. The festive spirit in the air fills my heart with joy.”Vaibhav is a realtor dealing in luxury properties and Kanika, who hails from Delhi, works at an MNC. The couple got married in 2019 and celebrated their first Diwali together last year. Since 2020 was rather dull on the festivities, this year Vaibhav and Kanika intend on hosting a Diwali party for their close friends and family and enjoy the essence of the festival together.

Ishna Rawlani

The morning goes by in decorating the house with lots of flowers and diyas, after which they prepare and eat a good home cooked lunch consisting of scrumptious Sindhi delicacies. In the evening they head to their own shop for a small puja and then go out for dinner. When asked what she enjoys most about the festival, she replies, “I think it’s the special food that really brings a lot of joy and also dressing up for the festivities is a lot of fun.”For fashion content creator Ishna Rawlani, Diwali is the most important festival of all. She and her family wait in anticipation for the festival all year but celebrate it in a rather simple manner.

After missing the grand revelries last year because of the pandemic, Ishna looks forward to celebrating Dussehra and Diwali this year. Telling us about the celebrations this year, she says, “I think the celebration will be the same as before but in a more mindful manner. Being safe right now should really be prioritised.

I believe people are being more mindful about how they are going about this, not having huge get-togethers or going all out.” She adds, “Last year we stayed home and enjoyed home cooked authentic dishes, but we look forward to celebrating it with family and friends this year.”