“Pataaki” – the Kannada word for Firecrackers. The word I learnt as a kid to signify what it signifies. Diwali was not about pooja or about sweets. It was about a holiday from school and firecrackers. A week prior to Diwali, my brother and I would start nudging our father to buy firecrackers. There was a budget session first. Rs 100 was almost always the maximum. Anything you can buy for Rs 100. Our neighbours bought for five or ten times this amount and shared with us too. However we got enough for Rs 100 back then (approximately 24 years ago!!).

Once the budget session gave the clearance it was a wait and daily reminders to buy firecrackers on his way home. We even scared him by saying that the firecrackers would be over by the time he went to the store and we would be left watching others and not having any of our own. After some persistent pushing, an evening on his way back home, he would come home with a box of firecrackers. My brother and I leaped at the box to uncover the treasure. Happy at some exciting crackers and sad at some that he missed. We would also manage to sneak in some toy gun firecrackers (I forget what we called them), but they came in half inch wide long red strips, with bumps of concealed flash powder.. yeah “Roll pataaki”. We fed the roll into the toy gun and boom boom started the fire roll. One variant was to rub the firecracker against a rough surface with your bare hands.

Come Diwali and the first step was partition, fifty-fifty was the rule, with our mother as the referee. We opened each box and split everything in half. This was to avoid fights. The long wait for darkness and planning with neighbours regarding what time we would go down and start the ritual. We planned and planned and talked and discussed like this was the most important activity in life. As soon as the sky darkened, it was our mother’s turn to be target to our nudging. “Come on Ma, lets go, everyone is going”.

We carried candles, agarbathi (incense sticks) matchboxes, our respective bag of firecrackers. FIrst step was to find a place to establish the candle without the wind blowing it off. And then we get set go..

Lot of kannada terms here – Sursur bathi of different lengths and colours , bhoo-chakra, flower pot – small one and big one, pencil, snake, pataaki in different lenghts, lakshmi bomb, eeruli bomb, rocket, double shot, sarra.

All the diwalis where I have burst firecrackers have been with my brother. And today as I see some kids enjoying their Diwali on the street, I miss him and wish for another Diwali with him.

Happy Diwali!!

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