Don't shoot the messenger. How to do Diwali the Mumbai way.

Diwali faral from the Ramnathkars

I went to bed late last night thanks to a very stiff neck and it was post 10 am this morning by the time I woke up.

Turned out that Bandra was up and ready by then even though it was Diwali.

The doorbell rang and in came the vegetable and fruit delivery man from Lalu's at Pali Market. We had guests coming in and needed supplies for Banu who had agreed to come to work early and cook for them.

The doorbell rang again. It was the delivery person from Jude Cold Storage at Pali Naka with our order of a whole chicken for guests coming to stay with us tomorrow and kheema for our dinner today.

The doorbell rang again. It was the delivery person from Swiggy with the breakfast K had called for me from La Folie. I was not feeling up to making mine because of the pain and she wanted to treat me to something nice.

The doorbell rang again. This time is was our neighbour, Mr Ramnathkar, beaming at me after I opened the door groggy eyed. He looked like Father Christmas as he was carrying a huge blue bag. A bag full of Diwali faral

"Happy Diwali," he said with a big smile.

"Thank you so much. You know, I was looking forward to this ever since I woke up," I replied.

I was not being polite. This was the truth. I did think of these Diwali treats the moment I woke up and had checked to see if they had already come in before I had woken up.

Ever since we had moved into this apartment building in Bandra about five years back, a box of Diwali faral from our ground floor neighbours has become a fixture on this day. Diwali faral is a mix of sweet and savoury snacks  such as laddoo, chakli, poha, karanji and shakar padha,  which are traditionally made at home by Maharashtrians and distributed by them on Diwali. The faral dishes are pretty delicious though I must say that I am more partial to the namkeen (savoury ones). 

"This is a must for me every Diwali," said Prashant Ramnathkar. "I wake up in the morning every Diwali and set off to distribute these to our family. Neighbours first and within that, you first. I know that you truly appreciate it."

I felt touched and special to hear this.

"Did your wife make these?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied.

"Don't your kids come out with you to give these?"

"They are sleeping," he said with a wry smile.

The 'kids' are in their twenties and I could completely empathise with them.

"Let me take a picture of you," I said.

He bashfully posed and then said, "but you need to take my wife's picture. She is the main person. If you put up a picture, it has to be hers."

It is through my Femina column a few years back that he had got to know that I write on food.

So here's a picture of the Diwali box from the Ramnathkars. I will take a picture of them when they are back from their Diwali rounds and post that later.

The Diwali faral box from the Ramnathkars

The picture below refers to another Diwali tradition in our building for us. This started three years back when two little boys rang the door bell and said, "we are from the 4th floor," to my wife, gave a box of sweets on behalf of their parents and ran off. They were here today too. Somehow I always end up opening the door for Mr Ramnathkar and she for the two little boys.

As they did last year, the Patel boys brought us delicious Sindhi sweets from the legendary Tharu's Sweet Shop in Khar. The Patels are Gujaratis and they celebrate their new year during this period.

Tharu's sweets from the Patels

The Ramnathkars are Maharashtrians. My first Diwali in Mumbai was spent with a Punjabi family in my PG twenty years back who made me feel at home in a city I was knew to then. The menu that night starred chhole bhatoore. The first Diwali party that I went to in Mumbai was hosted by a Kannada lady who worked in an ad agency who welcomed us with kaju katlis when we walked in before the start of a spirited kebab, biryani and Scotch and beer evening. Yesterday I was invited to attend the Bombay Durga Bari Kali Pujo bhog by a fellow Bengali. The bhog menu there starred khichuri. The one time that we threw a Diwali party at home was at the request of a British couple, friends of our who lived in Mumbai for a while, went back to the UK, missed India and came back to celebrate Diwali here. They were more keen on Diwali than we were. I made mutton curry that night as in Bengal, Kali Puja, which precedes Diwali means mutton curry.

Alu gobi made and roti made by Banu who came and wished
me a cheerful Happy Diwali and then hugged my wife and
wished her too. The kaali dal is from Khane Khas. Diwali
Lunch at our place. Not traditional as such but very
delicious and very Indian

Today my mother in law and my wife's masi and mama, Parsis all, came over to celebrate Diwali with us. Over a home cooked meal cooked by our cook, Banu. 

Selfies are serious business. Did you spot Banu?

Now you know why I strongly believe that there is no festival that defines the mosaic spirit of Mumbai like Diwali does and why I am so keen to share these stories with you.

Happy Diwali folks.

Update: My neck pain is less compared to the morning after applying spray and munching on the shakar padhas and mithais and after writing this post.

New writing desk arrangement to welcome & make space for
 friend in the guest room cum study

Also of interest

Please do read my Daily O column today. It is about my first ever Diwali in Mumbai. I hope you like it

An article for NDTV food on Diwali food traditions followed by friends from the world of food across the country

The Diwali candles at our window were from our friends, the
Grovers. I want to thank all our friends, neighbours and also
hotels, brands, who sent us Diwali gifts. Am trying to name
some & sorry if I miss out any: Hyatt Regency Mumbai,
ITC Grand Central, Body Shop India, Himalaya India