Diwali draws near again, and with it fireworks, colour and celebrations. But it’s also worth remembering the narrative of Diwali, passed lovingly on from generation to generation.
The noble prince gives up the throne, his birthright, and leaves with his wife and brother for the forest to honour the aged king’s promise. The princess is kidnapped by a fearsome ten-headed king, the ruler of a splendid southern island. The noble prince meets the loyal monkey god. Together they build an army and a bridge of stones to the island, whence they join valiant battle with demons to rescue the princess. They return triumphantly home, and the prince takes his rightful place as king. Darkness banished, noble prince in his rightful place, tyrannical ten-headed monarch vanquished.
It is a tale of dangerous sorceresses who disguise themselves as beautiful seductresses. Of enchanting shape-shifting golden deer and brave vultures, of chariots flying across the sky. Of the monkey god leaping the ocean, plucking the sun from its place and holding it in his armpit. Of a demon who sleeps for months, and wakes up ravenous for flesh.
It is also a tale of duty. Of placing faithfulness to one’s ideals above personal gain. About serving one’s parents. A tale of patient, loyal service through both the depths of despair and the heights of triumph.
Diwali is about all these things. For Hindus, it marks the vanquishing of evil, the return of the prince, Lord Rama, after years in the forest. When Lord Rama came back to Ayodhya, little diyas – or earthen candles – were lit. We continue this tradition today, with its symbolism of awakening, new joy and hope, the beginning of a new year – an important time to be with family and loved ones.
This year at Dishoom, we decided to delve more deeply into Diwali, its traditions and stories.
On Sunday 23rd October, starting in the morning we have a fantastic day of events (in association with the South Asian Literature Festival) to celebrate the Diwali story.
Adults and children alike will be spellbound by the incredible storyteller Vayu Naidu – who will narrate the story of Diwali in two magical story-telling performances at 11.30am and 3pm. Vayu will use her mastery of the art of storytelling to bring to life Rama and Sita, and tell how Hanuman the wise flying monkey brings peace, light and delight to the world.
In the meantime, kids (and adults!) can delight in having their faces painted as a colourful character from the Diwali story.
The budding artists amongst you can also help our resident art-wallah, Dameon Priestly, create a Diwali Rangoli on the pavement outside Dishoom, while we keep kids warm with Junior Chai (delicious frothy milk, cinnamon and honey).
In the evening – at 6pm, we’ll be showing the mesmerising, funny and beautiful animated film, Sita Sings the Blues. The award-winning film narrates and gently questions the Diwali story. It’s brilliant. Come and relax with a drink and some snacks and enjoy the show.
Meanwhile, for the whole of Diwali period from Tuesday 18th October – Sunday 30th October, we’re doing two special Diwali Feasts, one completely vegetarian and the other featuring our much-loved Dishoom lobster tail. By popular demand, we’ve brought back the Dahi Puri and the Phaldari Kofta Ruby.
So – we very much look forward to seeing you over Diwali and wishing you much prosperity and light over the coming new year!
Sunday 23rd October – Diwali at Dishoom
11am – 1pm – Pavement chalk Rangoli for kids and adults of all ages, with artist Dameon Priestly
(We’ll bring you lashings of Junior Chai to keep you warm!)
11am onwards – Face-painting for kids and adults of all ages
11.30am and 3pm Vayu Naidu, storyteller extraordinaire tells the story of Diwali, princes, princesses and monkey gods! (roughly 45 mins)
6pm – Screening of Sita Sings the Blues with drinks and snacks
IT HAS BEEN an annual December habit of mine, these past ten years since we embarked upon this restaurant business, to sit alone, with myself, and reflect on the year gone by. I am grateful to be here in the Permit Room in our restaurant in Shoreditch scribbling and writing, the oddly enjoyable taste of splintering wood from my chewed up pencil smoothed by my decently strong drink.
These are the last few days, the dregs of 2019. It’s my habit to sit here in the Permit Room at this time. I am the be-stubbled and dishevelled regular, cherishing his precious drink at the end of the bar. Weary, I sit here pondering the year, attempting to figure out what it was trying to teach me. What wisdom can I glean from it?
I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.
We have arrived at a very sad, but inevitable and clear choice. As of now, all Dishooms are now closed to diners.