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
With February comes a gladdening of spirits, lighter morning skies and discernibly louder birdsong. It is also the month to bid farewell to our winter cocoons (at least partially) and tune back into the world beyond our blankets. Allow us to ease the de-hibernation process, by sharing some of the things piquing our interest this month.
“Who wants to see some magic?” Chef Arun calls out. He flings the rolled out dough into the air, sending it soaring above the counter. It spins and twists, a graceful dancer in the air. The children watch its arc, their eyes wide with wonder, until it lands gently back in the chef's hands. The children shriek in delight.
January is a most divisive month. For some it heralds the hopeful turning over of new leaves; for others it is a month to trudge begrudgingly through towards the promise of spring. Whichever camp you find yourself in, we have plentiful diversions to share. See them as the cherry atop your already gleeful January cake, or a welcome distraction while you await winter’s end.
I AM HERE, dear reader, slovenly and slouched, staring into my drink at the end of the bar in our new restaurant in Battersea. My mind is still down and out, sifting around in the dregs of ’23 but of course it knows that I should really straighten my back, raise my chin and look squarely up into the cold new light of ’24. My drink – Choti’s Punch – clear and strong, sweet with a little salt, may help.