Bombay. This magnificent yet (at times) mad “maximum city” is heaving with people of all backgrounds, races and religions. A city groaning under the weight of its own success and seductive appeal, a city hurtling towards its real and imagined destinations at breakneck speed. All the while bearing the bulk of its 20 million residents, each one clinging on for dear life.
In the midst of this perfect storm, Diwali provides an occasion to stop, take a pause for breath, gather one’s loved ones, and celebrate all that is good in the world. With its symbolism of awakening, new joy and hope, the beginning of a new year, the festival of light brings people together in celebration, regardless of wealth or status, of race or background and even beliefs. Bombay is all people and all religions, and Bombay, as a city, celebrates Diwali with boundless passion.
In the days and weeks before Diwali, the excitement and gaiety flickers through Bombay like electricity. It gently brings all the members of the family and community back together, much like an old dadi (grandmother) lovingly knitting a sweater, pulling at loose ends, tugging at the corners to reaffirm the ties that bind. Households embark on their annual frenzy of cleaning and tidying; each corner of the house is scrubbed bright; and the prized linen, crockery and silverware stored away for ‘best’ are taken out with a flourish for Diwali – the most special of occasions.
Each ritual has its own sweet, nostalgic significance. But it is not about the size of the home; whether the trappings of Diwali are luxurious and brand-new or carefully preserved hand-me-downs; or whether the car in the garage is a Mercedes or a Maruti. What matters in every home, from the smallest slum dwelling to the grandest Malabar Hill mansion, is that come dusk, each window and door is left open, and earthen oil lamps are lit to welcome Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth.
The day of Diwali dawns: the Diwali story has been played out. The fearsome ten-headed demon Ravana has been defeated; Lord Rama and Hanuman are on their gloried return home, with Sita safely rescued from Ravana.
Homes are sparkling clean. Dinner tables groan with the weight of food painstakingly prepared throughout the day. Platters are laden with sweets (and filched by small, sticky fingers!). Miniature earthen lamps with cotton wicks are dipped in ghee, and lit as the sun sets. And families dressed in silken Diwali finery gather around as the dusky skyline is illuminated by firecrackers. Sparklers, pinwheels, rockets, ladi bombs, mithai, colourful celebrations, fun and laughter… this is the picture of Diwali in so many homes in India.
And this year, here in London, we would once again like to invite you to celebrate Diwali with us. We may not be in Bombay, but somehow we can all try and capture a little of its spirit and share it with each other.
DIWALI AT DISHOOM – 2012
On Sunday 11th November, we’ve teamed up with the South Asian Literature Festival to celebrate the wonderful stories behind Diwali with a fun-packed family day of face-painting, pavement art and storytelling.
Dishoom’s spellbinding (and world-famous!) master storyteller Vayu Naidu will narrate the fabulous story of Rama, Sita and Hanuman. A tale of kidnapped princesses, daring and wonder, shape-shifting golden deer, chariots flying across skies, monkey gods leaping across oceans! Adults and children alike will be captivated.
So, bring your kids, your friends and yourselves and celebrate the Diwali story at Dishoom. Have a look at last year’s Facebook album to see all the fun that was had!
11am – 1pm – Pavement Rangoli and face-painting for kids and adults of all ages – transform yourself into a colourful character from the Diwali story or have your face decorated with a delicate design.
At 11.30am – Vayu Naidu, story-teller extraordinaire, tells the story of Diwali, princes, princesses and monkey gods! (roughly 45 mins)
At 4.30pm – a welcoming glass of Diwali Punch (or Chocolate Chai for the teetotallers and young ones)
At 5pm – Vayu Naidu will give a second performance of the marvellous story of Diwali. (around 45 mins)
At 6pm – mithai (Indian sweets) and sweet paan for all.
Make a reservation here
(There’s absolutely no charge for any of the special activities – all are welcome. Of course, you’re very welcome to eat with us too before or after the activities. You don’t have to reserve a table if you’d like to eat, but if there’s a large group of you it might be a good idea.)
DIWALI FEASTS – 2012
For the whole of Diwali period from Monday 5th November – Wednesday 15th November, we’re doing two special Diwali Feasts, one completely vegetarian and the other featuring our much-loved Dishoom Lobster Tail. And by popular demand, we’ve brought back the Dahi Puri and the Phaldari Kofta Ruby. Of course, since it’s Diwali, we’ll be serving everyone mithai, chocolate barfi, too.
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.
BOMBAY, 1949. A sultry June evening. Lights glow golden. Candles flicker in the warm breeze that arrives gently through the large open windows of the café.