All of us, whatever our station, have our own struggles, our own share of rocks to navigate around. Sometimes, the seas are calm, often they are choppy. Years pass in a steady rhythm with their share of joy and laughter, of heartache and headache.
Diwali is a key part of that rhythm. We celebrate it all over India as the end of one year and the beginning of the next. In a narrative sense, it marks the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness. For the Bengalis it’s all about the goddess Kali. For Jains, it’s the celebration of Mahavira, the great saint, attaining Nirvana. For Sikhs, it commemorates the release of kings who were held prisoner by the Emporer Jahangir in the 17th century. Many of us celebrate the return of King Rama to Ayodhya with Sita after defeating the evil Ravana.
Whichever narrative we remember, it is certainly a time of observing precious customs passed down the generations. A prayer in the morning brings family together as we light little diyas to drive out the darkness. To add colour to the light we dress up, set off fireworks and make beautiful powder rangolis. Eating mithai puts a lovely sweet taste in the mouth. We seek the blessings of our elders for happiness and prosperity for the coming new year. We visit extended family and friends to express our affection for them and keep bonds strong. It’s a lovely continuity and a Diwali without these customs couldn’t be called Diwali.
It’s also a time to reflect on the year past, which has inevitably been full of many shades of light and dark. We give thanks for all the good things and the good people in our lives. And we can look to the future with hope and excitement. If, reliably, every year, Rama can defeat Ravana, then surely we too can find small victories in our own lives over the coming year.
This is our first Diwali at Dishoom. We’re barely four months old (we can’t make up our minds whether it feels a lot longer or a lot shorter). It’s been extremely hard work – launching any business, particularly a restaurant, is a tough thing to do. There have been exhilarating moments, balanced by times when it seemed that we had embarked upon a completely foolish enterprise. And for whatever it is we have managed to achieve, we are grateful.
So, in that spirit, we wish you all the very best for the year past and the year coming. To the team, we are enormously grateful for your fantastic work. To our families, we truly appreciate the massive support (and we’re sincerely sorry for not being around as much as we should have been!) And to our guests, thank you so much for being great Dishoom-wallas and trusting us repeatedly to feed you and look after you.
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.