Atom Bombs generated a fear that 10,000 walas did not. Sivakasi introduced the hydrogen bomb, the bullet bomb and many other bombs that were designed to scare you before the bomb was lighted. The beauty of the design was that these atom bombs carried a large fuse. It would be coiled around the bomb and when you removed it - it was a good 30 second worth of fuse. The wait was more terrifying than the blast. Rockets are evergreen like 'sara vedis'. They are famous because of their unpredictability. The charm increased because people used innovative methods to launch them. Plastic bottles, used flower pot, holes dug in the mud were the great launch pads. Of course "Colour rockets were for the wusses. Real men fired bomb rockets". Afternoons were mainly for atom bombs, lakshmi vedis and bijilis. As a child these were fascinating things that held enormous opportunity to have fun.
Yesterday, I got used to the latest deepavali trend in Madras. More of aerial shows and less of bombs and lakshmi vedis. This time my purchases had a distinct Kaliswari bias and very less Standard fireworks. As is well known now, Deepavali begins very late these days and it was almost 5 by the time I heard the first sound of something bursting. By 8 AM things were brought to a close and I did not hear another cracker sound until 5PM. Gone are the days were you could continuously hear something from 2AM to 10PM. The fun is getting killed year-by-year. Children prefer to watch TV rather than burst crackers outside. Children today will not know the thrill of lighting up a bijili with a hand and throwing it into the air. The modern world will suck the fun out of life and eventually turn everyone into walking zombies.
Part of that is because fireworks are more expensive than cars. In the 90s my father purchased fireworks for about 4000 - 5000 rupees and those crackers came in 2 big boxes and a plastic bag. On Friday I saw a boy buy crackers for 7000 from Standard fireworks. The entire lot fit into 1 small plastic bag. He wouldn't be able to burst those for more than an hour. Remember the MRP prices that they put on crackers in the 80s. You'd look at them and wonder "The guy who put these prices was smoking something". Well those are the real prices now. 1 Redfort 56 shell Deluxe is 63 Rupees. 1 box of 30 cm Sparklers cost 120 Rs. The trend is moving towards air shows - like the ones we see on July 4th. We bought a few of those and they lit of the sky well but somehow one felt that the thrill was missing. I did the 10,000 wala thing though. I love 10,000 walas. While in Mylai, I had to walk to chokkalingam street to see Crazy Mohan's family burst 10,000 walas like it was nobody's business. People used to discuss what chokkalingam street would burst a few days before deepavali. The whoe street would be covered with paper at the end of the day. Unfortunately, in the case of my 10K wala, one spark from the lit (and bursting) side of 10,000 wala flew all the way to the unlit side of it and the giant 'saram' started bursting from both ends. The show got over quicker than I wanted it to.
There is sadness when deepavali ends. It is a majestic festival. Not many countries in the world celebrate life this way. This I thought was true cavalier Indian style. Full of fun, life and energy. It is an expression of joy that is unique and very demonstrative. Whatever it was, it was certainly not dour. People didn't wear suits, exchange gifts and sat down for dinner. Finally there was a festival that wasn't just about food (and a stupid dance to loud music). Literally a whole country 'bursts' into celebration. It allowed people to let go and vent out the stress of daily life. It was a vacation that allowed people to escape into something that they wouldn't do any other normal day. Such a pressure valve has rarely been designed in the history of civilization. Standing in the terrace and watching the sky getting lit was an amazing sight. Madras night is beautiful on Deepavali.