As regretted, I'm gonna have to miss deepavalli yet again this year. Since it's the fifth year after the passing of my dad, the family can actually celebrate it in a grand scale again but sadly I won't be there. My mum and siblings celebrated the night of Deepavalli at Kajang (at my dad's aunts place) and after having their breakfast, they would be leaving for Karak where my grandad and grandmum decides to celeberate this year.
I remember Deepavalli quite vividly mostly due to the extremity of colourful celebration. Because we used to celebrate it in Cameron Highlands, the atmosphere was one of serenity trapped in a bottle of festivities. Our family house is situated at the end of the so-called civilised road that further leads to some indigeneous villages and an old temple deeply situated in a used-to-be tea plantation farm. The road to my grandparents place can only accomodate one car at a time and there's no buses nearby. From the main road, we would have to walk for about an hour or take a 15 minutes drive. But that doesn't stop my tata, patti, mamas, attes, chittapas and chittis from conjuring such an elaborate festival.
We would start the mornings with taking an oil bath. My patti strongly insist that she would pour the first amount of oil that touches our heads personally before we would carry on doing it ourselves. My mum reluctantly agrees to this ritual but my dad assures her every year that we are not doing a religious rite but rather only a cultural one. After that dreaded oil bath that my mum only allows to be placed on the head for us and that always causes my cousins to grow envious of us smelling better (:P), we would all supposedly required to touch our elders feet but since we are not allowed to do that, my siblings and I would salam and kiss our grandparents' hands. We noticed that we were odd compared to our cousins but it didn't matter much at that time because the RM5o in the ang pau given by tata and the RM20 by patti erased all of our differences.
Then comes the elaborate breakfast with everything Indian under the sun.. the tosai, idlis, chutneys, varuvals, curries, fresh lassies.. too much, too much. Since my tata owns his own poultry and goats, my dad is assigned the duty to slaughter around 12 fat chickens and 2 goats the day before because there's no other muslims in sight. He would complain about it every single time and my b****y aunt once said "who asked you to marry a malay then?".. huhu.. panas. Everything here used to be so darn fresh. Every single fruit you can think of grows just nearby and is easily pluckable. After the filling breakfast, the whole family would gather in front of the television watching the latest Tamil (hail Rajni!) movies on the VCR because until Astro came along, our home could only receive some blurred reception from RTM1 and 2. My aunts and uncles would make a lot of noise during this time trying to catch up on their lost times together and we, the kids used to get a scolding for tuning up the volume. Hey, we want to hear the Muthu's theme song okay?
Now, all the cousins have grown up. Four of the 18 of us are married and have kids. Some are too little to be included into our memories. Some of us got lost in translation and decided to resolute to silence. When we occasionally meet nowadays, it's the polite smile with the polite "how are you?" and the somewhat impolite "why are you so thin?? your mother never feed you rice, is it?" (no, that's not an insult, it's just how we say hi). Although we still keep regular contact, it just doesn't feel the same anymore. My tata and patti have also moved in with my uncle so that they can get regular treatment at the hospital which would otherwise be quite impossible if they still lived in CH. So, even our family house is only left haunted with the memory of our laughters and tears. I'm not saying Deepavalli is no longer fun, it's just that we all have changed due to time and that's just the way the world is.
Though, my parents have always been asked about how they work things out successfully and I consider myself as lucky to have been raised in these continuum of culture. In retrospect, the culture weren't really as different as it seems to be. All we need is a little bit of tolerance in between our practices. Everybody had to sacrifice some little parts of their life for each other in our family and it did turn out quite well. I remember my mum once said "If I ever get the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing about marrying into this family"...