Sunday, November 2, 2014

Diwali to Detlef Schrempf

Diwali or Divali also known as Deepavali and the "festival of lights", is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in autumn every year. The festival spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair.

Detlef Schrempf (born January 21, 1963) is a German-American retired professional basketball player. He played college basketball for the University of Washington Huskies from 1981–1985, and was drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA) by the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 1985 NBA draft, with the eighth overall pick (both entries courtesy of Wikipedia).

This year, we celebrated our first Diwali. I don't know anything about the holiday except what I just copied and pasted from Wikipedia above and that the holiday is celebrated with fireworks. Lots and lots of fireworks. 

Diwali fell on a Wednesday this year, and the fireworks started the Saturday before, exploding over our house in monstrous globes of blue, green and red light. I had heard Diwali called the "festival of light", and this was affirmed by the fireworks and firecrackers that basically boomed and sparked non-stop for 24 hours, starting the night before. 

We had the day off from work and school, so we went to the pool and swam with the sounds of firecrackers going off all around us, carrying over the river. 

Somehow, we took naps though the sonorous crackling and after naps, decided to go out to a nice dinner at one of our favorite spots, Chop Chuey. Located in the basement of the Raintree on St. Mary's, a five-star hotel near our home, Chop Chuey is the kind of restaurant where you make your own noodle bowl then give it to the wok chef to cook up. He greases up a giant wok and places it over a burner that is like the mouth of a volcano and spews fire like the engine of an F-14. The kids love it and eat for free.

On the drive there, we had to navigate the crowds of Indians setting off firecrackers in the road. They went off around us like we were driving through a minefield, showers of sparks raining down around us. 

We were a few minutes early for our 7:00 reservation, so we decided to head up the Raintree's roof top restaurant. There, you could see the entire city laid out before you. As far as the eye could see, a blanket of continuous fireworks covered the entire city in all directions. Standing there, Elise and I knew it was something the kids would never forget. It was something we would never forget. 

The two weeks after Diwali were long. Elise wasn't feeling well. We put two contracts on our townhome in Jupiter. Both fell through. I've been carrying a mortgage on a house we do not live in for four months, and the burden is getting tiresome, to say the least. Money is tight. Clementine contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease from the playground, then gave it to Sam, Peter, and, lastly, Elise who was sickest and couldn't eat or drink anything, couldn't touch anything, couldn't even walk for the sores on her hands, feet and mouth for two weeks. Sam and Peter, both contagious stayed home for school for a week. It has been raining every day for weeks. Monsoon season. The weather is nice, but nerves were fraying.

Somewhere in there, we found small victories. Elise saw her first work in print. Peter comes home from school everyday with stars penned on the backs of his hands and on his cheeks for reciting the alphabet and solving math problems. Sam was the star in his Indian studies dance for Diwali.

In the pre-dawn, rain-splattered gloaming, Sam and I sent Elise to the airport to catch a flight to Jaipur. She will spend two days there before travelling on to Pushkar to photograph the camel festival, sleeping in a tent in the heart of the desert. She has already sent me a photo of the most amazing bar I have ever seen and her on the back of an elephant.

The kids and I are holding down the fort. We grocery shop, ride scooters around Boat Club, and gor for ice cream at Amadora. Sam rides in the back seat with his window down, chin on his elbow, the wind blowing through his air. Scooters, motorcycles and autos race by, horns honking. I don't think he thinks it is chaotic. To him, it is just normal. We stop at intersections, cars nosing one another to get through the light, no queue to speak of, and young men on motorcycles slow and smile at him. He smiles back, on the look-out for Royal Enfields. Last night, Clementine and I danced to Band of Horses' "Detlef Schrempf" in the kitchen, she clutching my neck like it is prom night.

If nothing else, we--all of us--are making memories. It astounds me when I think of the things they will remember about their childhoods. Looking out the car window up at a city bus with no windows and no doors. The buses don't stop or even slow at the bus stations, people hop off, landing in a run, and race to catch the bus and hop in, a maneuver out of an Indiana Jones movie. Sam looks up at the people on the bus. They stare back (Band of Horses: "My eyes can't look at you any other way"). Old ladies with ritual face paint smeared on their foreheads flash him toothless grins, and he just smiles back.

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