Monday, October 27, 2014

Celebrating Diwali - Suzhou style!

Happy Diwali!!!

Diwali - the most festive time of the year, and also the most nostalgic! It is the time that I miss being away from all my family the most, miss the celebrations and even the phone calls we make to our extended family are so hard - happy that everyone else is together, at the same time, deeply aware of being the only ones far away. Still, there are traditions to follow - the customary Diwali faral, the lighting of the diyas, the sumptuous meals - and although it's just the 3 of us, we always have the best time ever! Happy Diwali, everyone!!

 Making Diwali a little more fun this year - I got an email from Manasi's Year 4 teacher, asking if I could come in and help out on India Day for Year 4. What kind of help? Well, they asked about Bollywood dance - yeah, no - I can't do that - actually, anything other than how about a little Indian cooking for the kids? So thought long and hard, and finally it was Ajey who came up with a plan - have the kids roll out chapatis and then eat with jam! So mixed up a whole lot of dough and headed to school - no surprise that our 5-star school has a fully equipped kitchen for our junior chefs! The kids had a blast rolling out the chapatis - lot of interesting shapes - and they loved eating them too!! One little boy told me - "You eat this every day? You are sooo lucky!!" And in a really sweet gesture, the kids made a lovely thank you card and sent it home with Manasi - really touched!!

Last year, a few of us organized a Diwali party for about 20 Indian families living here in Suzhou - to be honest, I really didn't know many of them, but really enjoyed celebrating with such a large group of people - more the merrier, right?! We had arranged with a popular Indian restaurant in Suzhou, Namaste, for a set dinner menu - and then bought fireworks for the kids. Didn't go as smoothly as planned though - the service was terrible, and a lot of the food we had ordered did not even make it to our tables. Our hungry kids ended up eating plain white rice - it was just really not good at all. What made it worse was all the negative comments - so we really weren't planning for an encore this year!

So here we were planning a smaller get-together, just our regular group of 6 families - but somehow, it didn't feel right - the biggest festival of the year deserves bigger, better, grander! One thing was clear, though - no more Namaste! Luckily for us, a new restaurant just opened up really close to Golden Lough - well, technically it's not new, it's a branch of the Indian restaurant Ganesh, but still! And actually, this whole new area - it's a block away from the Auchan, and is being developed as a new Ligong Di kind of area - canals, old Chinese style construction, lots of restaurants - really, really beautiful place! Anyway, New Ganesh - after a few phone conversations with the manager, we had a reasonable deal! Diwali party is back on!!

And what a party it was!! We had an almost private room to ourselves - with French doors opening to a wide terrace outside. The weather held - no rain, no clouds, and a delicious nip in the air! The food was tasty - and service was really excellent! Best part, the restaurant let us bring our own drinks - beer and soft drinks - which meant a huge saving! Great events - a photo booth for formal family pictures, a rousing game of charades, fireworks - after much debate, it was agreed to keep the fireworks to a minimum - environmental concerns aside, what's Diwali without fireworks!

Photo booth

Good friends, good food!


What's the good word?


The piece de resistance was undoubtedly - wait for it - our floating Chinese lanterns! In the words of the littlest member of our group "I like it the hot air balloon!" The night before we tried out one at a friends's house - and it was a spectacular failure - the lantern literally went down in flames!! So we didn't really have any high expectations - at the very least, it would be good for a few laughs - and then, one after the other, the lanterns soared up, up and away - filling hearts with joy, tinged with a little nostalgia - sending messages of goodwill and happiness to the world! Such a simple thing, such a profound joy!! The very essence of Diwali!!

Needless to say that this year there were no unhappy customers, no negative comments!! Thanks to New Ganesh and the manager, Daniel - a wonderful job done! Would highly recommend this restaurant to all our Suzhou friends!! A memorable Diwali - one for the books for sure!! Like the past few months, October, too is racing to its end - and like the past months, I'm scrambling to get my posts out in time!! So watch this space - I still have a bunch of exciting October stories to tell!! Until then - a very Happy Diwali to everyone!!

1 comment:

  1. I am glad that I was part of this celebrations. the food, fireworks,new friends , everything seemed so awesome, and was like a home away from home celebrations.the best part was the Lanterns - I Loved it all. Thanks so much for arranging this one - you, ajey, sangeetha , vani and satish.

    By the way your blog is really nice. so reminiscing