The Festive Season: Kumbakarni Rescues Deepavali

deepavali Festivals of India-D

It is so delightful to dream about yummy Deepavali sweets and snacks. It is even better when those dreams help you catch thieves who break into your home while you sleep. That is what happens in our Deeepavali story Kumbakarni to the Rescue!

Kumbakarni Rescues Deepavali

The lines were drawn…I was going to win this Deepavali! I ran down the steps, leaving my cousins on the terrace

Grandma’s house was as busy as a train station. People were moving in and out with bags of clothes, groceries, sweets, firecrackers. Every hour, someone walked around with cups of coffee and milk. Every half hour, I walked over to the ‘batshanam’ cupboard and rifled through the tins of murukku, laddoos, and Mysore Pak. Deepavali is my favorite festival. You don’t have to wait for the pujas to be over to eat all the goodies.

The older cousins were too busy trying to be useful. Why they wanted to spend the vacation doing chores is beyond me. One was tidying, another was arranging the new clothes neatly on a tray in the puja room, and one more was helping in the kitchen. I’m quite sure that he was helping himself to the yummy murukku!

I walked out to the big hall. The grown-up were in a circle around a pile of boxes, Deepavali clothes spilling out of them. Chithi was glaring at chithappa…he must have teased her about her saree.

Every Deepavali, all of us come down to my Paatti Thaatha’s house in Tanjavur. All my cousins live in the same city and see each other often. I live in Chennai and see them only during the holidays. It’s kind of a ‘big town/small town’ fight between us. Sometimes, I win; other times, they do.

“Hey, Kumbakarni! I’m going to the store. Want to come?” Veena called out to me.

“Ay, you don’t call the big city girl Kumbakarni. She is Sleeping Beauty!” Selvan corrected her.

I grinned but nodded no! “You’re going to win!” a voice spoke in my head.

I can beat them at anything. But Deepavali always comes with a challenge. You see, on Deepavali, we have to take a nice hot oil bath before amavasai begins. Don’t ask me why, and definitely don’t ask the elders why! They’ll start giving you a long list of reasons. Unfortunately, amavasai or the new moon can begin at any time of the day. One year, it was in the afternoon. That was lovely! No tension about getting up at the crack of dawn. This year, it is somewhere between two and three in the morning. Oh, How I love my sleep! But this year, I’m determined to wake up and take that oil bath before my cousins.

In the past, I’ve used the “I’m just a child. I need my sleep” Token from the prize box. Everything changed last year.

The grown-ups have their own rooms in Paatti Thaatha’s house. But we kids all lie down in the big hall. Every night begins with neat rows of jamakalams with a pillow at the top. I don’t know what we do in our sleep; in the morning, the room looks like there is a war. Some of us lose our pillows, our hair flowing like snakes on the floor. A few are found all curled up into balls, and still others are found bundled up by the door as if they were ready to roll out of the house in their sleep.

That night before Deepavali was no different. Veena promised to wake me early for my oil bath. I knew that the others would definitely be up, wearing their new clothes and gorging on laddoo and Mysore Pak. I didn’t want to miss any of the fun either. I lay down on my jamakkalam to plan how many laddoos I could eat before breakfast.

Next thing I know, someone was shaking me, “Ayy, Kumbakarni! Wake up! Wake up!” Swatting the hand away, I opened one eye. Veena’s silk skirt shone in the sunlight. I jumped up and looked around. Yes! I had slept through the night again. Then the giggles started.

“So I slept longer. What’s so funny?” I grumbled.

“Mmmmm, nothing. Just go take your bath.” I knew something was up when Veena rushed me.

One by one, people dropped in, looked at me, and smiled. Wait! Am I in a gallery or something?

“Achacho! Who did this?” Amma asked as she broke into a smile.

I ran to the mirror and screamed, “Who did this?”

Someone had tried their artistic skills on me using toothpaste!

I see a flower. What is next to it? A bee or a bird?” Selvan sounded curious.

My blood boiling, I vowed that I would get even.

“Ada! She slept through all that!”

This year is my time to get back at them! Should I draw funny designs on them? That would be the same thing; no imagination there. Should I tie their braids together? Pour cold water on them somehow? I just can’t make up my mind.

Finally, it was the night I had been waiting for. The puja room was ready. Amma and chithi had put Kumkum on all the new clothes and arranged them neatly on a tray. The tins of murukku, mixer, laddoos and Mysore pak were set in a  row. The bowls with oil, turmeric, and Kumkum were placed near the wooden peetam.

One of the older cousins had made a big kolam, edging in front of the neighbour’s  gate. We ran around bursting firecrackers and filling up the oil in all the lamps. Paattti checked to see if all the rooms were lit with a deepam. She says there has to be light in every corner of the house!

What an unusual request Narakasura made of Krishna! Celebrate my death by lighting up every corner of the world. I wonder what I will ask of Krishna!

The night deepened, and we began to wind down. The adults had put out our jamakkalams and pillows. I fell on my bed next to the big window.

It was a dream-filled sleep. People were visiting Paatti, carrying big suitcases. Oh, Good, I thought. More people, more fun. Hope they come with different sweets. Halwa would be a wonderful addition to the Deepavali batshanam collection. Maybe even thattai. Oh, that would be great! I should ask them what they brought. I opened one eye to look.


The shadow person stopped but didn’t answer me.


No, no answer. How rude!

“I askedyuifyourbroughthalwa. Andthattai.”

No answer.

Then someone whispered, “Ay, this girl is talking in her sleep.”

“Go, Go, you fool!” a hoarse whisper answered back.

Why are Paatti’s visitors so rude? I opened one eye to look.

And Screamed!

Thirudan! Thirudan! Thieves! Thieves!

We had the strangest shower, I tell you! First, sarees rained on us, then murukku, followed by the gifts Paatti and Thaatha had bought us all for Deepavali. Then, the thambalams came flying. Someone turned the light on, and grown-ups came rushing into the hall. The thieves ran to the open door.

I’ve no idea why I did it, but I rolled over to the door. One by one, the men tripped and crashed to the floor. The cousins rushed over to me and sat on the men, one on the shoulder and the other on the legs.

Narakasura would have been thrilled. Lights went up in all the rooms all over again.

There was a lot of noise for a while as the adults sorted things out. They had to check the rooms to see if anything was missing, call the police, and hand the thieves over.

Guess who got to take the oil bath first? Mmmmm… you guessed right!

I went back to sleep with my new pattu paavadia, silk skirt for those of you who don’t know! Hey, my vow said nothing about staying awake after taking the oil bath.

Much later, Paatti woke me and set a small tray in front of me. “Here’s your halwa and thattai.” Do you think I should share it with the others?

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