But once a year Diwali shopping in Little India is a must. And if I were a pretentious Indian writer living overseas, I would go at length describing how much I look forward this wondrous occasion of Diwali shopping in Little India, to see the blend of culture and modernity, to view the streets adorned with beautiful lights, and the reflection of the those lights on the glow of people’s faces, the colors, textures, fabrics, blah blah blah.
But I am not one of those pretentious writers, so all I saw is a prettily lit street indeed but with zillions of men, women, kids and shops selling everything from fire crackers and diyas to mithais and flowers and shiny kurtis and loud DVDs. And the distance between me and my dream destination- Kailash Parbat- felt very long indeed. Sigh! It kinda felt like scaling Mount Kailash!
So I took a deep breath and started:
Stop 1: Fire crackers- with the limited variety in Singapore, this was done in under 5 mins.
Stop 2: Lights- maybe it was the whole atmosphere of being in a giant disco ball of colors and shiny lights, but I had a sudden urge to buy those multi color lights to adorn my balcony. But pity I could not find anything I liked.
Stop 3-10: Readymade dhoti for Sanil- Sanil played the lead role in his school Diwali play as Ram (Yes, am super thrilled and oh-so proud). Small hitch. No one in school knew how to tie a dhoti. So I gallantly came to rescue and promised I would buy one from Little India. Little did I know what I was getting myself into! I walked all over Little India from one small shop to another to look for this elusive readymade dhoti. I must say all the shop owners were extremely helpful in pointing me to the next store/next lane, and sympathetic too- looking at me tugging around bags of diyas and firecrackers finding the dhoti for her precious child. (Come on! Even Khaushalya had it easier. I did remind Sanil that he owed me BIG time for this and he said ‘would 100 kishies suffice?’ Awwwwww! Yes, yes, yes I know he knows how to make me melt. He has had practice! He has been doing it for 7 and half years now!)
Back to the search...still searching...and everyone (including Sanil’s Hindi teacher) kept telling me to go to ‘Hanifa’. So now I went about in search for Hanifa...thinking if I find her, I will find the dhoti.
And finally I found a Hanifa- a smallish looking store tucked in the back streets of Little India, but seemed immensely popular. You had give your bags to the attendant outside (just like in Mustafa), was super crowded (just like Mustafa), had Cheena girls selling cheap perfumes to Bangladeshi workers (like Mustafa from that 70s perhaps). The resemblance was uncanny! It felt like entering back in time...before Mustafa became what it is now.
I could not help but wonder...could it be that Hanifa was Mustafa’s childhood sweetheart? But Mustafa’s dad did not want him to marry her because he had his eyes set higher for his son? OR Hanifa was Mustafa’s dad’s illegitimate child and he paid her off with this small store? Ok my mind was fried by that point of time, hence these crazy thoughts...though come on... it is intriguing no?
Finally when I was just about to give up, I saw this small nondescript store called ‘Dakshinee Silks’. Last ditch attempt...and yes!! They had readymade dhotis!! For S$18 only with the kurta! Mission accomplished.
Stop 11 and 12- I headed toward my dream destination of Kailash Parbat- after stopping at the temple to thank the Gods.
And then I was in heaven. I ate more that day for dinner than what I eat usually in a day.
Started off with yummy pani puri. Then ate chole batura- and when the waiter got the plate with those two gigantic baturas, I kept one batura on the side, away from me, reminding myself that one was enough. But no sooner than I had taken the first bite, I knew, that second batura would not be spared. I also drank some refreshing lime soda. And kulfi falooda for sweet endings. The poor manager just kept looking on, as he had probably not seen a single woman eat so much all by herself in such a short time. But it was all worth it!
And thus ended my Little India adventure. And it was not so bad after all.
Wish you all a very Happy Diwali! Have a wonderful time and go head and indulge!