With Diwali on the anvil, BrandWagon gets select industry veterans to share their plans for the festival, while they also get nostalgic about childhood Diwali memories and their favourite festive delicacies.
Arun Iyer, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Lowe Lintas
• Diwali this year: There is no special plan for this Diwali; it will be a lot of patta parties and family time.
• Diwali childhood memory: The earliest memory is of waking up very early in the morning and like all Tamilians, having an oil bath, the ubtan bath, a pooja and bursting crackers before the crack of dawn. And then eat loads of sweets.
• Diwali indulgence: Tenga Barfi — the coconut barfi which my mom makes at home during Diwali. It is my favourite thing and I am usually sick by the end of the day for having eaten too many of them.
Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network South Asia
• Diwali this year: Diwali every year is a family affair, where we all get together for a pooja in the evening and light the diyas which is followed by the exchanging of gifts. This year is going to be different as I lost my father earlier in the year, so it will be very low key and we will light some diyas.
• Diwali childhood memory: We had a huge house in Delhi and I remember my father used to fill up the room with crackers and the small toy pistols that are sold during Diwali, and we would burst crackers till late in the evening.
• Diwali indulgence: My mother always cooked traditional Punjabi dishes during Diwali. Since we are vegetarian during the day, my indulgence usually is dahi bhalle and pindi chole-bhaturas.
Mayoori Kango, Managing Director, Performics.Resultrix
• Diwali this year: I have just moved into a new house so I am looking forward to decorating it, doing rangoli by the door and lighting pretty diyas with my son.
• Diwali childhood memory: I remember getting up early morning with my granny on Narak Chaturthi and lighting the token phuljhadi, making chakli with her and shopping for new clothes. When we were younger, we used to get new clothes twice a year — birthdays and Diwali — so there was a lot of planning for what to buy for Diwali.
• Diwali indulgence: Chakli is definitely my most favourite, especially homemade.
Navonil Chatterjee, Chief Strategy Officer, Rediffusion Y&R
• Diwali this year: I was actually thinking about working on all those festive days for a change (kidding!). Actually in my growing up years, Diwali meant celebrating Kali Puja at home, so it was a matter of an all-consuming festive fury and anarchy all around. These days, I prefer it to be quieter. I have picked up Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence recently — perhaps I will give that a go. Who knows, I can even movie-hop between Secret Superstar and 2.0. And hopefully in the midst of all this, also launch some lanterns into the night sky!
• Diwali childhood memory: There used to be a grand annual family reunion during Bhaidooj just after Diwali. I used to really look forward to it every year as a child, as it meant coming together of all my cousins for cracking fireworks, finger-licking good food, great gifts and a whole lot of fun. Our family tradition continues to this date in Kolkata, but there are obvious pangs of growing up and I hardly manage to attend those these days.
• Diwali indulgence: Mutton biryani with chicken chaap.
Rohit Gupta, President — Network Sales & International Business, SPN India
• Diwali this year: This year, the entire family is going to celebrate Diwali at our hometown Shimla, where my mother lives. I am really looking forward to it as I am going to my hometown after 10-15 years.
• Diwali childhood memory: I always celebrated Diwali in Shimla and I remember bursting a lot of firecrackers. It gets very cold there in this season and we would all sit together, light diyas and enjoy the food.
• Diwali indulgence: Celebrating Diwali in Shimla, we had a lot of Himachali food, which we still try to make during the festival. Since we prefer vegetarian fare on Diwali, it has to be black dal and madra.
Sonal Dabral, Group CCO and Vice Chairman, Ogilvy India
• Diwali this year: Like the past few Diwalis, I plan to celebrate it this year too with sweets, sparklers and of course Diwali puja at home which I conduct with bhajans and vandanas downloaded from the internet. However, this year I have decided to give away all my accumulated belongings of many years; I have hundreds of CDs, books and DVDs that in today’s digital age are just collecting dust.
• Diwali childhood memory: I remember every year my Nani and my mother used to make shakkar paras and gujiya at home. Even as a child, I was an expert at turning the edges of the gujiya to give it a beautiful design. Another memory of my childhood Diwali is gambling. At least a month prior to Diwali, teen patti sessions used to start in full swing at our house in Agra. Even us kids used to have our teen patti sessions. The only difference was that instead of tens and hundreds, our play was about a few paisas.
• Diwali indulgence: Diwali brings in memories of gujiyas and shakkar paras. We don’t get authentic gujiyas here in Mumbai but whenever I see one, I can’t resist having it!
Swati Bhattacharya, Chief Creative Officer, FCB Ulka
• Diwali this year: For me, Diwali is like Valentine’s Day for the home. Even though Durga Puja is bigger for us than Diwali, I look at my house with a different pair of eyes for that festival. This year, I am planning to redo my daughter's room. For me, all festivals are an excuse for closeness.
• Diwali childhood memory: I grew up in a big house. For Diwali, everyone would put their patakaas in a thaali, and then burst them together. Those memories are very precious to me.
• Diwali indulgence: Like I OD on gujiyas in Holi, I do not have a favourite dish for this particular festival. However, I am a big fan of dry fruits — especially the kaju-kishmish combo.