A once-a-year celebration

Gurjit: The finest thing about Deepavali is how it brings families together.

 DEEPAVALI, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an occasion that I look forward to with anticipation every year.

You know the celebration is approaching when you see Deepavali-themed advertisements everywhere, as well as kolams of various colours, and beautifully embroidered sarees and kurtas, on display at the malls.

There is also the wide selection of delicacies on sale such as the ever popular murukku with its alluring smell and crunchiness.

The general atmosphere during this occasion, celebrated on Oct 24 this year, is one that is lively and vibrant.

Small clay lamps are lit on the day to symbolise the triumph of light over darkness. It serves as a gentle reminder that goodness always triumphs over evil.

Every year, the week before Deepavali is one of the most hectic for me since everything in my house has to be in tip-top condition.

This year, my father was in charge of housekeeping. When it comes to cleaning, he is very thorough – even the dust at the back of our television set does not escape his sharp eyes.

My father always says that having a guest over is the same as having God visit us. Hence, we must keep our home clean at all times.

To complete the task more quickly, my father divided the work with each of us cleaning a designated area of the house. A burden shared is a burden halved, as the saying goes. Soon, our house was spick and span.

My mother set about making cookies and murukkus throughout the week. This time around, she baked peanut, custard, oat, and pineapple tart cookies. She also made chocolate chip cookies in response to my persistent requests throughout the year.

I played a role in the kitchen too, having been given the most interesting task of decorating and tasting the delicacies. One of the benefits of carrying out this role was that I could eat the cookies, albeit when my mother wasn’t looking my way.

I also helped bake the cookies. One year, my mother and I worked in the kitchen until the wee hours. I took a break from baking to sit on the sofa and before I knew it, I was fast asleep. By the time I woke up, my mother had baked all of the cookies.

She used the “agak-agak” technique when baking. It always astounded me to see her cookies – made without the use of proper measurements – consistently turn out delicious.

During our week of baking, my grandmother came over and supervised the murukku-making process.

Under my grandmother’s watchful eye, my brother worked the dough until it was soft and smooth using his muscular hands. From her, we learnt that the dough would become softer the harder we kneaded it.

After the kneading was done, we placed the dough in the murukku moulds, pushed it until strings of dough began to form at the end, and then swirled them to create a spiral pattern on the banana leaf.

While frying the spiral-shaped dough, my mother kept the oil at optimal temperature so that the murukkus would turn a perfect golden colour.

Once my mother was satisfied with all the baking, she kept all the goodies to make sure we had plenty for Deepavali. We then went shopping with the aim of buying some new clothing for ourselves. Since all the shirts on display were pleasing to the eye and touch, it was really challenging for me to select one but I managed to pick one eventually.

As the much-awaited day approached, my mother began preparing the cooking items. She taught me how to marinate chicken and mutton with various spices.

On the day of the celebration, I could smell the incense in the air as soon as I awoke. I hurriedly bathed, changed into my new clothing, and descended the stairs. We prayed together before having a good time celebrating the festival with games and laughter.

The finest thing about Deepavali is how it brings families together. Even though the cooking and cleaning were a lot of work, they were fun as my family worked hand in hand.

To those of you celebrating the festival, I hope you enjoyed it this year as much as I did.

Gurjit, 16, a student in Pahang, is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. Applications for the BRATs 2023 programme are now open. For more information, go to facebook.com/niebrats.

Now that you have read the article, test your understanding by carrying out the following English language activities.

1.How many facts about Deepavali can you obtain from the article? Write them down.

Then, with an activity partner, take turns adding as much information as you can to the list.

The one who runs out of factual statements to add to the list loses the game.

2. What is a once-a-year celebration that you enjoy the most and why?

Tell your activity partner about it without naming the occasion.

Then, have him or her guess what the occasion is.

Have fun!

The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) programme promotes the use of English language in primary and secondary schools nationwide. For Star-NiE enquiries, email starnie@thestar.com.my.

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