I've always loved the song "Desh ki maati, desh ka jal , hawa desh ki, desh ke phal...."
But there's always a proviso- when the desh-ki-maati takes up residence inside my house I have no love for it at all. Which is what it keeps doing. In Kolkata, thanks to the air pollution, there's also a blackish grime which adheres stickily to curtains, ceiling fans and the inside of your throat and lungs.
I've finally decided that the safety of my bones is more important to me than the cleanliness of my ceiling fans, so I no longer hop on and off high stools with the cleaning materials. However, a stationary ceiling fan shows the grime, and even I will not keep all the fans in the house running just so that I don't see the dirt! So the boy who cleans the bathrooms also cleans the fans- extra income for him, clean fans and no broken bones for me.
Despite the house being cleaned everyday, it still gets filthy, and special cleaning is required sometimes. Diwali happens to be one of them. I can understand the spirit behind Diwali cleaning. It's a festival, after all. So cobwebs are removed, curtains are laundered, interior decoration changes happen. Somehow, though, me being me, I have some strange notions in my head about all this 'safai' business. Maybe it's my mother to blame, maybe some kind neighbour, who said that Lakshmiji will not come to a dirty house. And if Lakshmiji doesn't visit you, buddy, you are really in the soup. Lakshmi, being the goddess of wealth and prosperity, is the one goddess who is always welcome. I'm not really sure what she's busy with most of the year, but Diwali is the time of the year she visits most North Indian homes. Presumably only if they are clean. (Bengalis have a separate Lakshmi Puja a few days after Durga Puja, for them Diwali is the time for Kali Puja). Today, while removing cobwebs from the ceilings and sundry other places, and wondering why on earth the things I put on my sofa cushions are called loose covers (more about that later), I had a strangely dissonant, perhaps blasphemous vision. The goddess Lakshmi in her usual dressy attire, with the addition of a pair of spectacles. I could see her peering over them and telling me, sternly but kindly, that I'd get grace marks this year and pass, but only just. Knowing that I'd been really jet-lagged, and hadn't a great deal of time to do a proper, industrial strength, Diwali cleaning. I heaved a sigh of relief, and prayed that she wouldn't peep into my glass-fronted sideboard, where, despite the glass, huge cobwebs have taken up residence. (Or the guest room, which is still a dumping ground, but which will reach an acceptable state of 'reasonably tidy' by tomorrow morning). A good friend of mine is also a very good girl who takes all this ritual cleaning business very seriously, and has actually taken out all the good china in her house and washed it, besides changing almost all the curtains and cleaning loads of other stuff. I clean the good china before and after a party, period. If any object in my house has a proper place to stay in and it is there, it is assumed to be clean. Innocent till proven guilty. Clean till proven dirty. The Sometimes Resident Engineer will occasionally decide that all our telephones and remote controls are filthy and attacks them with Colin cleaning spray and paper napkins- (he never knows where to find a duster), and in my wise old age I no longer feel guilty. If he thinks they are dirty, he can jolly well clean them.
Although I don't think there are any medals awarded for a clean house, and I don't think any goddess in her right mind would do a house-to-house Dust Inspection ( maybe, with some special cosmic vision, she does it all at once, and gives everybody good marks because she loves the Diwali season), I do respond to the season. It's a good time to indulge in one of my favourite activities: changing colour schemes. Sounds simple enough. Change the allegedly loose covers, top cushion covers, coasters and assorted bric-a-brac, durries, and voila, the room is transformed. Easier said than done. Especially when the moronic person who made the first set of covers puts the opening of the long sofa seat at the narrow end. Try pulling several feet of a fitted cover over several feet of foam rubber mattress- it is most definitely a struggle. (The one I took off was easy- it had a Velcro fitted opening all along the width- made by a different, less challenged tailor). The polyurethane back cushions are hard, and so quite hard to dress and undress as well. But the end result is worth it. Especially with lovely new covers for the throw cushions. And the muted old blue-green durrie. And the new divan cover in the dining room, and a new table cloth to match. My uncle and aunt had brought me a Bastar metal-work cow, which is positively voluptuous. ( I need to un-dinosaur myself and not only use the camera but also learn to : a) upload and b) post photographs. Shall do so, in the fullness of time. The living room curtains have been washed and will be put up tomorrow. Of course the Sometimes Resident Engineer is away again, and will be back tomorrow evening. I sincerely hope that he is pleasantly surprised.
Wishing you all a very very happy Diwali.