I didn’t know if it would work until I heard the screams.
We started out our treasure hunt with the children listening slightly too carefully to instructions; I was asking them to run off (in the dark because of the way time flies) guided by strange, color-coded maps and imprecise suggestions like, “You have to figure it out!” The boys headed for their first clue while we talked through the map with the girls, and I worried that it would be too perplexing a process for everyone to enjoy. Then I heard victorious shouts from the area where the first boys’ clue was hidden, and the hunt was on.
We had so much fun.
Let me explain the atmosphere that surrounds Diwali here. It’s a riotous, jubilant day that inches up with masses of preparations, heavy advertising campaigns, and giddy anticipation; it feels just like Christmas in most of the Americas or like Thanksgiving if you run with the right crowd in San Francisco. It is loud, bright, and smoky. It’s the type of day when adults take an intermission from their self-imposed constraints and children are allowed unrestricted access to sugar and explosives. On a day like that, the best thing to do is give them a direction to run in, and then dash along behind.
I’m still not sure whether the girls actually found their prize or whether it remained in its hiding spot until hours later – there were some conflicting reports. Process took categorical precedence.
When the treasure hunt ended, everyone gathered together to set things on fire, for this is the festival of lights. It began with the tranquil smudges of flame laid in small dishes of oil, queuing along the walls and punctuating doorways.
Then the crackers, sparklers, swirlers, spouters, poppers, bangers, spinners. My favorite part was watching one little girl, who would run over and over again to light some small combustible stick or string, then stand completely frozen with an expression of absolute terror on her face until it finished burning.