Monday, November 12, 2007

Deepavali Firecrackers - I

It has been 4 years since I celebrated Deepavali in India and I miss my celebrations. I have heard it from many people that it is about Narakasuran's vadham, and Rama's return to Ayodhya. To me, it was all about fireworks. But Deepavali in Madras is not as easy as celebrating NewYear, where you wish each other with a simple "Happy New Year" at midnight. Deepavali is very different and I used to wait the whole year for Deepavali. The only festival that has a special bang!

Firstly, it needs careful planning, finance and budgeting. My parents used to specify the budget for fireworks for that year, and I will meticulously plan accordingly. I do not remember exactly when I started this, but I am sure, it was how I came face to face with a complex economic phenomenon called inflation. It struck me when I realized I could buy only lesser stuff with the same amount of money in next year. Firecrackers are more commonly called just "crackers" in India.

The fireworks that we see over the Sydney (on 2004 Olympics) or other major occasion are great to watch. But for boys, anything that cannot be poked or touched is not worth a moment's attention. And boy are their different types of crackers. My father took it upon himself to teach me how each kind of cracker reacts and I was shown what precautions pertains to which one. Let me start with the ones I was introduced to, in chronological order.

First is the "flower pot", or "busvaanam", which sprays sparks in the air. It has to be lighted on the tip of the cone. The flower pot is one of the most common and the conical remnants can be seen all over Madras, like pimples on the roads. The second is the "chakram" or the "sudharshan chakram" which spins very fast on the ground and radiates golden sparks all around it. It looks like the sun itself in its bright glory.

Then comes the explosives, and in ascending order of its decibel level, the bijli vedi, the kuruvi vedi (sparrow explosive), lakshmi/nethaji vedi. These three had explosives packed with a wad of paper around it. The thicker the paper wad, the louder the bang. Then came the "bombs", these were also explosives (obviously), but supposedly had a bigger bang. They were bigger lumps of explosive sulphur packed tightly in a jute covering. All these were simple, single explosives.

Next in the arsenal is the "double shot", an adult only explosive. It acts pretty much like a anti-aircraft gun. It is actually two explosives packed into one. The first one goes off, and shoots the other live explosive in air and the second one explodes mid-air.

The "saram", is a braided chain of smaller explosives. The teeny tiny version of this is called "oosi vedi" (literally translates to needle explosive). A characteristic of these chains, is the salvo of explosions. These sarams, can be specially and can have as many as thousands of smaller bijlis. The sarams are notorious for the random flying live bijlis.

Starters form an important category. Sparklers or "poothiri", are metal rods with slowly burning chemical at the other end, but at extremely high temperatures. Only sparklers can be used to light flowerpots and chakrams. The other equally high temperature starter is called "saatai" meaning "whip" is a rope like roll of slow burning sulfur compound. These have too much fire power to light explosives.

It is safer to lite explosives with slow burning sticks, for which I have always used cheap incense sticks. Lighting of explosives is not easy. One has to carefully prepare the fuse ("thiri"). The paper covering the free end of the fuse has to be plucked off using the nails in the index finger and the thumb, then the chemicals stuck to the threads have to be rubbed off. I used to do it by hand, and getting dirty was part of the fun. This preparation is necessary to slow the fuse, and the longer the preparation, the longer is the time we get to move away from the cracker after lighting it. Once lit, the fuse burns slowly through the threads until the end of the preparation, after which it catches fast and bang!

Happy Deepavali!

To be continued...

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Blogger Archana said...

I thought I was finally over missing all the excitement over crackers. Reading this post, I realized I am not - boy, I really miss those days :-(!

Did you folks also call those peeled off vedi ends as "timers"?

Monday, November 12, 2007 at 5:50:00 PM CST  
Blogger Dushti said... missed rockets ! They used to be my fav :-)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 at 12:16:00 AM CST  
Blogger artnavy said...

some info on rabipur-its an aventis product- know becos my dad used to work there

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 at 12:32:00 AM CST  
Blogger The Kid said...

@archana: he he... "timers"... not that I remember. do you guys call that?

@dushti: yes yes... rockets were coming in part 2 :)

@art: thanks for the link!

Friday, November 16, 2007 at 11:05:00 AM CST  
Blogger Hip Grandma said...

Reminded me of my brothers who'd save their rationed share of vedis and want to burst our share first!Nice post.took me back in time

Monday, November 26, 2007 at 9:13:00 AM CST  

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