I have been writing about Diwali over the last one week, and as expected, the discussions have all descended into a Hindu vs Muslim argument.
Honestly, I’m a little tired of putting forth my opinions and being labelled. There’s already been so much said on the subject, and the reader will mostly only take the opinion based on the ideology that they belong to, so it’s like singing a Qawwali to a cow.
While I’m an atheist and strongly detest anything to do with religion and religious rituals, I cannot deny that I’ve had my share of fun on Diwali. I cannot deny that Diwali is more than bursting crackers or creating an India-shaped hole in the Ozone layer. It is about families getting together. About joy, happiness, and explaining technology to family members.
Also, no matter what I say about crackers, I can’t change the fact that I’ve burst thousands of crackers in my lifetime. I realise that just because I’ve grown up and slanted towards a particular line of thought, I cannot expect kids of today not to burst crackers. That would be very uncle-y of me, and not something I’d do.
What I’d like to do, on the other hand, is to list out all Diwali crackers on the basis of awesomeness (and the risk involved).
So here it is. The definitive list of Diwali crackers, ranked on the basis of awesomeness.
- SNAKE BOMB:
This name is a misnomer. It is not really a bomb; and no prizes for guessing – it isn’t really a snake either.
The snake bomb (also called snake pellet/Evil Hajmola/Kill Grandmother Tablet) is a small, black button-like object that is placed on the floor. Light it with a matchstick, and nothing happens – only a thick, black line of soot comes out of the tablet, leaving a permanent scar on the floor, and in your heart. I always felt this was the Lifebuoy of crackers – that after all the crackers were made, this was coughed up with whatever gun-powder remained in Sivakasi. It has now been banned by the government, which came as a surprise to nobody.
RISK LEVEL: Zilch. Except that your grandparents might feel they gave birth to a degenerate.
If the Indian government wishes to track black money, they needn’t run after Swiss Bank accounts. They need to place taxmen in colonies and track down the man who’s bursting the longest maala on Diwali.
The most annoying Diwali cracker in the history of Diwali crackers. If the Maala existed in the time of Ramayan, Lakshmana would have shot arrows straight through the hearts of the monkey army for lighting up maalas.
The Maala (which comes in varieties of 10,000 wala, 1 lakh wala and 10 lakh wala) is a ‘fuck-you’ cracker that serves no purpose but to display the wealth of its owner. The most annoying bit about the Maala (also called the ladi) is the fact that while it goes on for over 9 minutes like a thumri, all you can do is sit and wait.
RISK LEVEL: Make sure grandparents have had dinner, play Raina Beeti Jaaye on Sony Mix, and the begin lighting the Maala.
The flowerpot (also called an ‘Anaar’ by people who studied at Rishi Valley School) is symbolic of Diwali and is often the first cracker to get out of the way. It is easy, fun to watch, and like a human orgasm, is fantastic for a few seconds.
However, the reason for its low ranking is the fact that the Flowerpot scores very low on the Money : Chaos theory. You can’t direct it at neighbours, or use it to spook the guy next to you lighting up an Atom Bomb. The riskiest thing you can do with this is to hold it in your hand while lighting up, something Jackie Shroff did as an infant. In fact, Jackie Shroff came out of the hospital ward holding a lit up fireworker in his left hand (he’s right-handed). But more on that later, for Diwali is an occasion to celebrate other heroes.
Another reason for its particularly low ranking is the fact that it has become rather expensive these days.
RISK LEVEL: Breeze. Like watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham on Star Gold on a Wednesday afternoon.
The Chakri is based on a simple concept – that if you wrap barood in thin strips of paper and tie them around in a circle, it will rotate and spew sparkling lights across. It has a fairly long wick and can be lit by people of all ages. The only problem I have with the Chakri (and hence, the low ranking) is the fact that it needs a lot of prep time.
Chakris need to be properly sunned in the afternoon, failing which they go through the scientific phenomenon known as ‘phusss ho gaya’.
RISK LEVEL: Just wear a pair of Paragon chappals.
The Bijli Bomb (bit of a stretch to call it a bomb, honestly) is a value for money, efficient cracker that does its job. You can light it up before, after, or during Diwali – the Bijli is the French Fries of Diwali crackers.
When many Bijlis come together, they create the annoying maala, but as individual sticks, they are quite palatable. Proving that in the world of crackers, the adage holds true – ‘United we Terrorise, Divided we chill’.
The Bijli bomb can be enjoyed be oneself. Light a candle, light the wick of the Bijli, throw it away from you. Relight the candle.
RISK LEVEL: Mild surprise when grandmother is praying in front of the Tulasi plant, but no physical damage.
Non-exciting and completely vegetarian, the Sparkler is the only real surprise in this list. However, it has earned its place on the basis of solid facts. The sparkler is pretty much the first real cracker that anybody in their lives ever held. It is also the only cracker that every single member of the family could hold, loop around in the air for a few times, and then safely throw away to the side.
The sparkler is also used when matchsticks are too mundane to light up other dangerous bombs, and on the basis of efficiency and their ubiquitous nature, the Sparkler ranks high in the list.
RISK LEVEL: Very low. In fact, grandparents will smile, and give you their blessings. And some pocket money as well, if they aren’t my grandparents.
5. CHOCOLATE BOMB:
No fuss, does what it’s supposed to do, comes cheap, and looks like it was made from Minnie Mouse’s old underpants – what’s not to like about the classic Chocolate Bomb?
The Chocolate Bomb used to cost a rupee in my childhood and I’m glad to announce that it only costs about 10 rupees now (5 if you buy on Diwali evening). In fact, if Bajaj Motors released a Diwali cracker, it would be the chocolat bomb. Cheap, efficient, won’t last too long.
RISK LEVEL: It has a very small wick, and requires precision while lighting. Grandparents could throw their walking stick at you.
The perennial favourite, the ‘Rocket’ was such a legendary cracker that Chacha Chaudhry named his dog after this delightful essential household item.
Comes in attractive packaging, with tantalising pictures of Katrina K and Kareena KK. The rocket also scores highly due to its flexible usage. It can be lit up in various modes – fitting the complete range of sadomasochism – from the Arun Govil technique of filling a cool drink bottle with sand, to the ISIS approved method of holding it in your hand and pointing it to the neighbour’s window.
RISK LEVEL: ‘Stick it with the pointy end’, Jon Snow said, as he smiled at Arya.
3. ONION BOMB:
I don’t know if this bomb is still available and legal, but it was one of my favourites while growing up. The Onion Bomb had no wick to light, and burst on impact when you threw it with force against a wall, floor, or ceiling.
Shaped like an onion and looked like a garlic, I used it extensively as an imaginary cricket ball. I would draw wickets on the wall, take a run up and bowl fast (being careful not to pitch the ball short). On the other end, I would imagine Pakistani batsmen buckling under pressure (What can I say! Disturbed childhood). I also used it as grenades to fling at imaginary villains, as shown in the film Zalzala.
RISK LEVEL: Do not buy too many at one time and put them in the same bag. Do not put the bag on the floor with force once you’ve reached home. Do not put them in your pockets, as you might slip and fall. Do not ask your grandparents to cook you anything that involves onion or garlic.
2. GUN AND BULLETS:
Okay, I take back my words. The Gun and Bullets are the ACTUAL surprise on the list, but kindly give me a minute to explain my choice, M’lord.
While Diwali might be a festival that raises many questions on the socio-political spectrum today, this wasn’t always the case. Back then, Diwali only came on the news when people suffered third degree burns. And even then, I didn’t spend a lot of time fussing over bombs and creating imaginary lists in order of awesomeness.
There were two other boys in our lane and the three of us ensured we got decent guns in our pockets. We collected coins and pooled in the brown cardboard boxes that had rolls of red, barood-filled bindis in them. And then we set out.
An abandoned truck had been lying by the side of a road for a few years, and if you climbed from the back, you could open its doors and sit inside. The back was empty, and the great vessel that once carried sand and cement and chips was now a fortress. I spent many an afternoon hopping on to the truck, killing enemies while ducking Bullets, and holding dear friends as they died in my arms from bullet wounds…only to rush home to drink a glass of Bournvita and return as a new hero!! For, tell me O Partha, how can you remove the concept of Punarjanam from a festival?
RISK LEVEL: Barely any. Keep away from the dressing table and cousins attempting Medical/CA courses to avoid minor scares.
1. HYDROGEN BOMB:
The elder brother of the Atom Bomb, the Hydrogen Bomb is a large ball of destruction that is rolled up in green woollen threads and a shiny sticker to hold the wick in.
If the Atom Bomb is the gateway to the Dark Side, the Hydrogen Bomb is where things get real. Not every wizard who bought guns from Ollivander’s shop will step over into the dark green, Slytherin world of the Hydrogen Bomb. But the ones that do, will heed the call of the Death Eaters, and purchase boxes full of these potent crackers.
In Game of Thrones, Ser Beric Dondarrion lights up the Lightbringer sword and comes back to life, but it kills a bit of him every single time. As we know, everything originated in India, and George RR Martin was inspired for this idea from the great Vishwa RR Mitra, an Indian Maharishi. Much like the Lightbringer sword, the Hydrogen Bomb startles everybody, but particularly rearranges the insides of the person who lit it up. Other conspiracy theories say that it was invented by Tyler Durden on a particularly gloomy Wednesday afternoon.
The Hydrogen Bomb is all the more relevant in the times we live in. As we speak, Kim Jon Un and Donald Trump are threatening each other with Hydrogen Bombs of larger sizes, as Death Eaters around the world cheer with glee. It might be the last Diwali out there folks, enjoy it while it lasts!
RISK LEVEL: Grandparents could strike out your name from the family’s inheritance.
So that is it.
That is ALL I know about Diwali crackers. I literally no nothing else on the subject. If I ever make it to KBC and Mr. B asks me ‘Haiiiinnnn…. Hriday ji, agla sawaal… Kaun sa Bharatiya neta ne ‘Lakshmi Bomb’ ko naam diya?’; I’d have to quit the game, for there is nothing more I know about crackers.
Some 10 years ago, I started this blog as a teenager, unaware that it would mean anything, unaware that it would open doors, that thousands of strangers would connect to it. But it has survived 10 years.
If this blog survives another 30 odd years, and some kid is reading it and looks back on our times, let them not think that Diwali was only a festival that brought on controversies, debates and confrontations on the news and Internet. Let them know that Diwali was a festival when people shared sweets, met their loved ones, got high, smiled, and laughed.
I am nobody to preach to you. Burst crackers if you have to. Don’t burst them if you don’t.
Stay safe! Happy Diwali. 🙂 🙂
Featured Image Courtesy: www.hindugodwallpaper.com