Diwali: The Festival of Lights and Gambling for Good Luck in Delhi

Some of the most memorable moments of the trip are the spontaneous ones you had no idea would happen.  On a layover in Ethiopia when we flew from Kenya to Egypt, we met a wonderful gentleman name Ravi who is an extensive world traveler from India. Dana struck up a conversation with him after she peeked at his laptop and noticed some of his incredible wildlife photos from his safaris in Kenya. After exchanging some stories of our travels, we had to catch our next flight but not before Ravi invited us to celebrate Diwali with his friends and family in New Delhi. Dana and I originally planned on visiting India in October, but with nothing booked yet, we decided on making a slight change to our plans. Diwali is known as the festival of lights, sort of like an Indian Christmas.

Our arrival in Delhi immediately brought back some memories of Madagascar, mainly because of the headaches that come with the choke of thick diesel fuel discharged from the old taxi vehicles. The traffic reminded us of some of the chaos of Cairo, with stop and go traffic for a solid hour and a half before we reached our guest house. Once we got there, we found out that our guest house was having their own Diwali party later that evening and we were encouraged to attend. Mamta, the owner, had a wonderful sense of hospitality and made sure we were comfortable the entire evening. They had a large staff bringing over all sorts of finger food, my favorite being the chicken and cheese tikka, both grilled items that were fantastic. They also had some sort of green sauce to dip them in which was very good, but I never figured out what it was called.

After a couple hours Mamta asked if either Dana or I wanted to play cards with some of the other attendees. I decided to sit down and try to play, along with an older English man named John. The game being played was called “Flash,” similar to Texas-no-limit hold ‘em, but very different in that the dealer could make up whatever variations they wanted to the normal game.  There was also a small amount of gambling attached to this, but I didn’t have that much cash to begin with because I didn’t stop at an ATM upon our arrival in Delhi. I played my 700 rupees (about $16) and said what the heck. I only bet a small amount the first few hands, and after about 15 minutes I was down to 350 rupees. I then got the second best hand in the game and bet everything I had over the three rounds of betting, and I won the pot, about 1400 rupees. The interesting thing about the game was if you got a good hand it was hard to lose, so I just kept playing conservatively until a good hand came around and then bet a lot. An older gentleman named Birani liked to watch what cards I was playing and was in my corner the whole night. He found my ability to win a few hands quite amusing. Six hours later, wearily went to bed as the big winner, taking in a total of 4800 rupees (about $105). The next morning Dana thought my gambling exploits were pretty hilarious.

The legendary "Flash" advisor

The "Flash" group from the first night of Diwali.

The next day was spent resting up for the official Diwali ceremony and celebration we planned on attending. We arrived at Ravi’s house just in time for the official ceremony to start. He had a Hindi priest show up for this part, and while I have no idea what was said because it was in Hindi, I can at least pass on what we saw in the ceremony. Something happens where a lot of fruit (bananas, apples, oranges, etc) gets blessed by the priest, one for each person. Then we are expected to eat that fruit that same night. There are a ton of candles lit, as this is the festival of lights, and the twenty or so people in attendance all got a special dot on their head with small bits of flower on it. Hard to explain, but it was a very cool experience. We had such a great evening with Ravi’s family that night. He had relatives from all over attend, including the United States. Dana was ecstatic later that night because Ravi’s wife had a Jack Russell Terrier, just like her dog Wrigley back home. Her name was Maggie and she and Dana were best friends the entire evening.  Everyone was interested in hearing about our travels, and some of them gave us great advice on our future destinations. We will definitely remember this as one of our favorite evenings of the trip, and was all because of a conversation started on a layover at an airport.

Where the official Diwali ceremony took place

Dana giving a sparkler a try

Ravi, Dana, and Maggie, the Jack Russell Terrier

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One Response to Diwali: The Festival of Lights and Gambling for Good Luck in Delhi

  1. Jenny Burginia says:

    You are so lucky. I love reading about your adventures. It is so amazing.

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