What’s it like being away from home during a festival? Bollywood’s hot newcomer Siddharth Malhotra tells us. Diwali meant unending ‘patakebaazi’ with my cousins and staying out of the house till the wee hours,” says actor Siddharth Malhotra who spent 22 years of his life in Delhi, his home.
“It has never been the same since I left,” says the now 28-year-old star of Student of the Year.
It’s been five years since he departed ‘his’ city and moved to Mumbai to realise his dreams. And sure enough, he achieved it all – films, fandom and fame. But the one thing he truly misses is “Diwali in Dilli”. Given a chance, Siddharth insists he would rush home to celebrate this festival in a big fat Punjabi style with his friends and family. “That’s my way,” he says, smiling.
A Defence Colony boy, Siddharth grew up surrounded by cousins and friends. “It wasn’t a joint family, but we lived two or three houses apart from each other. We were a group of six guys and two girls,” he recalls. Every day was a party for Siddharth and his gang. They celebrated every birthday, festival, any joyous occasion really, together. “There was laughter, parties, shor-sharaaba and a lot of masti,” he says.
Every year, Diwali preparations would start 15 days before the festival. The house would be cleaned, repainted and re-upholstered. “We loved the process of getting the house ready for Diwali,” he says. Of course, card parties were a big attraction too.
“My mum and uncle are card junkies. They could go on for hours. So we had numerous Diwali card parties,” he says. But the best part of the deal was that, “till I was 15, all the money the elders won in card games was distributed among the kids. And we used to make so much money that it would last us for two-three months,” says Siddharth.
The actual day of the festival was a traditional affair. “Every year, we would make a mandir in my dadi’s room. Decorate the house, get dressed in our finest and wait for her to conduct the puja,” he recalls. But the real fun began after the puja. “Times were different then. We didn’t live in this politically correct world. We would buy lots of crackers and burst them all night,” he says.
Diwali was all about family and fun for Siddharth, until the year he almost spent it alone. Director Anubhav Sinha had called him to Mumbai for a project. “It was one of the most depressing weeks for me. I was in a new city, among new people,” he says. “I had never felt so homesick in my life.” That prompted him to fly to Delhi for a day just to celebrate his favourite festival with his family. This became a ritual of sorts. Over the next three years, he would fly home every year for Diwali.
Then Karan Johar’s Student Of The Year happened. “I had to shoot for the film on Diwali. Obviously I couldn’t fly home.” This year too, Siddharth will be busy shooting for a film but now he’s not too upset about it. With each passing year, he has adjusted to being away from his family on Diwali. “This city is no longer alien to me. I have a group of friends and we get together and party on most festivals,” he says. “But obviously, it isn’t anything like being home. Also, Mumbai celebrates so many festivals that everything ends up feeling like an event.”
But he isn’t complaining. He’s happy in Mumbai. Now if only, he could “feel” the festival a little more!
Alone on diwali?
* Find company. Get together with other solos. Everyone has a friend of a friend who’s stuck away from family this season.
* Use technology. Fix a time to Skype with family, schedule a conference call to your cousins on speakerphone to fill the air with chatter.
* Escape. Can’t go home? Go to a destination closeby so your mind is filled with a new experience even if you’re alone.
* Take on a project, be it reorganising the kitchen or just clearing out your inbox. It will keep you occupied.