Another version I heard recently is that Diwali is really a festival for Northern India. The Indians in Northern India are said to have come down from the Caspian sea ( part of Europe I guess) and they occupied the North that was then known as Vedic India. They pushed the original occupants towards the South. Lord Ram was King of the North while Ravan was King of the South. King Ravan took Lord Rama's wife captive as a way to prove a point to Lord Rama ( sort of a political manouvre of some sort). Lord Ram went after him and with the help of a monkey tribe ( who were humans but with tails and special powers ), he defeated King Ravan and killed him. He thereafter returned home to Diwali. Diwali is therefore not such a big thing in South India as it is the day their King was killed - or so my historian told me.
Whatever the story, and I am sure there may be other versions, at least they all agree on a few things. Lord Ram killed King Ravan and therefore Dusserha and Lord ram returned home and therefore Diwali.
In Diwali season, everything is on sale. One custom is that you should wear new clothes on Diwali. There is also a day about 3 days before Diwali when you are supposed to exchange kitchen ware and a day after diwali when brothers are hosted by their sisters and gifts are exchanged. In short, November has more holidays that working days if you include the weekends as holidays. Luckily, not all the holidays are public holidays so work still flows.
The usual grocery stores and milk shops are transformed into sweet shops. Chocolate and nuts everywhere. If you have a sweet tooth, Diwali is the season for you. Fireworks begin to reverberate through the night well before Diwali. Our neighbours told us we aint seen nothing yet but we could not imagine that it could get any noisier. The last 1 week or so has been like living in a battle zone with staccato outburst of a sub machine gun here, followed by earth shaking 'boom, boom' of heavy artillery complete with the sound of debri falling from the sky. However we adjusted well, until Diwali arrived.
The day started pretty normal. At around 8.30pm, it was like all hell broke lose. The city was literally on fire with fireworks in every direction. They do it on the street in front of their houses and there will be varied types of firecrackers. By around 10 pm, the air was thick with smoke and dust. It was like walking through a fog of smoke and dust. Cases of asthma actually sky rocket during this time. Every one is so happy and jolly and we were invited to watch the crackers go off. It was quite a show that went on till 1 am. The next morning and upto 2 days later, one can still hear sporadic 'gunshots' as kids find unexploded crackers and do some justice on them. Others are trying to get rid of their stocks. I imagined that if it was a true battle ground, these would be the rear guard passing through and shooting randomly at anything that moves.
Did I mention, the lights. These people pull no punches when it comes to lighting up the house at Diwali. One may even think the whole estate has been tranformed into a big Mall with flashing lights all over.
In short, Diwali was enjoyable to watch. These guys party like our Lakeside brothers but went to Central province business school.