The Changing Traditions Of Festivities With Vivan Bhatena

How we celebrated and perceived Diwali as children and how the festival has evolved now shows the nature of changing traditions. Vivan Bhatena talks about his childhood and what Diwali meant to him versus how he and his wife, Nikhila Bhatena, celebrate with their daughter now.
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Vivan Bhatena is a model, TV, and movie actor best known for his roles in Dangal, Sooryavanshi, Judwaa 2, Talaash, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi 7, among others. He is currently shooting for a new web series titled ‘Kafas‘ with Applause Entertainment. Vivan married his wife, Nikhila Palat, the founder of Katalyst Reputation Management, back in 2007. The couple welcomed their daughter Nivaya on June 9, 2019, and they set off on a new journey of parenthood. Three years later, the couple is now well-settled into their roles and has created a life that’s perfect for three! Talking about Diwali and his fond childhood memories, Vivan speaks about how different the festival has become today and how he likes to keep his little princess involved in everything at home.

Anecdotes of childhood Diwalis spent well 

Growing up, Vivan looked forward to Diwali because of all the lights, mithai, food, and of course holidays. In his own words, he was a ‘naughty’ child who loved firecrackers and the thrill of blowing things up! Growing up, Diwali was something that we used to look forward to so much because we had all these awesome fireworks that we used to get to play with and I was a crazy mad scientist who liked to create my own firework. I have caused multiple explosions in my own household, in fact, one happened right next to a fuel can after which I got a nice tight slap from my father!” Vivan claims he was an avid DIYer and used to create rockets of his own to blow up pipes. Talking further about his childhood shenanigans, he said, “I remember once my dad went all out and bought us these giants, thundering crackers that light up the sky. He had received a bonus and he went and spent all of it on crackers for me and my cousin, Kunal. I think we came back home at 2 o’clock in the morning after bursting crackers and creating a huge mess of smog and waste. But at that time we were just looking at the night sky and how it lit up and feeling pure joy at that moment so we never really looked at the mess. Those were some of my fondest memories.”

A couple of decades later, Vivan is now older and wiser and says that was a different time when people didn’t know about the consequences of firecrackers. Vivan and Nikhila now celebrate Diwali in a way that their daughter, Nivaya, understands Diwali for what it is – a festival of lights. “Nivaya decorates our home with us using lights and lamps. My mother-in-law tells her a lot of stories about Diwali and we also try and imbibe all of our cultural values as much as we can. Of course, the use of fireworks is over now as we don’t prefer the noise and want to stay away from pollution. Plus, I have a dog. Poor thing suffers terribly when the fireworks go off every year.” 

Diwali celebrations – then and now 

For us Indians, food is a big part of every celebration. Talking about his favourite Diwali food as a kid he said, “I think everyone’s favourite Diwali food is Kaju Katli. It’s the one thing that we binged on! Of course, now it is available everywhere but I mean that was the one thing that was made available to us only on Diwali. Special meals were prepared and everyone’s favourite food was made, it was lovely.” He also says that this is one time of the year that he misses his grandmother the most as one of his fondest childhood memories is eating the amazing food she cooked and her ability to ensure that the entire family got together. 

Talking about changing traditions, Vivan claimed that he and his wife don’t cook anything at home during Diwali and prefer ordering a scrumptious meal. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the kind of cooking skills that my mum and grandmother had. We do order nice Diwali food and there’s always something special but, that’s what I mean by traditions that have changed over time. There used to be an occasion to get special food but now it is easily available at the click of a button.”

The festival has always been an opportunity for Vivan and his family to get together with close friends and family to celebrate. “We try to make sure that we celebrate and get together. I think the main thing about Diwali is just getting together with the entire family and celebrating together. I think growing up, it was always celebrated at my grandmother’s house and all the kids got together because my mom has four sisters and a brother. It wasn’t a very big house but we all jammed in to make some good food and everybody got their potluck and celebrated. This was great fun! Now, we obviously go out or have lunch at my sister-in-law’s place so it’s fun.” 

New traditions with Nivaya

Vivan and Nikhila have always envisioned an independent life for Nivaya. They want her to be able to make her own decisions and understand what is right and wrong – and they’ve definitely started young! For them, festivals are about being together with family, enjoying each other’s company, and being present in the moment. While their daughter is just three and a half years old, they ensure she helps them in everything they do for the festivities. “We have collective effort where we clean up the house, we light up diyas, my wife Nikhila makes a nice rangoli outside the house. She loves doing that and she is very very creative. Nivaya helps her with that. Nivaya also helps us with the shopping and chooses the lights that we are going to put on the balcony and so she gets very involved.”

Vivan also chimed in about how they have a great view of Bandra from their balcony and a favourite activity of theirs is to view the fireworks going off during Diwali. Vivan says, “Nivaya loves all the lights and colourful fireworks when they go off and she enjoys it. I mean, that’s the fun of Diwali! She gets to eat all the sweets as my mum and everyone get her a lot of mithais so she loves the festival even more after that.” Talking about new traditions, they also make sure Nivaya understands the value of sharing and donating to others in need. They use Diwali as an opportunity every year to give donations and distribute sweets in the building. He added, “We have Nivaya give stuff to all the staff that we have in the building. We give sweets and small presents. And I think it means a lot to them coming from her and they really enjoy and look forward to it.”

Local markets, Diwali shopping, and making everyone feel special! 

Diwali shopping is a big part of Vivan’s Diwali celebrations and he and his wife ensure their daughter is as involved in every bit of it. Being hands-on parents of a three-year-old, they have started inculcating the idea of what traditions mean early on and ensuring their daughter understands the importance of these occasions. While Diwali is a festival of gift-giving, Vivan makes sure that they buy worthwhile things for his family and friends. “We buy gifts for everyone. We buy special presents for our entire family and we pick out small things that they like. It’s not about gifting something expensive but something that they can practically use or maybe something that they can eat and enjoy on Diwali.” 

He says that they are also very particular about ensuring their daughter experiences these things for herself. “We live on Hill Road so if we just walk down,  we have hundreds of small shops and local vendors that put up these lovely lights during Diwali. We like to support local people and pick up things ourselves. I mean obviously, you can order stuff online but that has zero involvement. We like to take Nivaya to the shops so she can see the lights herself and pick up stuff. I like that these experiences are still available to us.” Vivan and Nikhila also like to take Nivaya along shopping when they are buying new clothes for her. They feel it is important for her to have a say in things, adding “It is always fun to dress up and meet all your friends. That’s a fun thing we do and we let her choose her clothes and pick up something nice in colours that she likes.”

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