Try these 20 ways for a self-indulgent and different Diwali this year

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Old-timers remember Diwali as a simple family affair, marked by lights, laughter and warmth. Now, it’s dusty, noisy and ostentatious. Depressing? Not if you beat the revellers at their own game. Presenting a variety of ways to have an indulgent, not necessarily expensive — and quite different — Diwali.

Get on top of pollution


Go drinking at a sky bar and get a ringside view of the fireworks. Pretty much all the metros have one: try the Dome at the Intercontinental (Mumbai), High Ultra Lounge at the World Trade Centre (Bengaluru), Kylin Premier at Ambience Mall (New Delhi) or Raise the Bar (Gurugram).

Price: Indicatively, from Rs 2,200 (meal for two with alcohol, at Kylin)

Eat out


As in, far out. The most expensive meal possible. You may never have done it before and you may never do it again. But please do it once. There’s one in your city (Indian Accent, Delhi; Wasabi by Morimoto, Mumbai; and so on). 

Price: from Rs 10,000 for a meal for two

Buy a car 


Oh, already have three? A luxury one then: made better in the festive season with fat discounts. The Volvo XC90 SUV is being offered with a cash discount of Rs 800,000 on all variants. Its sedan cousin, the S90, gets Rs 500,000 off. The Jaguar XE and XF — both petrol and diesel variants — will be cheaper by around Rs 500,000. BMW’s entry-level sedan, the 3-Series, is seeing a price drop of Rs 730,000 on its Prestige and Rs 830,000 for Luxury variants. And Audi offers an exchange bonus of up to Rs 200,000 on its Q-Series.

Raise a toast


Gift your best pal a Hibiki 12-year-old. And then spend Diwali night sharing it with her. After-effects: Can’t say. 


Price: Rs 29,000

Look out for the dogs


Crackers may be fun for some of us (who exactly, anymore?) but they are a certain nightmare for dogs. If you care about your local strays, this Diwali, turn your home into a provisional shelter. Distract the pooches by playing with them or talking to them. Make a big fat meal for them and, hopefully, they will fall asleep instead of wandering all night in the smoke-filled streets. 

Price: Time and energy

Make a rangoli


One of the sweetest, simplest Diwali traditions has been trampled more or less into oblivion. Bring rangoli back into your life. If you’d rather not spend hours bent on the floor risking a slipped disc, cheat and buy a stencil. Available at most toy stores, gift stores and online.

Price: from Rs 40-Rs 1,000

Buy a kurta


It’s traditional to buy new clothes for Diwali. It’s also traditional to watch your wallet. Why not break the rules and buy yourself a Good Earth Aairah velvet kurta? It’s the kind of frantically extravagant thing you’d never ordinarily do. Be extraordinary for a change. 

Price: Rs 31,500

Visit the Golden Temple


The Golden Temple is serene every day and night of the calendar year. But the Sikh shrine gets a beautiful makeover on Diwali nights, coinciding with Bandi Chorr Diwas, which marks the day of Guru Hargobind’s homecoming after being released from Jahangir’s prison. The temple is bathed in lights that outshine its golden façade. Cameras live telecast gurbani, followed by dazzling fireworks. 

Price: Free

Gift a hamper


One that you can’t buy at a shop, that is. The coolest gifts are those that scream “personal touch”. Less-than-creative types, don’t squeal. Search out “It's a wrap” on Instagram: they’ll make customised gift packages for you, after fully figuring out who the lucky recipient of your gift is. Nirali Shah makes these packages, as also most of the products, so you can ask her to come up with gifts for anyone ranging from your baby niece to your surly grandfather. 

Price: from Rs 500 to unlimited

Get some oxygen


People inhabiting the northern half of the country, don't let the dipping air quality get you down. Turn your home into an oxygen-rich forest with the low-cost and easy-to-maintain sanseivera, money plant, spider plant or areca palm. These natural, potted air purifiers banish stress and promise a tiny respite from the smog. Plus, your home will look lovely. 

Price: From Rs 200

Rent a racetrack


Okay, a session at one. Motor racing enthusiasts, treat yourself to a slot at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida. You’re welcome to zoom about on your own Ducatis and Kawasakis, but car rentals are also available — choices range from a Volkswagen Polo to an Audi R8. 

Price: Rs 15,000-25,000 per session

Talk exclusive


When is an iPhone not just an iPhone? When it’s wrapped in pure gold — 24-carat. The gold-plated iPhone XS costs about three times the price of the regular one. Want to up the ante? Get a 24-carat version of the XS Max covered in solid gold. Talk about exclusive.

Where: (gold-plated), (solid gold) 

Price: $3,097, $11,995

Buy a carpet


Treat yourself, or a very well-loved one, to a hand-knotted, hand-tufted, flat-woven carpet from OBEETEE. The luxury rug-maker’s creations can be found at the best addresses — Rashtrapati Bhavan and the homes of Queen Elizabeth II and Jawaharlal Nehru. Blend the old and new with designer Tarun Tahiliani’s “Proud to Be Indian” series. 

Price: Rs 623,000 (for a 8ftx10ft “Mughal Maze”)

Take a shot



Recreate the magic of a sepia-toned photo album right at home. Set up a backdrop with a vintage curtain and some fairy lights and maybe rent a few LED focus lights from your local electrician. Get your family to dress up and pose for an old-style portrait. And while you’re trying your hand at old school, may as well charge up and put the DSLR to good use. Family entertainment guaranteed.

Price: Approx Rs 200 (fairy lights, focus lights, printing)

Get your own customised boots


And no, your name doesn’t have to be Cristiano Ronaldo. Just do it like CR7 with Nike iD, which allows you to have your initials, squad number and country’s flag inscribed on the dazzling new Nike Mercurial Superfly 360 Elite. 


Price: Rs 24,995

Deal yourself a new hand
Diwali incomplete without a round or two, or hundred, of teen patti? This time, switch it up and hunt for the rarest, oldest playing cards. You’ll find some online but why not double the fun? Go rummage in thrift shops in places like Chawri Bazaar in Delhi or Bhendi Bazaar in Mumbai. Not a fan of dusty stores? Buy a Kings of India deck designed by Bhavesh and Reena Mistry, inspired by four great Indian dynasties (Maurya, Gupta, Chola and Mughal). Each deck features a set of unique, hand-painted cards with a bonus dose of history. 


Price: Approx Rs 1,150

Get a bespoke suit


Never mind if you aren’t getting married anytime soon (or were married a long time ago), a perfectly tailored bespoke suit is a thing of beauty and a joy for nearly forever. Choose your fabric well, don’t skimp on the price, research the best men’s tailors in your city, revel in a simple, classic pleasure.

Price: from Rs 15,000

Find the oldest, very best mithai shop 


It'll probably be an expedition, but you'll taste the flavours of nostalgia. You’ll also probably have a few heated arguments about the definition of “best”. What fun. But do make the trip this year: Delhi’s “oldest”, Ghantewala, shut down a few years ago. In Delhi, try Chaina Ram. In Chennai, Grand Sweets. In Bengaluru, you’ll have to make it a food tour, since there are too many claimants to the title of “old and best”.

Try a trick for a treat


In the true spirit of DIY, make your own Diwali mithais at home. YouTube has a vast range of videos in the “Cooking for Dummies” style, but here’s a classic recipe for that iconic Diwali treat, the boondi laddoo (thank you, Tarla Dalal). Instagram-friendly photos assured. 


For the boondi batter
  • 1 cup besan (Bengal gram flour)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp edible orange food colour
  • 3/4 cup cold milk
  • Ghee for deep frying
For the rest
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 pinches edible orange food colour
  • 1 tbsp chopped pistachios
  • 1 tbsp melon seeds (charmagaz)
  • a few saffron (kesar) strands
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom (elaichi) powder
  • A few drops of rose essence
  • Ghee for greasing

For the boondi batter, combine all the ingredients in a deep bowl and mix well using a whisk till smooth. Heat the ghee in a deep pan and hold the perforated spoon (boondi jhara) over the hot ghee. Pour a ladle of the batter over it and tap the handle of the spoon so that boondis fall into the ghee. Cook on a medium flame till they turn light golden brown or till crisp. Make sure to wash the perforated spoon and wipe it dry before using it to fry the next batch of boondis. Cool slightly and blend in a mixer till they are coarsely crushed. Keep aside.

Next, combine the sugar, lemon juice, orange food colour and half cup of water in a deep pan, mix well and cook on a medium flame for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the flame, add the pistachios, melon seeds, saffron strands, cardamom powder and rose essence and mix well. Switch on the flame, add the crushed boondi, mix well and cook on a very slow flame for three minutes, stirring continuously. Transfer the mixture to a plate, and allow to cool slightly for 10 minutes. Divide the mixture into 12 equal portions. Grease your palm with a little ghee, take a portion of the mixture and shape to make round laddoos. Keep aside for two to three hours and roll again and serve or store in an air-tight container. Enjoy!

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