Monday, 16 November 2009

Vulcanoes and wheels

Guy Fawkes was never like this. Some weeks ago we watched Diwali being celebrated, and spectacular, it was. Not wishing be to outdone we collectively decided it would be a good idea to have our own show on November 5th. But someone reminded us A was not due to return to Koraput until the 8th and not wishing him to miss the fun we delayed until this weekend the great event. M took the catering role, A brought his torch to help J, the chief lighter see his way to the inflammables, I took responsibility of finding them and H, being transported back from a field trip and unsure as to her arrival time, was to be chief spectator, if she arrived in time. That was the meticulous plan.

Ha, India, like the UK, sells fireworks to the great unwashed just once a year. I didn’t realise this until I started to look for them in town. Looks of disbelief on the local traders faces when I asked for fireworks. Diwali finished, no more till next year was the standard reply and I also suspected one or two of them thought I was some sort or terrorist in the making. Panic, M,A,J and H are reliable and will perform as expected. I, on the other hand will be denied beer for the remaining time I am here if I fail them. But, I have a cunning plan. Ask the staff at work. Maybe one of them has some leftovers from Diwali. I’m in luck, someone does have a few left over and will bring them in. Our fabulously impressive display will happen on the appointed night.

The day (evening) arrives and we assembly at H and J’s house. Food and beer are consumed and we move up to the roof for the GREAT EVENT. First problem, how do will we fix the Catherine wheels. We all scrabble around and agree that a nail driven into the end of a cane fluffy duster will serve as an excellent pivot and if we pass the cane through a wicker chair seat the problem is solved. Another problem looms as we then realise the wheel will be rotating horizontally and apart from a possible mishap when J lights it, we won’t get the full effect. A huddle later we stick the cane in the chair back. Now we have a vertical pivot. Are we innovative or what? Professionals we are, no doubt of that.

Having arranged the order of display the celebrations begin. First off, a wheel. Carefully hammering in the nail, narrowly missing his thumb with a large rock, J sets it off. We have lift off. For an eternity of five seconds, Ooos and arhs by the appreciative crowd. The night looks set be a great success. Now the first of the fountains or volcanoes goes up. More Ooos and arhs are emitted by the admiring crowd (OK, five may not be a crowd but at the time it seemed a lot). Another wheel is carefully arranged. It is a flop. Not in any way discouraged, another fountain is set up and admired for its conflagrational beauty. Now for the magnificent finale. The last of the wheels is examined under a microscope for flaws, unanimously declared fit for purpose, and arranged on our pole and ignited by J. It flares and J receives a slight burn that will only take about a month or so before he gets the use of his hand back so he tries again with his remaining hand. A drops the torch and J says something not to be repeated in these hallowed pages. But J is no wimp, he ignites the wheel in darkness. It fizzles and dies, forever.

Five unwashed, five fireworks, three displays equates to a 60% success rate (among my many doubtful talents is an ability to do sums). In our book we have had a successful evening, regardless of how others might view it. The beer didn’t harm the night either.

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