And so I was standing in the rain, waiting for the bus and suddenly a sentence popped into my head. ‘Deepon ki avli hai deepavli’. That translates to Diwali is a festival that is array of lit lamps. More or less, give or take.
I think I had that lesson about the festival in the Hindi class when I was in the 6th grade. Deepon ki avli indeed. The festival of lights has always been a special one. To me, it had always symbolized things new, fun and exciting. For as long as I can remember, my mum has always slogged herself in the kitchen to dish out a feast of sorts. At one point, it was an extended family that enjoyed the meal. As years wore on, the participants were reduced to just the three of us. Mum, dad and yours truly.
That didn’t hamper or dampen my mum’s spirit. She goes all in every year. This year, its a meal for two and still all in. I had a good laugh teasing my mom about it. ‘So, are you going to shower today?’ , my mom asked her usual Diwali question. Some things never do change.
I am reminded of the time I was in my 5th grade. The usual practice was to wear them new clothes to school when they reopened after the holidays. That one year, the occasion was special enough. I had taken the liberties of extending the practice to another day , besides the designated fancy wear day. My reason was a simple enough. I had brought two! It was fun to be the only bloke in school who was not in his usual uniform. People were shook, some of the kids were jealous, most of my teachers were amused and I was a happy proud kid, dressed in a Red Tshirt that had a picture of a fancy skull on it. Red used to be my favourite color back then.
Then came the phase of ‘I’m too cool to burst crackers’. I believed , half heartedly , in the cause against child labour. The promotions promoted, the propaganda propagated, I did manage to coast through the day avoiding them crackers. Temptation sunk in by the evening. A box of rockets later, I did smile a satisfied guiltless smile. It was the last time I had bothered with the crackers. I had grown old.
Before I could realize that I was the responsible adult around the block, my folks appointed me the safety warden. My nephew was a kid back then, so was my niece. They wanted to have their fun with fire and explosives. The kid got creative and I started to worry. I remember lugging a bucket of water and bracing my heart over his adventure spells. The games had transcended time. Tying up crackers of different kind were still in fashion. Blowing coconut shells were still cool. Igniting crackers and throwing them for an Air time explosion was still awesome. As a responsible adult, yeah, it was way too much trouble to maintain the façade of being responsible. I rolled my sleeves and joined in on their fun. It felt great to be a kid again.
The kids grew up and they had their fifteen minutes of fame riding the ‘Crackers is child labour’ phase. My nephew refused to indulge in the practice. My niece was still enthusiastic. Fortunately, I made the nephew the safety warden and enjoyed ten more minutes of happy sleep. That happiness didn’t last long. Brothers and sisters are meant to fight and fight they did. My mom rushed in the damage control. I was the damage control. This time around, I was the ‘uncle’ to the kids in the apartment. Little ones surrounded me and looked up to me to inspire them into excitement and adventure.
There were the first timers, the scaredy cats who wanted to get in on the fun, but were apprehensive about how explosives worked. Their hands would tremble, the incense stick would fly all directions and manage to miss igniting the wick. They had to be directed. They had to be motivated. The first thrill of setting something on fire, the first thrill of escaping death, the first thrill of an action fuelled adventure, once they acquired the taste for it, there was no stopping them.
I remember that evening. My nephew and I decided to watch the night works from the terrace. We both decided to throw away our phones and enjoy the lights and sounds. It felt wonderful to enjoy the moment. It was the first time , in many years, where I had managed to place my mind and my thoughts on hold. I was free to enjoy the moment. The thinking would resume later. It was also the last time I enjoyed such an evening. Time and tide, you know the drill. They don’t bother waiting.
Then came the thrills of sneaking in a call to a loved one without the parents raising any alarms. The simpler joys of wishing at the stroke of mid night. The dumb satisfaction of exchanging pictures of celebrations across the households. The happiness of secrecy and jubilation of romance. Festivals were a fun time to enjoy life. It did give an excuse to stay a little more connected than usual. It did give an excuse to view the normal as something special. It did give an opportunity to view a larger than life version of the mundane.
Through the years, my folks haven’t changed. Dad still heads out early morning to burst the quintessential usi- vedi (needle cracker!!!) . He steps out before most people wake up. He gets back before most people wake up. He then helps mom with her production line of dolling out dishes. My mom would then nudge him to start the process of waking me up. 5 am, 6 am, 7 am, 8, am, 9 am.. and then my mom would adopt a different strategy. She’d remind me that there would come a day when I’d not be with them and the guilt trip was ample enough to get my day started. The irony is, I woke up at 6 today, without reminders, without much drama and too bad, I woke up to an empty room, to a land that has to wait till the 5th of November for the fireworks.
A festival becomes more than a festival. It’s not about throwing money and acquiring things. It’s not about flaunting with flashy clothes and distributing expensive and exotic sweets. It’s not about putting on a show. It’s the simpler things. It’s about spending a little time with the family. It’s about enjoying a meal together, to talk about useless things of daily life. It’s about sharing a few smiles.
Enjoy a little, much needed, family time. May the festival of lights brighten up your smiles. Be responsible, be a safety warden 😛