When I first came to Delhi, I was frightened by the Diwali celebrations that I saw. Fire crackers are not something I enjoy. I think it pollutes the environment. I have seen documentaries on how fire crackers are made in India. Truly, it is shocking how this popular festival product is actually the result of thankless hours of work and terrible living conditions suffered by child laborers in different parts of the country. Every time I see the crowds that hover around stalls that sell fire crackers, I feel something inside my heart burst with pain.
Anyway, let me come back to my story. Diwali, as I understood initially, is celebrated with lights. I found the festival a little too loud because where I was working at the time, it was more of a corporate affair. You had lots of gifts that had to be planned, bought and packed. It was about showing off who could give what, at times. In case you didn't have money to pay more to your domestic help, you can bet that your neighbors would know about it and let you know in a very mocking way that they know about it. Why should they be concerned is a question I will not ask as curiosity about neighbors and what they are upto is a virtue in India with a lot of people.
Over the years, I have become used to Diwali. In fact, I have learned to appreciate the good things associated with the festival. It is a season when people, despite crazy work schedules, find a way to meet their relatives and loved ones and gift them with sweets and things.
During my first Diwali in Delhi, I remember going to many shops, yearning to buy something with my hard earned money for my husband. Nothing seemed good enough because I was so overwhelmed to be married and working, a combination that had seemed rare when I first began my life's new journey. In its own way, Diwali is that time of the year when you want some light in your life, literally, before the bleak days of winter make its presence felt.
Looking back, I realize that only my first Diwali experience was a little dampening because it was a culture shock and the firecrackers really scared me. The following years, I had enjoyed Diwali. In 2005, I celebrated Diwali in Shirdi. It was one of my most unforgettable trips. It happened a day after a series of bomb blasts had taken place in Delhi. Everyone advised us not to travel by train from Delhi as there was so much panic about national security and safety of the public. At the time, I was six months pregnant with Adi. That morning, the railway station was deserted. Except for the two of us and some vendors, there was no one at the station that morning. I am mentioning this because it is typically one of the most crowded railway stations on normal days!
Our trip to Shirdi was so wonderful. We talked about everything under the sun for hours and hours. My hubby showed me around Shirdi. The hotels were all booked, the place itself was so crowded that we gave up hope of finding somewhere to stay in.
We found a place that was away from the huge crowds, very peaceful and had ambience too. We spent most of our time in the Shirdi Samadhi mandir and Dwarkamai, the mosque. What I loved was praying in the mosque. I saw people, Hindus and Muslims, offering their prayers in that mosque. On Diwali, despite the terrible rush around the place, I sat on the floor for hours, pressed between many devotees, yet totally at peace as I sat in the mosque and ate Prasad and prayed for my baby. I felt tears gather in my eyes as I saw people light diyas around the mosque and the temple. I felt so fortunate to be there in Shirdi. Everywhere we moved, there was light, not just in the diyas but in the eyes and hearts of those who were gathered there.
This year, Diwali 2009 as I am calling it, turned out to be very special. Early morning, God gave me an opportunity to do a pooja and light the lamp of love in the hearts of others. That is the best thing I have done in a long, long time.
Also, after a gap of three long years, my parents came to spend Diwali with me. Words fail me because the memory of lighting diyas with them, watching them shop for lights and decorate my home with it, and gift me with so much besides their love, it is all so hard to describe.
Just a few days back, I bumped into one of my neighbors. Stylish mom, a little bit of a show off but definitely an attractive one, she told me that she decided to spend her Diwali with her parents as she felt they were alone and it didn’t seem fair that she always spent Diwali with her in-laws. What struck me was her words, “For a change, I want to make my parents feel loved.” It touched me that for a change, she was not boasting about her latest watch or jeans or about a new country she had sailed to but about something that meant the whole world to her because I could see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice. Sometimes, it takes a festival of lights to bring alive that sparkle and fervor in each of us.
I think that is what makes Diwali truly special for a lot of families in India. It is when a lot of parents feel loved by their children and relatives. It is when a lot of children think about pampering their parents. It is about looking back and not forgetting the roots that brought you where you are now.
I wish you a very Happy, Prosperous and Love Filled Diwali.
Before you leave, tell me about your favorite Diwali and why.