Diwali is a Festival of light. We usually celebrate Diwali at my Grandfather's home with around 20 members of the family gathering in one place. It is nice, bright and happy. However, there are some incidents which leave a trail on your heart. Something similar happened with me. Following are three incidents that changed my perspective about the phrase "HAPPY DIWALI".
1. My father is a Judge and I was staying at his home before Diwali. My parents were out of town and were to return a day before Diwali. Now, as Dad is in a government job, he gets plenty of servants and drivers. It was 10 PM. Hudhud storm has affected the weather and as a result, it was raining outside. I was happily wrapped in a cozy blanket with a cup of hot coffee in my hand. The TV blurted out brightly coloured Diwali commercials begging you to buy a camera, a car, a home and what not this Diwali. I wonder if India wasn't so obsessed with morality, Indians would have sold "new Wife", "new Children" and even a "Packaged Family Specially for this Diwali"
As I comfortably immersed in the aroma of my coffee, one of the peons who did night shift in the house came.
He: Bhaiya, I would like to go home tonight.
Me: Aren't you supposed to stay here all night. I don't know about your duty timings but I think Dad told me so.
He: Yes, bhaiya but...
Me: What? Do you have any problems?
He dipped his eyes low on the ground and his voice became shaky.
He: Bhaiya, I have been suffering from fever since last few days. I have a little son at home and no one else. He too has high fever since this morning. Moreover, for some unknown reasons, he has this unbearable pain in his left leg at random intervals. The neighbors called me and stated that the pain has started again and they told me to come home as soon as possible.
Me: Oh. I think you should leave right now. But wait. Isn't it raining outside. How will you go? Where do you live?
He: It is all right. I live 12 kms from here. I have got a bicycle.
Me: You will go home riding a bicycle in this rain?
He: Yes. No problem.
His lips smiled but his watery eyes recited a different story.
I got out of my blanket, packed some sweets and chocolates and drove him home in my car.
That was the least I could do. There was a single Diya (earthen lamp) at the door of his house. It was fighting with the wind and rain that night. But it was still bright...
2. Here is an extract of a conversation with my brother a week before Diwali.
Me: Did you notice, Ishwar is always in a hurry. Always wants to go home.
Brother : Exaclty. His duty ends at 9 PM and yet he always ask to leave home early. Lazy fellow.
After 2 days:
I went out for lunch with an old college friend who is a judge. His father was also a judge and he was posted in the same place a few years ago where my father currently is and so he is acquainted with the staff.
After a casual conversation with him, he told me something about how he used to play cricket in the large compound outside the house with Ishwar,
Me: Ishwar, the driver?
He: Yes. Nice fellow. But a bit unfortunate.
He : Last year, on Diwali, her wife passed away. She was fighting cancer. It was a dreadful and painful death. The medical expenses were high and made Ishwar buried deep in debts. It was a hard time for him. Now he lives with his only daughter who is 4 years old. No one else.
I realised why he yearned to go home so early.
Now, when I am in my Grandfather's house, celebrating Diwali with atleast 20 family members, a variety of sweets and a large number of diyas at every corner of my house, my mind thinks of lonely Ishwar and his daughter.
3. It was D-day. Diwali day. I like watching the fireworks rather than burning them myself. So, every Diwali, I go to the terrace and watch the colourful shows of crackers, sparkles, and rockets.
The streets were all lit up with coloured electric lights, the bright yellow colour of diyas and sparkly crackers. I was taking in the beauty of the festival when something colourless caught my eye. It was in contrast with the colourful festival. It didn't fit there.
Suddenly, my eyes went wet and I had a lump in my throat.
What I saw was an eight year old boy in dirty tattered clothes standing by the side, jumping and clapping every time someone let off a rocket. His little dark eyes lit up every time my little cousin lit a sparkle.
When the show was over; when the kids took a break from their charade, those little eyes were sad again. It seemed as if the dreams in those eyes have just been shattered by the reality. His smile would vanish in a moment and he would start picking empty packets of fireworks and sometimes, if he was lucky, he would find some un-burnt plug of crackers. He would put them in a small polythene bag and waited for another round of show to begin. He would watch the "Festival of Lights" standing in the dark until someone smack him on his head and yell at him to get lost.
I picked up some packets of sweets, some sparkles and crackers. I rushed down the stairs, on the road. But he was gone.
I wish he got enough crackers for his little brothers waiting for him in a light-less hut.
I wanted to post a glittery and happy post this Diwali like I did previous year. But I guess, sometimes Darkness dazzles more than Light.
Wishing you all a very HAPPY DIWALI !