Four of us with our collective loss, twelve lamps, a quiet dinner comprising of a folksy menu and a monophonic prayer that’s sacrosanct yet serene. The celebration of Diwali in my family now is a reticent affair, an aberration from the usually clamorous fiesta in form of uproarious banter supplemented with more than a generous dose of firecrackers, sweets, rituals, games, booze and other adornments and embellishments that amalgamates the festival of light.
However Diwali had not always been such a vanilla affair for us and had the usual sprinkling of sweets, dry fruits and firecrackers and a lot more starting from my daunted and mostly unsuccessful bids to not come in the way of the whopping spring cleaning operation while contriving my way into myriad shopping trips for new clothes and gifts. The winter air replete with anticipation of imminent gaiety rang with a few stray fire crackers as a prelude to the grand finale. The people who were considered important enough received tacky ‘happy diwali’ cards made on relatively precious plain white sheets of paper. Not so important people got the ones scribbled on ruled paper torn from the notebooks. Lamps were bought few days before so that they could be washed to a squeaky perfection and small cotton balls were rolled into willowy wicks. The D day started with wearing of new clothes, a comparative study of fire crackers before pooling them to be used at the much awaited night and sometimes a cramped attempt at a grubby rangoli amidst disagreements that went beyond bickering to jostling of elbows and bumping of tiny heads. A trip to the gurdwara, a family prayer, much rehearsed greetings, lighting the lamps and placing them at the darkest of the corners all fitted in seamlessly to complete the jubilant delineation.
However over a period of time it diluted to a simple prayer and a dinner. The most pertinent reason is that I grew up. I became aware of child labour in firework factories. It’s distressing for me to realize that I had derived juvenile pleasure albiet unknowingly out of the fire crackers made by those tiny vulnerable hands in threadbare conditions. I no longer wish to patronize such boorishness. I have grown out of my apathetic leanings to the ominous air of thick dark smog and the roads littered with used fire crackers bearing a testimony to a night of complete heedlessness, a nightmare for innocent animals and dainty birds. My heart goes out to all the elders and those who are ailing and afflicted. The bazaars are no longer safe to shop during festivals and sweets are precarious for a variety of reasons so that leaves us with lamps, prayers and rangoli. Extended family has all spread across the globe so family gatherings are as sparse as the hair on my grandfather’s head.
Though our house didn’t ring with raucous laughter or echoed with ceaseless greetings there was a snug ambience of ingenuous complacency. Apart from the family prayer the unsaid affirmation between all of us was apparent, the promise of togetherness through thick and thin. As we sat in the coziness of our home the deafening sound of fire crackers seemed to fade into oblivion and what remained was an almost faultless love and an imperceptible bond you develop with people who have shared intricate experiences and memories that braid a part of your soul together so much so that the memories become our collective joy or pain and can be felt in togetherness even when no words are uttered and in spite of some glaring disagreements and difference of opinions.
My six hour bus journey to reach had been more tiring and uncomfortable than the usual with an unsparing smattering of smelly farts, cramped seating and pushy co passengers but I have resolved to spend all the occasions, little or big with family. There might or might not be any fun and games but there will be always the silent wordless prayer and gratitude for each other. My emotional taste buds are getting tired of masala of daily life with its tendency to deviate towards high strung drama and these occasions have proved time and again to be remedial and beneficial for palate cleaning and grounding.