I know that it is too late to write about the festival of lights. However, I must add that it is not just another write up letting people know what is done in Deepawali. It is just my experience of this year and some view which I do think I must share.
World over the festival of Deepawali is projected as a festival of lights and Laxmi Puja. Majority of foreign publications I read online carried same tune again and again. But it is much more than that, which only an Indian knows. Very few people will appreciate that on this very day Bengalis celebrate Kali Puja or even there are are other festivals in different parts of the country with different names. Leaving the question of knowledge of different festivals on that very day; for a kid growing up in Delhi, this festival is more than ‘festival of lights’. It is for him a festival of sound, a festival of fun and gifts and a festival in which one feels a vibrant positive energy flowing even through the darkest alleys of the city.
Being born and bought up in Delhi, I liked this festival very much. Much is due to the fact that like every kid I was attracted towards lightening, gifts and crackers; and buck for me stops there itself, nothing more than that, no Puja at home, but only community ‘Kali Puja’ organized by the local Bengali Association. Since Puja used to be timed late night, as a kid I only used to visit it with my parents. A habit which slowly weaned away with each passing year and completely disappeared this year. More so because on last few years I had office or college very next day and this year I was not yet willing to exert myself.
This year though, Deepawali has being rather light. The main spoilsports were health and inflation. My health prevented me from satisfying my gastronomic delights. Inflation took the sheen away from crackers and other things. So, when others were enjoying mutton in my home, I was sipping soup containing paneer, what a pity. That’s life.
You will be very surprised and might ask, Why mutton? Well as I have already written, it’s ‘Kali Puja’ and there used to be tradition of sacrifice (Patha boli). That is gone for good, but Prasad of goddess is still consumed in many Bengali households. So don’t be surprised in future whenever you visit a Bengali home in Deepawali and you get that beautiful (or disgusting depending on your food choice) aroma of mutton. But alas! Fate had some other plans for me.
I love crackers, although I am still afraid of the noisy one’s but still I can safely admit that I am not the one in anti-cracker lobby. As a kid, my grandfather used to bring me a large cache of cracker at least a week before Deepawali; And I still remember rather fondly how I used to enjoy putting them under the sun to cut down the moisture content. Almost every neighbor used to pass a comment on my little shop. I still miss those days. But with ascension of age, few things withered away. Reasons were manifold. But still I garner immense joy whenever I see something going up in the sky and bursting into million pieces of shiny red, blue, green, purple and orange.
For the last few years I have being enjoying my Deepawali with my friend Sushant and his family. We two happen to share common passion for food, frolic and crackers. Since our school days we together visited Diwali Melas (fair) and enjoyed out Deepawali together. So it is a kind of habit of me going there every year. This year it was same, the only difference, I didn’t fire any cracker there. Just because of lack of quick body reflexes and nothing more than that. However, what I did was helped my four year old Cousin to fire her first crackers. Believe me there is nothing more satisfying than passing one’s legacy. She was up to it and event went ahead of me. This was all Deepawali for me, but I had made few observations this year and for last few years.
This festival is one of those festivals in which positive energy flows everywhere and sweeps everyone, no matter which religion or community he or she belongs. In a way this festival is pervasive. Having said that, this year I feel the celebration has being low key, much lower than that of last year’s. There are two things that struck me this year which substantiates that recession and inflation have a tragic impact on way we celebrate. First, for the first time I saw lightening of majority of homes was done just a day before the big day; and lights were taken out just after the day. Second, the crackers only got loose during Deepawali, and the quantity was even lesser this year; if you compare, then it was equal to the crackers that are burnt during ‘Dhanteras’ or ‘Choti Deepawali’ of previous years.
Now, these two things mentioned above are not flash in pan. A trend is generating for the past few years proving the impact of prices having on our daily lives. Although one can argue that if look at statistics, it shows that sales are increases. However, it is noteworthy that how many new people have come to the market and spent a little to add into a larger whole. But those who were there and are there are cutting back or holding up, without being replaced. To sum up, although economy is growing, but is every one getting proper fruit and if he is getting the fruit has his share of fruit with regard to the harvest is stagnant or even declining. Whatever might be the answer, just look around, answers are there.
Another thing, I have being noticing, is the amount of coverage Indian festivals are getting in global media. Much is due to the fact that the world is getting flatter and also because Indian community in world is becoming more visible. However of all the positive effect it is having in the developing inter-cultural relations, some of the articles especially the comments on them really leave a very bad taste. In one of the article a commentator tried to distance Buddhism from this festival and then raking up issue of discrimination against dalits. In another article a reader, while reading the sentence ‘it to Hindus what Christmas is to Christians’, objected to very comparison, his comment somewhat read like this ‘when Christians die they go to heaven, where to Hindus go…..’ there was something else which I don’t want to write. Undoubtedly the person in second case was radical; the person was pacified by another reader in his comment. However, in first case, the person seemed to be a very narrow minded; just how can you compare religion and then say you are fighting for the very religion you are comparing against.
Religion is a very emotional issue. Raising it casually in all forums can have un-desirous results. But who listens, very few understand that free speech comes along with a lot of responsibilities.
To summarize what I had during this festival is something of mixed emotions. I am happy in spite of severe jaundice in better parts of last two months, I did enjoyed the festival, I am bit angry (not sad) because many thing didn’t worked out the way they should, like my camera. I am concerned about the coverage in the media, the one sided view that is being generated and radical comments that are coming forth. I am worried because somewhere I feel inflation is eating into us. Having said all these and having you gone through all these, I again wish that you all had a great Deepawali. I also clicked few pictures using my old rickety camera, which I will surely share.
© Tarun Mitra