Diwali was probably my favorite festival when I was young, I loved the lights and the noises, even if I was dead scared of the firecrackers. I only liked watching them from a distance and watching the sparkles getting reflected in everybody’s eyes, the happiness around so evident. But Grandpa wouldn’t like that; every time before Diwali, when me and my cousins got together, he would bring a bag full of firecrackers and we would crowd all around him as soon as he would get home, and admire the brightly colored covers and the size of the crackers. The next step was to climb all the way up to the roof and lay out all of the crackers in the sun (it supposedly made the crackers burn better). So we would giggle and laugh and lay out the crackers and bring them back down at sundown, a regular job for us kids, till THE night. So to assuage my fear towards the crackers, Grandpa would always keep a long stick and tie the fuljhadi (sparkler) at the end of it and ask me hold it. So every time a sparkler got over, there was the arduous job of untying it and tying a fresh one to it and only then would I hold it to a candle, to light it up. My cousins called me bhitu (coward, in Bengali) and laughed at my plight, but I was content, one hand holding the stick and the other tightly clamped between Grandpa’s hands.
Every region in India has its own myriad reasons for celebrating Diwali, somebody heralds the return of Lord Rama from his exile or celebrates the harvest season by worshiping the Goddess Lakshmi for wealth and prosperity or exults the annihilation of the demons by Goddess Kali. But whatever the reason, Diwali celebrates the end of darkness, gloom, ignorance and the triumph of good over evil. It is evident from the preparations that start a week before the actual day, everybody has a slight spring in their step and even the grouchiest granny can be seen giving an edentulous smile and returning the ball that falls into her garden. 🙂
The little me used to get awed by the immense grandeur of the celebration, the neighbors trying to outdo each other with bigger and brighter crackers, women boasting about the size of the laddoos (sweets) that they could make, rich clothes, grand pujas and so much more. But then I grew up and with it came all its occupational hazards, the realization of the pollution being caused and the accidents that left little children impaired for life. And after Grandpa passed away, the crackers just lost their charm.
So, the firecrackers lost their charm, but now I feel happy just by lighting diyas and candles around the house, hanging flower garlands and fairy lights, making a rangoli at my doorstep and helping mom and grandma make sweets. Savor the real feeling of peace and happiness that this festival brings with it. And when I sit at the balcony in the evening, and see the whole city lit up so beautifully from my 6th floor balcony, and the sky getting bedazzled occasionally with the large balls of fire and color, I cannot help but miss the little innocent girl, tightly holding on to her Grandfather’s hand and watching the sparkles coming out from the end of the stick, with a smile on her face :).