Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In Quest to find - essense of Diwali

Diwali - Spreading the sparkles of happiness

Diwali in a small town meant - freedom from studies (no school), decorating and lighting up the house, exchanging gifts ,visiting and receiving guests, bursting crackers, pujas, indulging in safe pranks without getting busted, loads of sweets, new clothes, fun and frolic etc. The house-helps were given gifts and a day off. The house was inundated with aromas of delectable delicacies. It was safer to stay away from mothers, who are a tad irritable, working chores without the usual helpers. Diwali in a city like Delhi was synonymous with carefree celebrations- a lot of pomp associated with the festivities. New clothes are brought, house is scrubbed cleaned, powdered and puffed. The frantic run to malls and shopping sprees to clench the best Diwali deal is as arduous as a rigorous exercise regime. This is in fact one of the main reasons behind pre-Diwali weight loss syndrome. Grand late night Diwali tash (card) parties, with sumptuous spread of food and drinks are the culprits of the successive post-Diwali weight gain syndrome. Each individual consciously or unconsciously sucked into the trend of trying to outshine the other -louder and high-tech crackers, expensive and grander attire, louder music, better decor, more luxurious parties. More recently campaigns to have a safe and pollution, free Diwali has made Delhi less noisy, cleaner, and less prone to respiratory problems around Diwali times. 

As a child, I remember going to our ancestral village during this festival. Like most Indian villages, the rustic charm of my village completely enticed us. We would think the dense bushes lining the patched muddy roads, agna Agni banasta (name of a forest from my grandma's stories). The village temple, with its fragrance of sandalwood, flowers and incense would greet us at the entrance. We would be awed by the little half-naked boys jumping and swimming effortlessly in the green cool moss ridden waters, almost engulfed-at the shallow end- by the water lilies and lotus. 

As the evening approached, the villagers would get ready for the celebrations and festivities. Handmade crackers would be tied to the apex of long poles erected earlier. An elderly gentle man holding a long pole set ablaze at one end would light the crackers. Many times, we would watch the sparks from the amateurish crackers fall on the thatched roof and set it on fire. Many villagers would rush forward to extinguish the fire. We would listen with popped eyes to the tales of the great escapes from fire or the brave rescue missions. As my worldview widened I came to realize that these were manufactured calamities and could have been averted. As Indians, we are often sentimentally attached to our culture and traditions. Undoubtedly, an individual devoid of roots is like a rolling stone, aimless, lacking any sense of association. Yet as we evolve so does our perspective. When the healthy elements of tradition are cherished, the pretense and negative aspects are discarded, hidden meanings are un-earthen or new meaning is added to our traditions and culture - a pure, refined and shimmering culture emerges. 

In this quest for finer meaning for our traditions, I would like to add the interpretation of a couple who changed their viewpoint and lighted up their lives this Diwali. The names have been changed to protect their identity. Ritu and Vinod were young and dynamic career driven expatriates. At least they presented that image to the outside world. Behind the closed door, their life was a closet full of broken dreams and agonizing pain. Her facade of strength always crumbled when she faced Vinod. Last Diwali, Ritu and Vinod opened their hearts and home to a small girl (an orphan) - abandoned on the streets to die. Despite strong opposition from other members of family who ostracized them, they stuck to that one glimmer of hope they now call Diya. 

Diwali, the festival of lights gained another perspective here in Dubai. The recent flood in Orissa is considered as one of the worst in the recent times, with 3,128 villages devastated across 10 districts. The number of people thrown at the mercy of nature is a stupendous statistical figure of 21.6 lakh. The Oriya community at Dubai, Odisa Samaj UAE (OSUAE), thought of bringing a gleam of light into the lives of the people devastated by nature. For these unfortunate children of god, lighting a small lamp to welcome the goddess of prosperity is a distance dream. Diwali celebrations occur in an alien world far removed from the lives of these people. Getting urgent medical help for their sick children, finding clothing and shelter, clean water and some crumbs of food for their starved stomach is all they can think of. The extent of their plight is unimaginable. Every ounce of help, however small is precious for them. Most people have the motive to help yet they flounder in finding avenues. The UAE Odisha Samaj initiated a call for donation in its Facebook page. Ever since, people have been responding to this call and a substantial sum has been collected for the purpose. 

During festivities like Diwali, the Indian heart longs for-the celebrations, ambiance, friends and family-all elements associated with the occasion. It was heartening to find that Dubai opened its heart and made space for Indians to feel completely at home. Yes, there are restrictions in place, but mostly for safety reasons. Indiscriminate bursting of crackers also hampers the environment and it is best if this culture fizzles out slowly. We noticed that the police authorities were liberal when they found Indians indulging in crackers i.e. if the safety criterion's were being met. There was no dearth of friends who embraced this predominantly Hindu festival. Hindu, Muslim and Christian friends indulged in the fun-fare. The luminous Diwali at Dubai became grander with the radiance of mutual respect for disparate cultures- lighted up hearts and brought everyone closer

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