Heritage of Joys
I spent a nice tiring day this Diwali doing what I do almost every year! This being one of the most prominent Indian festivals and one that has a special significance for me. I undervalued it when I was younger but certain events made it rise back strongly for me. I believe this won’t change in the future.
As a kid, I felt we didn’t do much at this festival. We made rangoli[decorative pattern] in the morning and lit diyas[earthen lamp] in the evening. There was a tradition of firecrackers back then but I was never fond of it. I would crib that it’s a boring festival!
Later for my post-graduation, I went to a different city and happened to be away from home on Diwali, that year. I was at a friend’s place with a family who treated me pretty well. I felt it would be okay as the focus of the festival was mainly one single day. Also, I would be part of all the rituals we otherwise followed at home, including a good serving of snacks and sweets.
I can still recall waking up that evening, after my afternoon nap, to a sinking feeling. There were lights in all the neighbouring houses and everything in my friend’s house was warm enough to make me feel positive, but instead, I wanted to cry!
My mom always used to say that on the day of Diwali, we should not leave our home. Either her words had impacted my subconscious or I had not realised what it meant to be ‘home’ for a festival! After that day I have never let that happen.
This year before Diwali I got a new set of electric lights, diyas painted in bright colourful patterns, and lots of flowers. I was more excited than usual. At the end of the day, I realised that the experience of lighting oil-filled diyas was a lot different than clicking switches for turning on electric lights. I went through the process of filling up earthen lamps with oil, dipping in wicks and aligning them to light properly, and finally lighting each of them before placing it in and around the house.
As I carefully placed each lamp, I could see how a small diya was able to light up an area as per its strength. No matter how meagre its impact was, it existed and couldn’t be ignored.
When the tradition of Diwali was started by our ancestors, electricity had not been invented. However, they understood that lighting earthen lamps, on the darkest night of the lunar month, would be a gratifying experience.
Our forerunners had the wisdom to wrap up positive habits into rituals so that people followed them. Of course, every ritual may not make sense and that’s why we need to choose judiciously, with our new age sensibilities.
Lighting lamps or drawing colourful patterns are intrinsically uplifting activities, combined with a festival, it was promoted so well for generations to follow. They didn’t need social media to be heard, across centuries!
Some of these soul-soothing experiences should not be lost in our pursuit of convenience. What may seem like an easy choice, might not give us the innate satisfaction we are ultimately looking for!