Sunday, November 11, 2012

Diwali, Gifts, and Promises



Diwali gifts for me!

This is the first time in my 52 years of existence that I received so many gifts in the name of Diwali.  In Kerala, where I was born and brought up, Diwali was not celebrated at all in those days, the days of my childhood.  Even now the festival is not celebrated in the villages of Kerala as I found out from my friends there.  It is celebrated in the cities (and some villages) where people from North Indian states live. 

When I settled down in Delhi in 2001 Diwali was a shock to me.  I was sitting in the balcony of a relative of mine who resided in Sadiq Nagar.  I was amazed to see the fireworks that lit up the city sky and polluted the entire atmosphere in the city.  There was a medical store nearby from which I could buy Otrivin nasal drops to open up those little holes in my nose (which have been examined by many physicians and given up as, perhaps, a hopeless case) which were blocked because of the Diwali smoke. 

The festivals of North India have not enticed me at all.  I hide myself during Holi in order to avoid smothering my lungs with dust.  I hide myself during Diwali for a similar reason.

And then came this glittering gift.  Surprise of all, from the boss.  The boss may have mastered the art of concealing threats behind a (plastic) smile. 

But the best gift came after the gift-threat offering function.  Another boss (so many bosses these days!) told me that he wanted to discuss with me about a paradigm shift in education.  This was because of the play I staged for the Annual Day, the script of which play is available below.  (The play was about the need for a paradigm shift in the socio-political system.)

Can gifts mean something other than threats?  I mean, can gifts mean promises?  Promises for a better relationships?   

Can festivals like Diwali mean promises to other people, people other than ourselves (other than MYSELF)?  If they can, I’d find them meaningful – in spite of all the pollution for which I’m willing to find a medical remedy.

I came across an old man in the afternoon, a man known to me personally.  “Going to Kerala during holidays?” he asked.  “No,” I said.  “Why?” he wanted to know. 

I explained that the holiday was of just 12 days and it would take me six days to travel, three days each way.  My current situation doesn’t permit a flight.  He gave me a rather long lecture.  On how it used to be in his youth.  How people travelled, even walking many days, in order to meet parents, brothers and sisters.  Now nobody bothers about anybody except themselves, he said.  Life is all about amassing wealth and earth.  “Look at these lands,” he said pointing at the land on both sides.  “It belongs to a person who calls himself a Swami-ji.  They call him Maharaj.  But this Maharaj too will die one day.  He can’t take all these hundreds of acres he has amassed. …”

He went on to tell me about atma (soul) and its spiritual needs.
 
That was also a good Diwali gift, I think.   Not because I believe in atma, but because this friend of mine whom I come across once in a while during my evening walks enlightens me in his own genuine way.



42 comments:

  1. The festival is more of a show, and might nowadays. The neighborhood where we reside has a leader, who will start his cracker bursts only after the entire population is asleep.!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly, a show! I'm only advocating something beyond that show.

      Thank you, you understand me so well.

      Delete
    2. You might have read Pattu's post on crackers and fireworks. In case you haven't, here is the link

      http://dreamspaces.blogspot.in/2012/11/to-burst-or-not-is-question-diwali.html

      Delete
  2. great insight... got to get deeper into the meaning rather than flaunting the gloss.. well said and written.. great work.

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    Replies
    1. Yes....I agree with and interesting comment thanks for sharing us.
      diwali gifts

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  3. The essence of the festival is lost in the sound and fury

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And the sound and fury have come to dominate the festival!

      Delete
  4. Lucky you Matheikal, and I am so jealous - the precise feelings these celebrations are meant to evoke and do! You must see the scramble to open the gifts on Christmas morning. For what? To check what you got and see whether I did better!

    I am not sure that Deepavali celebrations are an import from the North in Kerala. Palakkad district with so many TamBrahms(for whom Deepavali is a a big one) would have celebrated long before the northerners landed in Kerala and there must have been some diffusion to other parts. You may want to check. Of course, you said villages and what I have said is not in the same milieu.

    RE

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    Replies
    1. In Kochi where I did my college studies, Diwali was celebrated on a grand scale. Soon I found out that there were a lot of traders and others in Kochi who were of North Indian extract though they spoke chaste Malayalam. Now even in my village, which is in a fairly remote area of Kerala, there are plenty of migrant labourers. What you say about the TamBrahms is correct too, though.

      I'm amused by the first para of your comment. You are right. I have noticed it in real situations.

      Delete
  5. You are right about the dense smoke emitted by too many crackers. We celebrated Diwali in the seventies but in those days it was pure fun because it was in moderation. Even then some idiot would set off a chain of crackers that lasted for a good five minutes and we all despised such intrusive and inconsiderate showing off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If people cultivate a bit of sensitivity, Diwali (any festival, for that matter) can be real fun and meaningful too. What I have noticed recently is that the festival has become an occasion for showing off one's wealth and even power.

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  6. I liked to read about your enlightened Friend, he seemed just the sort to avoid during festivities ...LOL

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    Replies
    1. Not really, Ghazala, he is a man who has grown in wisdom along with age (an octogenarian). There's something Romantic (as in the case of the Romantic poets) about the wisdom of old age. His wisdom is an example of that. Maybe, the Romantic in me likes such wisdom.

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  7. I don't give a damn about all the hush hush, Let me just say Happy Diwali Everyone. Enjoy a day with you kith and kin, share a sweet and gossip a little. That should do it. :)

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    Replies
    1. Everyone is free to do what he/she wishes. I'm with Richard Bach as far as that freedom goes. But enjoying a day with kith and kin need not necessarily mean blasting other people's eardrums!

      Delete
  8. Exactly, Diwali has become a festival of noise and environment pollution and I really hate it but can't stop every single person. For me its an occasion to meet ma family members and that's what makes me feel happy. Happy Diwali to all of you. :)

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    Replies
    1. Happy Diwali to you too, Priti. I think you have understood the right spirit of the festival.

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  9. Very interesting Diwali gifts you have there, especially the one you mentioned last. I am glad your play is going places!

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    Replies
    1. Very few people really bother to understand what others are saying. I certainly would like to be taken a little more seriously, especially by people around me!

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    ReplyDelete
  11. Interesting take on Diwali!

    I can report live from Cochin that even to this day Diwali does not excite the malayali. The Navy and Air Force which has Tamilians and people from North India and the Gujarathu business community celebrate the festival.

    Some malayalis do light up diyas and perfunctorily burst crackers - but its a damp affair unlike Oman.

    I liked that theory on the gifts you got.

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    Replies
    1. Jayadev, I was a student of St Albert's for 5 years. I have cycled round Cochin of that time at all odd hours and seen a lot of many festivals. What fascinated me most at that time was the multicultural aspect of Kochi. I loved it. But I think Kochi is changing a lot in rather undesirable ways - perhaps due to a kind of commercialism that's different from the one that Kerala/Kochi advocated earlier. One thing I always liked about Kerala was how it could accept anybody and any ideology with a very open mind. That openness seems to be giving way to a kind of narrow-mindedness bred by crass money-mindedness. I'm not sure my understanding is right, though.

      Delete
  12. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u

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  14. Thanks for sharing blog about Diwali, It is not celebrated at all in those days, the days of my childhood.

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  15. Indeed its a very gift from your BOSS, You are the lucky one to receive diwali gifts from your boss.

    Diwali now a days like a source of pollution, specially in cities. I firmly advice everyone to celebrate Deepawali instead of Diwali.

    Isn't both the festivals are same, but the Deepawali gives sense to celebrate the festivals of lights by illuminating lights everywhere.

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