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.