A Diwali Diatribe
The morning after the Diwali revelry brings one of the worst hangovers thanks to the heady cocktail of noxious fumes and a plethora of guests. A long time a ago, in a previous age and time, I used to look forward to Diwali – deafening noise, lit sky, toy guns that literally packed a bang, firing rockets and steel glasses in different directions and general flirting with danger. It also made me realize that I might be a closet arsonist. Unwrapping gifts was fun…..especially the sweets. But the most fun part was in school. I confess I put more than a few bombs inside the school toilets. As a matter of fact, by the fag end of the 12th grade, we had prepared a very elaborate plan for a series of consecutive blasts in the various toilets of the school, with a gap of roughly 5 minutes between the blasts. Two of them did go off but the rest were duds. So much for our dream of going off with a bang.
But perspectives had begun to change. I did enjoy the odd blasts in school because it was against the school rules and there was the threat of suspension….but otherwise, it was kind of becoming boring. Add to it the growing environment consciousness and that my dogs were not too fond of the loud noise. I became indifferent to the merrymaking. Now, I might have begun hating this festival.
Fast forward to 2013. When I came home for the Diwali break this year, I was hoping to spend some time recharging and rejuvenating myself. Be awake till the wee hours of the morning and refuse to wake up at any hour of the day that ends with AM. Furthermore, I have scarce intention or motivation to ever clean my room. Diwali is a festival that forces you to do that. And when your mother comes knocking at your door with the maid in tow, the moment you just decide to sleep……..there is a limit to the grumbling that you can do. I don’t mind sleeping with 2 weeks of dirty
clothes and electronic equipment on the bed. I don’t mind the 3 week old pizza boxes that are now attracting a myriad of insect life and a few rodents. And I definitely don’t mind the spiders who love feasting on the aforementioned insects. I am comfortable in that mess, in not doing anything about it. But come Diwali and I am forced to move from my pleasant state of inertia and clean it. I did find a half eaten sandwich that I had forgotten all about and my driving license which was missing since quite some time. But was it worth all the effort and the wastage of a day that I could have spent watching the spider spin its web or watch cat videos for hours without blinking once? Anyway, the mold would have finished the sandwich in the next 15 days or so. If you think about it, room fresheners were invented for a purpose.
Guests and gifts define Diwali more than crackers or lights. You have to meet people you don’t want to……or rather you never want to. It is like attending a wedding that refuses to end. But at least there you can hide yourself behind a mountain of oily chicken korma, dal makhani, kofta, varieties of paneer and dahi bhalla on your plate….all of them mixed together to form a horrendous goo; Or just leave the damn place. You don’t have that luxury at your home. The most fascinating thing about guests is that they barge inside your abode at the oddest hours; especially when you are about to sit down for a meal. But you need to hide your irritation and put on a fake smile that would make a Miss World contestant jealous. Aren’t you supposed to inform in advance before calling on someone? The other person is, after all, not sitting idle waiting for guests all day.
Giving gifts has become a job. Most of the times, the gifts are given not because you like someone and would really like to wish them and buy them something. The gifts are given because of majorly two reasons -1) It is a social obligation 2) You would like to maintain good relationships because you feel the person may be useful to you.
I have tried to develop the Diwali gift loop –
Any one of them could either throw the gift away, i.e. give it to the maid or driver or the local vendor…..or in some rare case might find it useful and decide to keep it. The only problem is that you must keep tabs on who gifted what, because you don’t want to gift the other person what he gave you 2 days ago.
The house right now is full of unopened and unwanted gifts that most probably will be given over the course of the next couple of Diwalis to “acquaintances” because social obligation. A festival that was once a bane for diabetics has gone nuts. With the amount of dry fruit that is gifted nowadays, I might kill the next time I see raisins or cashews. Like a group of vegetarian north Indians ordering at a pure vaishnav restaurant rarely look beyond the first 2 dishes of paneer on the menu – most have a myopic approach and can’t look beyond dry fruits when deciding a gift.
Candles are fine and aesthetically very pleasing. They create a completely different ambiance which can be soothing (Note to self: punch a couple of walls to feel manly again). But not the “Chinese lights”. All that glitters is not gold, and these tiny lights are the ghastly glittery clothes women wear in an Ekta Kapoor series. But I don’t understand the need to light candles now. It is obvious that everyone will have there houses lit with all colours and types of glittery lights. The tiny lights will cover every nook an corner of the house like vines covering a forgotten temple in a jungle. In all that glitter and light, the poor candle or diya is hardly noticed. When I pointed it out this Diwali, I was told to shut up because “tradition and has been since ages”. Moreover, the Goddess Lakshmi visits the house and the candle light will apparently guide her. Trust me; if she is going to miss such decked houses, she needs to visit a good optician first.
Diwali has been commercialized. And that might have marked the end of the festival. There used to be a time when the festival was about celebrating and not about gifts and commercial exploitation. Sadly, even Pepperidge Farm doesn’t remember that.
New products, old products, old products in a new packing – from big corporate houses to the small chai wala….everyone has a Diwali scheme to offer. Things done in moderation are good, but once you start overdoing it…even the best things begin to annoy.
It has been a rather long diatribe. Maybe one day Diwali would again become a festival of lights it is supposed to be. Maybe one day people will celebrate it like it should be celebrated. There is after all light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope it is not an oncoming train.