Diwali this year was special for us. We felt special, sharing in the joy of our friends, many of whom we visited near where we lived. From the moment the Diwali sweets started arriving, the festivity made it feel like Christmas. Of course, the firecrackers were distinctly subdued (and thankfully so!), but the lanterns in myriad colours gave cause to be merry.
Diwali gave us a chance to call up old friends, and renew old ties. People shared what they were doing in their lives. The Diwali weekend and the Diwali holidays afforded that expansiveness wherein we had all the time to ‘stand and stare.’ Some had left their jobs, another was writing a book, someone else was thinking of emigrating, and another down South was enjoying the rains! It was like an annual reunion!
Over the Diwali weekend we furiously called up friends, SMS-ed others and emailed the rest. Somehow India came together for this festival of lights which marked the onset of winter in the North. This was a change of season, a change of mood, a time to re-dedicate ourselves to the forces of light.
So we went in ethnic outfits to make our visits on Diwali day. The families we visited were jubilant on seeing us in full Indian attire to honour their special day. Their houses spic and span, we were invited to sit down, as our hosts, resplendent in their dazzling clothes, rose to offer us home-made sweets. For a moment, in the amity that was born out of this intimacy, the troubles of this world seemed forgotten.
When I called an elder to wish her she exclaimed, ‘We are well past the age of enjoying.’ I reminded her that the meaning of Diwali is to light a diya to dispel the darkness of life as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad intones, ‘From Darkness, Lead me to Light.’ She vigorously agreed.
We have always made it a tradition of participating vigorously in the festivals of our friends, whether it is Id, Navroze, or Guru Nanak Jayanti. A syncretic outlook makes every festival seem like your own. Tapping into a different cultural/spiritual lode makes you vibe with the spirit of India, its ethos, its energy.
Towards the end of Umesh Shukla’s film OMG (2012), short form for ‘Oh My God,’ Paresh Rawal, a common man, asks ‘god’ played by Akshay Kumar why there are so many paths to realize god. Akshay replies the paths are different but the destination is the same.
This Diwali and every day hence, we can search for that metaphoric ‘darkness’ that cripples our lives. It may be something we are not willing to admit; it could be a lacuna in our work sphere; or it could be the absence of a loved one. November 2 was also ‘All Souls Day’ on which the Catholic Church prays collectively for those who are no longer with us. May the Light of this season lead us to our inner light.