As a kid, I used to wait for Diwali all year long. We had a simple routine. Two days before Diwali, dad would bring home some firecrackers. We’d count, divide, hide. We’d spend the next two days looking for each other’s share to steal.
We’d each get a couple of packs of good old candles. My sister and I would light them one by one along the balcony wall. We’d keep watch lest one of them get extinguished. Some years there were competitions to see whose side of the balcony looked better.
Over these two days we would also visit relatives and neighbors bearing mithai (and gifts for the close ones). We’d make rangolis outside the main gate. Ugly-ass, barely qualifying to be rangolis, but really colorful. We’d get competitive and there used to be a lot of hair-pulling and scratching and clawing, but when we were done, we’d be filled with an odd sense of pride and accomplishment. One particular year, the neighbors’ daughter made the mistake of telling us how “untidy” the rangoli was and a different kind of clawing and scratching ensued.
When we were done, we’d sit down for Laxmi Puja – the entire family. All three of us would wait patiently, eyes fixed on the plateful of sweets being offered to idols of clay – that might be when I first started questioning idol worship – but that’s a story for another day.
And then came the much awaited moment – our cousins would come over and we’d take out our stash of crackers and go downstairs. We’d come back home late at night exhausted from the nervous excitement from lighting the fireworks and carefully trying not to set ourselves on fire. Sometimes we did (despite the supervision) but mostly we were okay.
Now that I am older I have begun to dislike Diwali. Actually dislike is a not-strong-enough word, and hate is too big. So I will list all the things that Diwali means to me.
The good: I moved in with Mister on Diwali so it’s an anniversary of sorts.
The bad: I don’t have a routine anymore. All Diwali is to me today is an inflated electricity bill, a never-ending series of gift-giving to people I don’t even like anymore, being force-fed sweets, and a traumatized dog cowering under the couch (and a dozen other dogs on the street, scared equally shitless), not to mention taking 2 hours to get to an office that’s 20 min away for a whole week. It is also a night of torture for old people and asthamatics.
The ugly: There are children out on the street all night, mostly unsupervised, with fireworks hanging out of their asses. There are other children out on the street, trying to sleep because they have to get up and clean up after the rich kids in the morning. No matter how special it is for me, I can’t get over the dark side of the festival of lights.
Wasn’t the whole point of Diwali to end the darkness and bring light into people’s lives? Are we doing that? Are you doing that? Is this a happy Diwali for you? Do you think festivals have lost their essence somewhere along the way?