October 30, 2016
For those of you who do not know what ‘Diwali’ is, let me tell you a little bit here. Diwali is a Hindu festival that celebrates light and its glory. Like most of the Hindu festivals, it celebrates the victory of good over evil, of right over wrong and of practicality over principle.
We celebrate Diwali by lighting clay lamps to dispel darkness. The lamp symbolizes the lamp of knowledge in our minds and that of faith in our hearts. By lighting the lamp, we aim to ignite this flame within ourselves.
A large population of the country also celebrates Diwali by bursting firecrackers. This has been an integral part of the annual Diwali celebrations for many many generations.
About a week before the Diwali festival, these boxes of childhood happiness enter the house. When they are lit, they illuminate the streets and the skies alike. The colorful sparks fall like little stars on the ground.
I admit it. I owe a great part of my childhood associated to Diwali to the crackers.
But this year, as an experiment, I decided not to give in to the sore temptation. I decided to abstain from bursting them.
As I watched my younger sibling light those crackers, I saw the crackers from a viewer’s perspective. And for the first time in my life, I saw, not the colorful sparks, and not the illumination. I saw what I missed as a child. I saw what most people miss.
I saw the large amount of smoke rise to the sky. In my mind’s eye, I saw a plant choke, I saw the pores under the leaves close up. I saw the birds shrinking into their nests. I saw the Earth cough. (The last sentence is a slight exaggerration of course, but that is what it seemed like to me.)
I will not preach or put forth some high ‘funda’ here. I will not tell anyone of the ill-effects of bursting crackers. I am not going to say a word about the blatant child labor that is promoted in firecracker factories. I will keep mum over the fact that this practice is not good, not just for the planet that we seem to care tuppence about, but also for ourselves.
No. I will not say a word about any of that.
I will say this. Because of the picture that my mind’s eye showed me, I have realized this. I made the right choice this year. I made the right choice not to touch crackers this year. I took the right call, when I placed the planet before a few seconds of sparkly illumination.
I lit a lot of diyas (lamps) this year. I made all the colorful rangolis myself and arranged the lamps. I found that they are infinitely more beautiful in their silence. They are much more pristine in their polite brightness.
Most importantly, I found that I could breathe when I am around the lamps. I could breathe guilt-free and pure air. It filled my being with more joy and energy than any cracker I have ever burst.
That is when, I think, that the spark of understanding was lit within me. Diwali found its meaning.
Like, I said, I will not preach in this space today. Celebrate your Diwali in whatever manner that gives you joy and peace.
But, this year, I chose to let the planet breathe and it made a difference to me. I chose not to spoil the air immediately around me and it made a difference to me.
I chose to breathe pure air and it made a difference to me and my Diwali.
It was as if the diyas shone just a little bit brighter!
Just remember this. Do what lets you breathe in a guilt-free manner, and your everyday will be as good as a festival.
That is when, good will win over evil, right will win over wrong and practicality will prevail over principle.
Choose to breathe!
Happy Diwali once again!