So the festival of lights has arrived. Everyone is excited as they should be. There’s sparkle, music, loudness and fanfare. Nothing could be more gratifying than the taste of the “mithai’s” (sweets) that melt in the mouth the moment they are gently rolled in.
Sparkling grandeur and one that perhaps would take great effort to evade the glare of your eyes is churning magic all around. Kids are excited. Parents are on a shopping spree. From Delhi to Bangalore, Mumbai to Chennai there’s going to be an onslaught on drinks, food and whatnot. And why shouldn’t it be? Honey Singh’s happening numbers that otherwise don’t encourage pelvic thrusts have once again spilled fun on the dance floor. “Aaj Botala Khullan do” (let the bottles be open tonight) are finding divine providence over Jazz and arty music. There’s happiness and smiles everywhere.
Diwali, the simple unification of peace and happiness besotted with light is here to make our hearts cringe with divine happiness. Yet, something going around isn’t all that good. It never can be. How could everything be in perfect harmony on this festival? Rather on any festivity here in India. Whilst we aren’t proving to be pseudo mockingbirds on a festival that is a grand occasion of happiness and celebration, it would be unfair to reflect and opine on one side of the coin.
While on one hand festivals never imply a segregation among celebrators, isn’t it also true that there are giant economic segregation here in India that often mar upholding the spirit of rejoicing over Diwali? One would think so. On the emotional front, why is that some while away in magnanimity the festival that calls for uniformity of peace, happiness and divine accord, there are others who stay buried under sands of economic dysfunction. While both the rich and the poor, the privileged and those without any privileges celebrate as they should – a grand reason of coming together, under a singular sky the spirit of Diwali- there are pungent and stinking realities out there in an India stifled with intellectual and cultural deterioration that perhaps cannot be avoided under the garb of celebrations.
The Curious Case of Shri Ram and his Lakhan, Hanuman and Sita Maiyya
Central to the message of Deepawali is the homecoming of Lord Ram(symbol of warmth, intellect, chivalry and values one expects only from the Maryada Purshotam) to his kingdom of Ayodhya from which he was thrown into an exile of 14 long years. This was marked by grand celebrations by way of lighting of Diyas but, firecrackers? One wouldn’t say for certainty. Ram returned in the company of wife Sita and brother, Laxman to where he belonged.
Sadly, in our deepest faiths that collide silently with orthodoxy and dogmatic beliefs (as commonly seen/followed) that lessen the value of practical thinking, we have got used to reliving and imagining our immortal deities in a way they have been presented- in caricatures, artworks, drawings and ornamentally luscious avatars.
Sita Ji, to some who do not fearfully question her depiction – is a holy incarnation of the perfect Wife and up- keeper of good moral and value systems. But, those who resist easy consumption and penetrate the veil of conformity, would find we hardly celebrate her for what she actually stands for – a symbol of incorruptible feminine values and being a brave-heart. Next, comes the undervalued brother Laxman. For all his chivalry, respect and utterly sincere adulation for brother Ram, we somehow still manage to depict Lakhan as being several inches “smaller in physical frame” in a typical Hindu temple when compared to the mural of Ram. Now, where are these measurements recorded? Who has prescribed that?
Could it be that Laxman being shown a few inches taller than Ram would indicate that we are corrupting the fabric of our dogmatic beliefs? The younger brother shown taller than the elder, at least in temples (whilst there’s no historical record proving that Ram was taller) would signify that we are according less respect to Ram, the powerful embodiment of great virtues and hence, this would lament our religious views which for some strange reason do not focus where they should; on Laxman’s selfless service and spirited servitude for his brother and call for Ram’s image’s glorification to shadow the unsung efforts of an equally loving and doting younger brother!
The case here isn’t to curtail celebrations of the legend of the ever gracious Shri Ram, that shouldn’t be the case?
But, when we collapse multiple realities as told by mythological scriptures into an idol and focus on worshiping the glitter that it spreads- then we often forget the noble truths that lie unattended at the foreground of that idol, as clearly evident in Sita Ji and Laxman’s case.
No Religious scripture suggests anywhere that one should lessen the role played by a nearly forgotten Bharat, another of Ram’s unsung brothers, albeit from a different mother who offered his crown to the feet of the mighty lord ,indicating, he had no lust whatsoever for Ayodhya’s supreme seat of control. But is there a single idol of Bharat anywhere in our temples that only glorify the Ramayan trio?
The bitterest mockery is actually served to Lord Hanuman who for some strange reason, never prescribed by the then writers of the grand mythological tale suggests that the Hanuman Ji be always shown at Ram’s feet! You may want to recollect that at least 8 out of 10 temples have Hanuman at Ram’s feet when Ram himself accorded a place in his heart to the great selfless master of courage.
Why do we then morph the existential realities surrounding Shri Ram and his “Sevak’s” by reducing their importance as depicted by our creative caricatures when they should all be accorded the same tonality of regard(even though they have gargantuan decorum for their defining roles) even though in our country finding a place in an elder’s feet is a mark of respect.
While the beautiful tale of Ramayan leaves one with many questions unanswered and many logics perhaps inebriated with our own understandings of them, we must think that mere images, drawings, paintings and sculptures orient thinking. Had that not been the case, a Taliban wouldn’t have fired needlessly on many Buddhist sculptures in Afghanistan. It’s an image conscious world where we live in.
But, Deepwali also entrusts in its logic of celebration – is the continued victory of Good over Evil, even though that is what Dussehra pivotally stands for. There is an uncertainty that anyone who is reading this ethos would reject the idea. But, what is definitely certain is we have all become a little too busy basking under the glory of our own celebrations.
So what does this imply?
Purely for the fun of celebrating the power of sarcasm- If you are a hipster in Delhi or Chandigarh or a wannabe activist on social media in Mumbai, a Pink Floyd lover in Bangalore, or a Chennai Super Kings supporter from Madras- the conformity to new age views on Diwali form the cosmos of India’s illuminated stance on the festival of lights.
There are these common rules for the effluent and privileged:
Card parties play as much as possible, indulge in a little “gharelu jooa” (harmless gambling) even though you persist on your fluent takes on media and on general takes on Indian society about the ills of gambling.
Drink the night away Merrily sip endless gallons of Red wine, White Wine, Rose Wine, Champagne etc. all consumption of which is never any bad for it’s a personal choice but then also break rules of “Don’t Drink and Drive” and slip in a 1000 or 500 rupee note, or if you are really an elite, multiple numbers of either and then the next day- indulge in banter over how Indians break “Don’t Drink and Drive” rules whilst enjoying a ghar ki chai and boasting about its calming effect.
Burst jibes on don’t burst crackers on Diwali:
and exclusively tweet, Facebook or blog about the ills associated with doing so only on the day preceding the functions and maybe a few hours after it. Forget totally about it all year round even as lame Indo-Pak Cricket fans burst them all year round.
The common realities for the needy and underprivileged:
Kids who make the rich kids Crackers
On one hand there are kids who read about the ills of bursting crackers and the inconveniences for the public at large. On, the other there are others who spend nights in firecracker manufacturing factories. Is that justified that some kids should enjoy the spills that others put their lives at stake for and that despite regular media intervention and several activist groups that regularly revolt against this lamentable hypocrisy no justice should prevail?
Modesty is life; how do you spell luxury
For the poor and the downtrodden, there is a separate dictionary which doesn’t have space for words or phrases like pay-hike, promotion etc. So the households where 2 square meals a day is god’s grace in full bounty and 3 meals are synonymous with heavens having descended upon earth, where are the privileges? A new T.V, new clothes, maybe a trip to Allahabad from Kashi- all these if at all are realities indicate opulent wealth for these households do not have the luxury to “know more” and where wealth still confines its embrace toward a pious and innocent smile of the youngest in the family.
A completely forgotten friend among all on Diwali
These-days, it isn’t uncommon to find people salivating for the love of keeping pets, especially dogs. But, on the eve of Diwali and during the day in its entirety – what becomes of the so called intellect of these uber-cool Mac book possessing, B- Blunt frequenting pseudo pet owners? Does one put significant efforts to ensure that the pet shouldn’t suffer at the cost of cracking firecrackers. Of all places in India, where crackers are burst with chilling ease when we can do so with the regular “Phooljadi” and “Diyas”- at least a Delhi and Mumbai should wake up from the self imposed slumber and put an end to cracker bursting since finding their names in not the most appealing list of 10 of the worlds’ most polluted cities.
This Diwali light a different cracker:
That Diwali is a festivity that calls for celebration of our own happiness over that of others is a false idea. It is akin to drinking a poison chalice of misinformed opinion.
For most of us, as much and as far as possible- Diwali shouldn’t be about allowing the spoils and luxuries of life to paint the canvas of our dreams with bling. Our happiness howsoever critical, should perhaps follow the need of others that often go uncelebrated and even ignored. There is no harm in cringing for more which we all do. That makes us human and an abode of dreams and celebration of their fulfilment. But, must one ask what about those who don’t even dare to dream for they are insufficiently armed in life, devoid of all material comforts that we lavishly lead our lives with.
Therefore, in my view, Diwali can also be about playing a poor hand as well. That we must step out of our sycophant realities that border on excesses of loud music, splurging on branded clothing and relishing expensive meals in fancy restaurants at least for one day and embrace the hollowness that envelopes the Poor- will actually go a long way in ensuring that we celebrate the best Diwali.
That Diwali should be about keeping apart a few valuable hours and handsome sums of money, since most of us are either great accumulators of material wealth or of programmed dreams that shine of Bling – for it to be spent on the poor will go a long way to light the lives of those who have no hopes.
Yes, doing social commentary as I am doing is often of no substance. But aiming toward fulfilling a larger cause whose victory isn’t for the self but for the collective happiness of others – will go a long way in giving the light of bright hope and sunshine for those who live amidst darkness.
So, this Diwali- keep some sweets, and importantly a sweet amount of time for the needy and the helpless, neither of which are in small numbers amidst our glitzy urban centers of a 21st century India.
I guess that’s what Shah Rukh’s Mohan Bhargav was told at NASA by the compassionate boss : Go Mohan Light your bulb. Time may be right to light someone’s life around.