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a diwali morning ponder

while most of north india and many communities in the south will be celebrating diwali or deepavali, in their own ways, with varying rituals and customs, we bengalis will be celebrating kali pujo today. though there is no diwali as such in our calendar, we’ve sort of included it in our celebration, and many of us will deck up our homes with lamps and candles, burst crackers, and get into the diwali festive spirit.

in duliajan, growing up, our entire house would be decorated with oil diyas. two rows right across and all around the edge of the roof, row upon row on the gate; lamps in the verandah, on the structures devised by the gardener in the centre of the front lawn, along the fence. we’d run around lighting the lamps we could reach, feeling important and busy.

then a dash to the kali pujo pandal nearby. and then back again to our house or a friends’ house to light those crackers.

phool jhari swinging, round and round. chorki zipping about on the floor. rockets taking off from empty beer bottles. tubri gushing into fountains of sparkles. a creepy dead grey tablet called snake oozing out into a long creepier thing (why why why). strands of kali and dhani potka emitting their trail of crackling noise. boma or bombs being set off, me with fingers stuck in my ears complaining, a little scared, while brothers and their friends, cousins and uncles (if we were in delhi or calcutta) gleefully jumping in to light them and stand back as they exploded (again why why why).

every diwali, some new pataka would hit the stalls, another invention. But phool jhari, tubri (in bangla) or anaar (in hindi), rocket, and chorki reigned supreme, and those bombs, especially chocolate bomb. Also the rather staid mashaal of a fiery name, burning with a lacklustre air.

once, when i was around seventeen, we made our own anaars at my grandparents’ home in delhi, my mamababu – the older of my mother’s two brothers – was determined to spike the fun with a bit of diy. quite dangerous i think this mission was, as we were asked again and again to be careful. but must say there was “rela” as we call it, a rather good feeling, to see our own hand-made anaars do their whooshing light dance.

delhi looked stunning during diwali. after bursting crackers and gorging on food, we’d go with our uncles, aunts, and cousins to see the lights. rockets shooting into the night sky, lights glimmering in every home, sound of crackers, people in groups outside in their lawns, on verandahs and terraces, playing with crackers. And oh, the rashtrapati bhavan and india gate area, how absolutely dazzling it looked. i loved the lights.

i still love the lights.

and i still don’t like the noise.

i keep reading that the noise and pollution of diwali in many parts of india is becoming hard to handle. sad. for diwali has something essentially lit in it. a moment to ponder light in the dark night of amavasya. whether you’re praying to kali or lakshmi, or bringing in the new year, or being thankful for the slaying of narakasura, or bursting a few crackers and lighting a handful of diyas, or doing nothing like me, just scanning memories and grinning, i wish you a very happy diwali.

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