In the last 25 years, Attar Singh has celebrated Diwali only once with his family. The reason? He is a fire fighter in New Delhi, and the tribe doesn't get a holiday on Diwali.
"I have been working with the fire department for a quarter century. In this long period, I have
celebrated Diwali just once with my family," said the man posted at Bhikaji Cama Place in south Delhi.
Attar Singh is not the only one. Across the city, fire fighters, police personnel, hospital staff and employees providing essential services don't get to enjoy the festival of lights.
"We have got used to celebrating Diwali on the road with fellow policemen," said a constable at an intersection near Hauz Khas in south Delhi.
"Our kids miss us but what choice do they or we have?" he asked, with a request that he should be named in the story.
Another policemen admitted that this did hurt their feelings -- because they ended up missing Diwali -- undoubtedly India's most loved and secular festival -- year after year.
"At times I do feel jealous when I see people with their families shopping for Diwali," a head constable at Karol Bagh market in central Delhi said.
"But what calms me down is the realization that the mass of people can shop without any worry because I am here to protect them," he added.
The maximum that fire fighters get to do is light candles and diyas at the fire stations that dot Delhi.
But even this limited celebration ends when SOS calls come through on Diwali nights.
Another fire fighter, Sham Saran, admitted they felt bad missing Diwali celebrations with families.
"But someone has to do the job," he said, and added that they are on call 24 hours.
The story is no different for hospital doctors and nurses.
"We get patients with burn injuries in the days leading to the festival. On Diwali we get serious cases," said a doctor at the Sardarjung Hospital in south Delhi.
"At that point of time you just can't think of your family because your focus is on saving the patient," he said.
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