Something strange happened. In the middle of writing this week’s column, I took… or rather was made to take a U-turn and write something totally opposite to what I was originally going to say. I had planned to write on the ‘post festival depression’, or the low feeling one gets immediately after a series of festivities end. You feel as if life has suddenly become dull. I thought many, like me, would be feeling this way, now that Diwali just got over.
But, when I discussed this with my team to take their inputs, I realised that they complained of far more stress ‘from’ Diwali than from the thought of it getting over. ‘Please write about how stressful this festival is,’ says my colleague and City Crib columnist, Damini. So, here I am, after giving a lot of thought to why this festival we all look forward to, has also become a big source of tension to us. It’s all our own doing actually, because as years passed, we forgot a few things.
1. We forgot that Diwali was meant to genuinely send out a prayer and wish for close friends and family…and not an occasion to copy a forwarded SMS and sending it to your entire phone book, including to the plumber in the neighbourhood of a house you vacated five years ago. Bulk SMSs have surely made life easy — one click, and whoosh… everyone in your universe is supposed to feel happy that you wish them so much of ‘happiness, luck and prosperity.’ It’s another thing that the ones happiest from this act of yours are Airtel or Vodafone.
2. We forgot that the tradition of Diwali gifting was originally limited to a box of sweets for a reason. Because the intention was only to wish for sweetness in relations. Now the intention is to prove and show off the value of that relation, which is in direct proportion to the size and cost of your gift. And the poor sweet box, in fact replaced now by fancy chocolate hampers can be nothing more than an accompaniment to the ‘main’ gift. Try giving just a box of sweets to your close relative and I’ll be very keen to know how sweet your relationship remains after that Diwali.
3. We forgot that Diwali was meant to be an occasion to sit and enjoy the festive spirit with relatives and friends, not visit ten homes in a single evening after battling heavy traffic, dropping the gift on their head, gulping a cold drink and rushing out for the next ‘duty’. No seriously, if your grandparents loved each other as much as mine did, I’m sure you also have three chachas, two buas, three mamas and four mausis. And if all of them are as loving towards their spouses as mine are, you’ll have loads of cousins too. Just visiting each of their homes to give a Diwali gift can take a couple of weeks, even if I’m out doing just that every evening. And then some families are even more loving than mine, so now you know why there’s so much traffic on roads before Diwali. Tell me, why can’t families adopt a system where all close relatives meet up at a common place for a fun evening, and everyone exchanges their gifts at one go? It’ll save fuel, it’ll save hassle, it’ll save time and most importantly, it’ll hopefully save the sanctity of the tradition.
It’s Bhai Dooj today, the festival that I suspect was invented to utilise the left-over gift hampers of Diwali. Go out on the roads and you’ll see — amid nightmarish traffic — Papa, Mummy, Sonu, Babloo and five gift hampers, all on a scooter. It’s a happy festival but they too look stressed. Maybe in our enthusiasm to celebrate, we have indeed forgotten how to enjoy our festivals. What do you think?
Sonal Kalra has decided that from next year, she’ll distribute Diwali gifts from August itself and would stay for dinner at every relative’s house, whether they ask or not. It’ll reduce — either the panic on the day of Diwali, or the number of relatives to give gifts to in future.
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