Here we go again. Another year, another Diwali. These days, of course, there are other, more literal and tragic ways by which we are made to register the eternal battle between good and evil. But even as we scan the headlines and watch our step, it is because of Diwali that we are also assured that good overcomes evil, always. How else can one explain the fact that even after the violence unleashed in our country — starting from the Delhi bomb blasts on Diwali eve last year to the Mumbai, Srinagar and Malegaon attacks only a few months ago — we continue to live our lives without succumbing to perennial fear? Which makes us come to the essence of religious festivals in India. Of course, one celebrates Diwali, the festival of lights, to commemorate the return of Rama to Ayodhya after 14 years of exile and his vanquishing Ravana. But it is much, much more than that. Diwali is also an expression — and excuse, if you will — of the human joie de vivre, the unbridled joy of living.
Like Diwali, Id-ul-Fitr, that falls only a few days later, is also a religious festival that doubles as a ‘humanistic’ celebration. After the piety of Ramzan comes the joy that accompanies such piety. Once again, it is the cleansing of the dross to make the human gold shine. Evil, whether it be external or internal, is exorcised in a ritualised form that transcends the ritual. One need not be a Muslim to sense that Id is a day set aside for forgiveness, moral victory and peace, fellowship and unity. The same way that one can be a non-Hindu and lap up the Diwali atmosphere. This, above all, is the most confident and reassuring confirmation that ours is a syncretic society, where people of varied religions (including none at all) and denominations have a shared culture and existence, even as we maintain our preferred, and at times subtly shaded, differences of identity.
There is more to this festive season than can be described by gestures, traditions or even words. In a perfectly gestalt way, the sum of all this falls short of the whole experience. And with that we come to the operative word of Diwali, Id, other religious celebrations and life itself: experience. In the joys and sorrows that human life holds, there are moments when one is supposed to pause and take note of the act of living and the pleasures of walking on the right side of life. Diwali and Id are such moments when pausing becomes a heightened, joyous rumbustious tipping of the hat to life.