Chalo ji ek aur gayi. There’s something inexplicable about the feeling one gets when a big festival gets over. It’s a strange mixture of depression over the end of festivities, and relief over the whole jingbang getting over. And Diwali toh is a big tamasha, I tell you. Over the years, we have ourselves turned the scale of the festival so big that we all seem busy niptao-ing it as a chore most of the time. Even a month before the festivities begin, ‘Yaar, Diwali niptaane do, uskey baad baat karna’, is a response most of your hassled-looking businessmen friends would give for anything you ask them. ‘Kya niptaana hai?’, I asked one. ‘50 gifts baantne hain, safaayi karni hai, lights lagaani hai, puja ka samaan laana hai, then the bhai duj preparations’, he said, shaking his head as if all of this was a punishment. ‘Now, repeat this whole thing, while smiling and feeling excited about each of them’, I asked him. He, of course, looked at me as if I’m a loony, but I’m used to that look from most people by now. But he did repeat his sentence, sounding excited at the prospect of putting up lights, or cleaning up the house. And was genuinely smiling at the end of it.A festival, like all other things in life, spells happiness or drudgery, depending on how we choose to look at it. Karna toh sab kuchh padta hi hai, at the end of the day. Why not go through the rituals with excitement instead of looking at them as a chore. Vaise, I don’t know how you felt, but this year, I noticed some changes during Diwali which left me happier. It’s another thing that the same changes will make some people say ‘Diwali thandi thi iss saal’, but then if thanda matlab peaceful, I’ll choose it anyday over something that leaves me all hassled in the name of being hot ‘n’ happening. Tell me if you, too, felt that this year, there were...
I know what I’m claiming wouldn’t stand in the face of pollution control board’s figures that say that pollution levels were up by 10 times as compared to last year. But somehow, I felt there was less noise and smoke this Diwali. It could have been the ban on Chinese crackers, it could have been the kids finally paying attention to the ‘say no to crackers’ pledge they mandatorily take in school every year, or it could simply be people getting tired of the meaningless ‘kiski ladi sabsi badi’ competition with the padosi, but I felt there were less crackers. Although I have nothing against playing with fire crackers – especially those that look good to the eyes – with care and in moderation, what I simply don’t understand is some people’s fascination with ‘bombs’. Why spend money on getting the same sound from an aalu bomb, gola bomb (which Bubbly aunty calls raula bomb, for noise, in Punjabi) if you can get the same sound for free by banging on your door? The latter is termed rude, while the former is thrilling. It’s another thing that the thrill makes so many people, including the ones who have to halt their car, bike or heart, cringe while waiting for the bomb to go off. Anyway, yeh sab shor kam thaa is saal. I spent Diwali at my new place this year, and if I could curl up with a book and a puppy and sleep off at 10 pm without getting jolted by the sound of patakhas or panting for breath, I’m not complaining.
Again, sarkaari figures don’t tally with my claim. But on the day of Diwali, or even a day before that, there was less traffic on the roads than there normally is. Yeah, we went completely mad on Dhanteras and there were jams all around, but then we are known for going mad every year, on several days. Maybe, fearing bad traffic jams, this year people distributed gifts much in advance. Maybe. But the roads could thankfully breathe this year on Diwali, much like human beings. Who’s complaining?
Someone, somewhere has taken the call of Swachh Bharat seriously and God bless all those, regardless of political affiliations, who are looking at the need for cleanliness with a positive intent and a spirit to match. Less crackers anyway had a direct fall-out when it came to less trash the morning after, but the optimism and clarity of purpose on the faces of those who decided to clean up the roads after Diwali was heartening. Of course, we can choose to be cynical as we usually are, and say that the municipality workers or sweepers do it every year with an eye on getting generous baksheesh (tip) from the residents, but this year I also saw some kids and young people take on the task of clearing the cracker-trash off the roads, the next day. Are you missing the heaps of burnt white paper that you are used to seeing on the streets every year after Diwali? I’m not.
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Hum conscious ho gaye hain ji. Gone are the days when Chaddha ji came home with boxes of greasy mithai which had to be ‘consumed within 24 hours’ or they would go bad (in which case Mrs Chaddha would say, ‘ab kharaab hone waali hai, maid ko khila do’). That era was followed by high-on-calorie chocolates and big gift packs of deep-fried namkeen and chips. This year, however, I saw organic and supposedly healthy snacks being gifted on Diwali. The proportion may still have been much less than the richer sweets but at least there’s a beginning somewhere if you have your maid come to you and say, ‘Mujhe zyada meetha mat dena. Mota nahi hona hai’. Mine did.
(Sonal Kalra can’t say if there was less teen-patti this Diwali. She stays away from gambling. She’s anyway on medication for the depression from losing at Tambola. Mail your comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @sonalkalra)