(S)lightly serious

Finally it’s over. The Festival of Lights began with a bang and ended on a high sounding note! (Cracker-less Diwali is still a distant dream).  It would take a couple of days for our folks to come out of the festive mood and get back to routine.
While most of the people were engrossed in preparing for and celebrating the festival, I was a silent observer. Despite hailing from a family following rituals to the T, I somehow have found it tough to be into them.
Diwali means lots of fun to kids and even for housewives and devout minds, it’s such a big occasion! After entering the newspaper world, I handle festive features when the Festival of Light comes calling. It’s a nice opportunity to see what happens when you prepare a little too much in advance! As we have tight printing schedules, we have to close our supplements a bit too ahead of the fest. It’s no different from housewives taking up cleansing work too early.
One of my aunts told me she had started clearing the clutter a good month in advance. Later, I learnt it from her son that it was an exercise in futility as by the time Diwali arrived, the house had started getting messed up again. Every year, I’ve to warn my mother not to make any faraal too ahead as we often finish it off before naivedyam.
As soon as schools close, kids make Diwali plans. Crackers are bought and in their enthusiasm, they burst them before the festival. One kid in my neighbourhood, who was running out of cracker stock before Diwali, suddenly remembered we shared a ‘close bond’ and that I owed him a gift. Of course, it had to be crackers!
One of my colleagues had even more interesting story! She had decided to decorate her home for Diwali a day before the fest but her mother insisted they did the job a week in advance. She came to know that her neighbours had lit up the open space in their flat and her mother didn’t want to lag behind! “Koi kahe na ki inke ghar mey shayad kuchh problem hain!  Ek bada diya to lagado…”. The dialogue naturally evoked a hearty laugh.
This story still fresh in mind, I observed my own household lit up a week in advance! China-made electric series stopped working even before the Diwali arrived. To avoid a ‘lightless’ Diwali, I headed for an electric shop in the vicinity and realised many customers had met the same fate!
No one was really so busy but everybody was trying to show how tied up one’s family was. Laxmi Pooja is a ten-minute job but preparations begin 12-hours in advance. Most of us get up early, dress up nicely and wonder what to do the rest of the day! Customary Diwali calls start and we check who has woken up when. “I got up at 4 am but was wide awake since 3,” we want to leave no stone unturned to show how particular we are. Even gurujis work round-the-clock to make things easy for ritualistic people.
While all this happened, I still was a mute spectator.
I find it tough to correlate with them as I honestly feel mere rituals and celebrations hardly make sense. Festivals might have meant a lot when we were an agrarian economy and sweets were a rarity. Today, we eat everything anytime we want and there is little point in preparing them all for the sake of the festivity. When life is a celebration, do we need certain occasions?
I am not being critical here but just putting things plain and straight. Instead following traditions blindly, we should assess them. All traditions aren’t bad but isn’t it important to question their relevance? We can neither discard not adhere to them blindly. As matured individuals, we should side with rationality, helping traditions enrich and evolve.


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