Today’s the ‘Festival of Lights’ all o’er;
A joyful day for minds and hearts and souls;
And people throng the Temples to offer,
Prayers, resolving to take better roles.
And most of them are richly clad and clean,
And eat such dainty foods and sweets with mirth;
Whilst noisy crackers burst, their lights are seen,
It seems to be a happy day on Earth!
But are there not hearts woe-filled, very sad?
Denied of laughter, smiles for days;
Today’s the triumph of Good over bad;
But what about the wastage in much ways?
True joy is when you see someone else smile!
True charity gives joy in Heav’nly style.
–Dr John Celes
Unfourtunatly I am limited to uploading only 6 pictures of last nights celebrations otherwise I would have shared dozens more. Sharing the beauty and light of Diwali is infectious, my host family stopped every few minutes to pose and urged me to take out my camera “so you and your friends and your family have the memories forever.” I was told countless times to take as many pictures of the house as possible and then email them to my host brother so he could show the extended family how much better our Diwali was than theirs. When looking through my pictures later my host family were overjoyed I had taken one of their incredibly clean living room (picture 2), it was definitely the happiest i’ve ever seen them. Perhaps they were glad someone had recognized the effort they had put into making their house spotless in the previous days, after all, Lakshmi won’t visit a dirty house. Anyway, I had to make another set of promises to send them that photo in particular so they could utilise it for bragging rights.
I was indeed the guest of honour, they knew I had never experienced the festival before and took it in their stride to present me with the best glimpse of Diwali they could humbly offer, often to stressful extents. There was a kind of nostalgia and familiarity watching a family get proceedingly more snappy with each other as a celebratory day progressed. It was definitely reminiscent of home when the younger brother stormed off and refused to participate in the rest of the celebrations due to not choosing which fireworks were purchased.
I ended up participating in four pujas (prayers), at the program house with my fellow students, at home for the wellbeing of the family, in the guesthouse for good luck in business and in the house temple. One must make sure to cover all the bases I guess. When we finally progressed to the rooftop to set off fireworks I finally understood the name City of Light, be it diyas or LEDs, everywhere was awash with colour. None of the fireworks we purchased ended up working (my host dad supposedly got scammed but that’s a story for another day) but that gave me a welcome respite and allowed me to truly appreciate the view. I do agree with Uttara’s comment that it is a festival of lights not sound, the noise was at times ridiculous, but it was a wonderful evening.
As tempers cooled – due to the firework issue, or lack of them (working ones at least) – and so did the sounds outside I fell asleep 5 hours later than I usually do here yet surprisingly not tired. The energy was indeed one of (to quote wikipedia) victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.