On the third morning of Tihar I awoke to lights twinkling outside my window. “Ritu” they called, “are you awake? Come, there is a view of the Himalayas.” I rubbed sleep out of my eyes and looked up to see my Nepali sister peering in at me. “Coming” I whispered in reply.
In the crisp early morning air, right as the sky was beginning to turn a soft golden glow I tiptoed upstairs, past the sweet scent of marigolds strung over each door and the abundance of fruit lining the kitchen. It was quiet, almost silent in contrast to the constant murmur of voices and the howling of dogs and the rumble of engines outside that i had grown used to. It was peaceful, the city was still asleep and I was awake along with the lights which were gradually fading as the light grew brighter. As I climbed, I began to notice a careful path of red clay winding up the stairs, covering each step. After a moment I realized this day was Laxmi Puja, the day when Nepali families honor and celebrate Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and ask that she bless them with good fortune for the coming year. As I stepped out onto the terrace I found my two didis (older sisters) and dai (older brother) quietly looking out at the snow capped peaks poking above the horizon in the distance. My sister slipped her arm around me and turned her face towards me with a smile. She explained that the path begins at the entrance to the home where there was a mandala and continues to the highest place of worship. They explained how the mandala is created in the morning before it is light and again in the evening as the sun is setting.
That evening, as the day faded into night, I stood on the terrace once again. Tihar lights surrounded my home as far as I could see in every direction. When I looked closely at the lights below me I saw the individual colors flashing their small lights – pops of blues and greens, reds and oranges. They were brilliant and playful but as I looked out at the sea of color, it seemed to me like all together the lights were singing and dancing in unison. It looked as if they were full of secrets, full of stories; singing about years before when they all came out to dance together and calling out “goodnight Ritu, until next time.”