October 30, 2008

The Festival of Lights

Ojas had come down to Mumbai on his way back to his home and he made an interesting statement. He said Maharashtra liked to celebrate its festivals over a long period of time. After the week long Diwali Celebrations in Mumbai I guess I agree with him. My Diwali started almost a week back when I was forced to walk half my way back from Dadar as everyone seemed to have gone crazy over shopping. This is a craze I have seen only during Pre Puja shopping in the markets of Gariahaat and Hatibagan in Calcutta. And Mumbai almost matched the insanity. Due to unfortunate incidents that make almost everyone ask, “Whose Mumbai is it anyway?” few of the days saw almost all shops down their shutters, Shivaji Park always being in the centre of news these days for all the wrong reasons.

In fact, on the day everyone advised people to stay back at home, I decided to walk around Mahim and Shivaji Park just to figure out the pulse of the city and the pulse was throbbing with pain over lost sales on a day that was perfect otherwise for shopping.

We had a small wing get together at the TIFR campus and I realized how badly I miss the campus life. Lying down after lunch under the shades of a tree on a beautiful lawn transferred me back into time, to a terrestrial green sky I had left behind. Opening your eyes after a good afternoon siesta to a vast expanse of the ocean can do wonders to your spirit, battered from the daily travels in local trains in order to plug in your laptops and fight for market share. And to see Kishor and Ojas still have their craze for Rubick’s cube makes me want to smile. And remember.

While we sat on the rocks in the evening, the fireworks went up from Navinagar. The army had rung in Diwali and when the rockets burst over the sea without the city skyline blocking your view, you can feel an exhilarating sense of belonging, even though Diwali might not be the most important festival for the part of the country you come from.

Even though The Times of India is known for Mumbai Mirror more than anything else, I think they should be given credit for organizing some of the best free concerts in the city. On Sunday night, Times Diwali Festival hosted U. Srinivasan and Shivkumar Sharma for a concert at Bandra Fort. Just like Kochi Fort has no fort, Bandra also has no Fort but with lights adorning the trees and flowers strewn on the paths, the atmosphere does make you forget that you are in Mumbai. And Of course, the crowd is much more down to earth than the usual NCPA crowd.

The night before Diwali something nice happened. I was walking in the middle of nowhere. There was a huge traffic condition that I had left behind and there was no way a bus or a cab would come along. I was also too near my house for any self respecting Indian cabbie to agree to go. Suddenly however a cab stopped by my side and asked me if I wanted to go to my house. It turned out to be a cab I had used before to go to Dadar. He actually stopped on the way seeing me. It felt nice. They make all sorts of feel good movies for Christmas in Hollywood. Maybe we should do one for Diwali.

It’s Diwali night. The people in my apartment building seem to have been not affected at all by the financial crunch. The amount of sparklers and fire crackers that have been burning outside on the road could very well substitute for my annual income for the next five years. I of course am not complaining. I have drawn aside the curtains of the window and it looks beautiful. Whether you have celebrated Diwali as an invocation to Goddess Laxmi, as the homecoming of Rama to Ayodhya or as the destruction of Narkasur it doesn’t matter. As my grandma used to say, “Let good things happen to everyone- Sobar Bhalo hok

Afterthought: Why on earth can the societies/ public take responsibility for the general mess that they make with all the debris left behind from the crackers and clean up the streets? In Pilani too people just left things scattered on the road. Would we do it in our own homes?


Ro said...

Superbly and heartwarmingly written. Banjo, you seem to captured the elusive Spirit of Diwali with concise, hard-hitting, and (yet) humane ink.
I like the bit about the driver offering you a lift; a lot of us take great and vicious pride in ravaging others' faults, but only a few stop to praise, to appreciate, to say thank you.
And you're right: Diwali is, just like the many dubious brands of firecrackers that proliferate in the markets every year, a very plural festival, and rightly so.
I celebrate Diwali to celebrate the triumph of Good over Evil. A friend I know celebrates it for the triumph of Drink over Consciousness. To each her own!

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@ Ro - Thanks :) I think we should celebrate whenever we want. Won't you agree?

Joy said...

mohapurush..apni mumbai e te aachen.. kripoya.. jaana shuna korar theekana ta deen...

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@ Joy - arre tumio Mumbai? wow :) Howz life?

Pooja said...

I second that comment above....very few stop to praise, that was very nice, and that incident really seemed to capture the spirit of the festival....a feeling of "Good"....you are right;all those Christmas movies in Hollywood leave one with that feel-good sense, why not have some of our own....even the Christmas carols spread the festive cheer....I recollect just one song in a touching voice of a child singing "Happy Diwali!"....at least that! :)
very nice post....please do keep posting!

Madhurjya (Banjo) said...

@Pooja - Thanks :) Will try to continue bugging people :)

annewalker said...

This is such a nice post Banjo. Though I'm not an Indian myself, I've always been fascinated with Indian culture, and honestly, festivals are somewhat confusing for me (at least at first) and when I was able to read the history and legends about each festival, all I can say is "WOW". Very rich and deep traditions. Since this year's Diwali is almost here, let me wish everyone of you a Happy Diwali.

Oh, and let me use this chance to invite you to my own blog post about Diwali Festival. Feel free to comment :) Thank you Banjo.

My Diwali Blog