By Goutam Shankar Das
For almost 69 years, I have been witness to many Dipawali festivities and my reflections on the celebration of this festival of light and sound has broadened with just one factor remaining constant – the factor of a great divide.
For years, I have been witness to people spending huge amounts, which under present day conditions go up to lakh and lakh of rupees that are literally busted to show to the world how high on the economic scale these ‘busters’ are.
There were times when a household could buy clay lamps and crackers for Rs 100 and enjoy the spectacle of light and sound quite generously. People those days usually never hesitated to pull out a rupee note or two for the ‘little street urchins’ with which they too could enjoy the Dipawali festivities albeit in a very small way. But the glow on the faces of these humanities did brighten up the spirit. If lucky, various households provided them with sweets that these angels in disguise could never dream of!
In those days of our adolescence, we had the same crackers as we have now but their ‘bangs’ then were more subdued. Wayfarers did not have to worry for elders ensured that we did not burst our crackers anywhere near the roads. We could burst them on a small patch of vacant area within the house or, at the most, quite a distance from the roads. Sometimes, we were allowed to go to the terrace and burst crackers but definitely under adult observation.
Sweets were exchanged among neighbors. As for us, we were given more sparklers than bombs. The women of the house used to light clay lamps and decorate the house with them. Many among them drew rangolis which were fascinating. Electric bulbs were not so much in vogue those days. But the festive flavor touched all hearts irrespective of the socio-economic divide.
Dipawali was a soothing balm for all hearts and minds because then, there were no barricades to thrill and amusement purposes. Yes, those were the days when whole colonies shared and cared for one another. We were loved and scolded by anyone of the colony households depending on our deeds. We were naughty too but not as dangerously naughty as the generation of today or of a few yesterdays.
It has been a habit of mine to wake up very early during festive periods. This habit has been lingering in me through time. That, perhaps, sets the yearnings for the days long gone by. A day after the Dipawali festivities, the roads are strewn with the wrappers of crackers that emanated the sounds of crazy joy through the other day’s ‘show-off’ of financial power gained through routes that better not be discussed.
While my morning musings were eliciting a subdued ire, I caught sight of two little slum children scavenging through the ‘reflections’ of festivity the other night to dig for a few crackers that did not burst. I called them and they approached me hesitantly.
I asked them how many crackers they had collected and they showed me less than a fistful of low-profile crackers. They said that they would use them in the evening along with other children who too had gone out to collect the leftovers of festivity.
I had some sparklers and a cracker chain left with me and I gave those away to these two kids to light up their slum dwellings. To these kids and their ilk wherever they are, the measly gifts would light up their faces of joy in essence and spirit that actually entomb the purpose of Dipawali.
I also gave them some money to buy sweets and earthen lamps. They were confused and overjoyed at the same time. I was feeling sorry for the plight of these ‘children of a lesser God.’ I moved away from the gate, immersed in the pessimism of a culture that has steadily built a hiatus between our times-their times.
I know, our times will never come back but the pining and craving of the soul cannot be checked. I wish to yell out, “Come back yesterday.”