The advertisements on tv, the well decorated windows of the smallest clothing shop and the multicolored display of kandeels on the road just tell me that Diwali is coming.
I love coming home to unopened gift boxes. I love it that my parents still leave them unopened till both us daughters are around. I love tearing the gift paper with an anticipation and jumping with joy at the sight of cocolates or a coffee maker (yaaaay!) I love it that me and the sister don’t fight over opening the gifts anymore. I love it that the sister’s birthday is on Laxmi Pujan and we get to eat out. I love it that we eat high calorie sweets and faral shamlessly. I love it that there still are 5 varieties of Pohe on the dining table on the first day of Diwali. I love it that I still am in charge of making coffee for everyone. I love it that we all sip coffee together (usually everyone drinks tea and I feel like a lonely coffee addict)
I love it that I get 100 bucks from my grandpop and grandmom for ovalni. I love it that I get to crack a karit (symbolic for baliraja) despite being a girl. I love it that my argument that I should get to break the karit irrespective of my gender, is proudly accepted by my pro-feminist grandparents!
I love it all but what I don’t love is the firecrackers. Back in the young days, me and the sister combined our daily quota of crackers with our neighbours and bravely lit them in our building compound. Just as we started, street kids would gather outside the gate and look at our brand new clothes, sparkling jewelry and our boxful of crackers with a glint of hope in their eyes. They hoped that the festival would make us feel kind enough to part with a fuljhari or two. They hoped even with their tattered clothes and hungry stomachs, the Diwali magic will bring light in their lives.
The thousands of rupees we spent on the crackers would feed them for a year! What right did I have to spend that kind of money to just add light to an evening of joy?
Obviously, the next thing we did was talk to our parents about this. And it was decided. No more firecrackers. Each Diwali after that, there was a newer, stronger reason to stay away from the crackers. Pollution, litter, child labour…
But I did burst crackers one Diwali. The most special Diwali ever. Me, the sister and the father took a huge box of fuljharis to an orphanage. And we spent the entire evening with the simple firecrackers and millions of smiles.
Some thrilled kids and some thrilled but too afraid to stand on their own. Some just hugged us and sang Diwali songs with us. The next year the ashram took the fuljharis but didn’t allow us to play with the kids as a matter of policy. Now, they do not accept firecrakers or food made outside.
I feel angry that because of some dufus, who gave the children spoilt food and outdated crackers, I miss out on the simplest and the most innocent joys I have ever experienced…