There was a time when celebrating Diwali was simpler. It meant wearing new clothes and sitting restlessly through pujas, the duration of which depended on the austerity levels of the households one belonged to. The next step was listening to the tale of Narakasura’s violent life which came to an inevitably grisly conclusion at the hand of Krishna, which of course was the cause for centuries of celebration in honour of good triumphing over evil, which in later years we cynically realised is history’s way of telling us that losers usually have their mistakes rubbed in their faces over and over again.
Then the fun and games would begin. We got to stuff ourselves silly with sweets, most of which were supersaturated with sugar before being deep-fried in ghee, bursting too many crackers with gay abandon, and rushing off to crowded theatres to catch the Diwali releases. Mostly though it was a day of glorious celebration suffused with an unalloyed joy that would rejuvenate our tired souls, filling us with renewed vigour for whatever lay ahead.
Whatever happened to the wonderful sense of wellbeing that nothing but an old-fashioned celebration can provide? How come we no longer believe that evil will be vanquished and good will shine through? Why have we allowed our faith and the lustre of the festival of lights to dim?
Nowadays we see monsters everywhere and everyone is the enemy. Sugar and fat have been declared as the real demons in a world where one of the greatest evils is love handles. Never mind that even science has decreed that a balanced diet means including everything in moderation. As for crackers, they are the devil’s toys and must be avoided at all cost if you believe the celebs on social media who favour top of the line, high- priced gas guzzling automobiles to get their bony behinds from one place to the other. Taking off to the theatres to forget our troubles over caramel popcorn and the turbulent drama in the lives of gorgeous people is no longer a relaxing pastime. Instead, it is a political minefield where extremists flex their extortionist muscles forcing their hate-filled ideologies on us, effectively ruining the festive season. Enough is enough.
Let us get over ourselves already and recapture the essence of Diwali, the whole point of which is to brighten our lives by dispelling the darkness that resides within and without. It is time to light a fire under intolerant backsides everywhere and resolve to respect the choices of others even if that includes gorging on sweets to the point where they risk worms tearing out chunks of a chubby caboose, lighting up a few flower pots, chakras and colourful sparklers with friends and family or watching a film starring artistes from a neighbouring nation (gasp!). Finally let us celebrate a traditional holiday with all our hearts, spreading warmth and happiness around till everyone is infected with the same.
(author of Arjuna, Kamadeva, Shakti and Yama’s Lieutenant)