It was a quiet Diwali in Delhi, courtesy the Supreme Court order banning the sale of firecrackers in the National Capital Region. Yes, there were a few rebellious outbursts, especially in the suburbs, late in the evening, but overall the normally-undisciplined Delhiite toed the line and had a non-cracker of a festival.
There were plenty of fireworks on the roads, however, on the days leading up to the festival as people drove around the city madly distributing, redistributing and re-redistributing presents to whomever they consider crucial to their existence.
When Delhi used to gift wines but not drink them, the wags used to say there were only about 20-30 bottles in circulation and if hosts looked carefully into the gift bags brought by their guests, they would spot at least one-two bottles that they had personally handed over at other parties (having got them from other people earlier). With quality vintages now available in India, the finer wines which come in as gifts now get consumed by their recipients but, yes, the vinegar masquerading as wine, along with the dry fruits, drier chocolates and sinfully-ugly white metal salvers still spin around town as second- and third-hand gifts. (Close friends and preferred business associates get carefully-curated hampers of malt and bespoke sweets and savouries, but that’s another story).
This year, the recycling was not restricted to gifts. Diwali greetings got the same treatment, as people (instead of calling or visiting) went berserk sending, resending, and re-resending WhatsApp messages to anyone they had ever encountered in the real or virtual world. The floodgates opened early, with some enterprising folks firing off WhatsApp messages even before the recipients had woken up. The deluge continued through the day, forcing people to spend more time with their phones than families.
By nightfall, weary of reading and clearing the messages from my over-worked phone, I realised there were only five-six basic greetings doing the rounds. Two were videos, one of them featuring the redoubtable Rajinikanth. The others were gifs or stills showing diyas in gold, diyas in silver, diyas in vibgyor, diyas in … you get the drift.
The distribution process was similar to the method employed with the gifts. Only now, instead of a gift-wrapped box, one got an e-greeting from Party 1, forwarded it to Party 2, who sent it on to Party 3, and so on. The smart ones made a few alterations to the original message; others didn’t even remember to remove the sender’s name. Perhaps they were too rushed or maybe they hadn’t read the message in the first place and hence didn’t know that it came with a name/names attached. Some people sent two-three versions of the diyas; maybe they weren’t sure that they had covered their entire contact list the first time.
The first sighting of the Rajinikanth clip made me laugh; by the 20th message, I was too tired to even grimace. The only message I really enjoyed came from a friend complaining that she had sent her family doctor an SMS about her daughter’s loosies, and got the following message in return: “Wish all of you the same.”