The ghost of Diwali past

I have always been a morning person. Through a combination of inability to stay awake a minute beyond 10 p.m. and a mortal fear of my father, I perfected my sleeping schedule. Sunrise, birds singing, Pol rise. But the only time I absolutely LOVED waking up way before sunrise was during Diwali. At Five a.m., middle class Maharashtrian boy like me would use the hallowed ‘Moti’ soap hoping its extravagant price would be justified by making me ‘festival ready’ for the day. In half an hour just when the sun was about to grace us with its presence, my dad and I would officially celebrate the beginning of the festival by blowing up the symbolically named “Lakshmi bomb”.

So early in the morning, we’d still be beaten by another father-son duo(no representation for women because buzzfeed didn’t exist back then) who “celebrated” before us. The bursting of crackers would go on for another hour and a half before my mom had the breakfast ready. The whole day would then go in combining and segregating all the tasty dry-fruits from the ones which were actually good for you. Mom would wear her gold jewellery and dad would look like a South Indian movie villain. My brother and I would pay homage to the Gujarat police by getting into fake shootouts with our “Diwali wali gun” while old people and animals around us would tremble in fear/stroke/who cares.

As evening arrived, the big boys would light up the sky with their rockets and my friends and I would wage a war on the city infrastructure with the all conquering “sutli/rassi bomb”! There would always be that one guy who would buy a “10,000 ki ladi” and turn Navi Mumbai into ‘Palestine Lite’ for a very long five minutes. The great father that my dad was taught me very early on about optimisation of available resources by breaking up the “100 ki ladi” and bursting its individual crackers one by one. As I grew up, I realised it was less pre MBA prep and just another middle class thing we all went through.

The kids and girls would play with ‘fuljhadis’, ‘fountain’ and ‘chakris’ because ScoopWhoop hadn’t yet come out with its “19 ways Diwali is sexist” article. Some girls would even come and burst the heavy crackers with us. We didn’t mind because the Patriarchy hadn’t contacted us yet. As years passed by I somehow never showed any girl my “If you got vagina, you can’t burst crackers made in China” sign. Weird. Anyway, we all had our ‘Diwali cracker near miss’ story. Rockets flying into balconies, crackers bursting in our hands, uncles on two wheelers showing Sunny Deolesque courage wading through our fiery assaults, we all loved it.

And then one day it all went away. I have now ‘grown up’. My anxiety issues force me to stay awake until at least 1 a.m. every night which means waking up at 5 a.m. is a no go. There’s no ‘Moti’ soap in my bathroom. I’ve been tasked with cleaning my room and not coming out of it. My brother is watching YouTube videos on his phone. My dad is trying his best to help mom with the ‘faral’(traditional sweets – pronounced only by Maharashtrians). My watchman has been giving me that “Now you’re old enough to give baksheesh” look. I spent the entire day working on a presentation. No longer do I burn my father’s hard earned cash on crackers. Now it’s cigarettes.

But Diwali is still there in my heart right? No. Diwali for me died today. For the past one week I’ve witnessed people on my timeline petition me to not burst crackers to save the environment, stop sound pollution and of course, save the poor animals who are traumatised by the sudden outburst of lights, explosions and diabetes. There have been others who said Diwali without crackers is absurd and like Zlatan’s performance last night, Hindu festivals are under assault. I’ve spent too much time on social media to be swayed by either party.

I don’t care about others and what their opinions are on such subjective topics. All I cared about was whether there was a father son duo at 5:30 a.m. to disturb me with their antics. And sadly speaking, no. I woke up around 8 a.m. to a flurry of godawful ‘Happy Diwali’ gifs on WhatsApp. I forwarded a few and checked my timeline hoping to see how girls turned yet another Diwali into a “Give me 300 Likes for posing in front of Rangoli” fest. Saw a couple of them and began working. Finished my work around 2:30 p.m. and have been writing since.

It’s 4:45 p.m. as I type and I still haven’t had a bath. Fuck off. Don’t judge me. Powerpoint requires concentration and long hours. Haven’t had a smoke yet. But I still feel ashy.

I don’t see anyone on the streets. I’ve heard more crackers burst after an India Australia game than in the entire day today. Why has everyone suddenly abandoned this festival? Did the Social Justice campaigning work? Did we all suddenly grow up? Or did we all finally realise that Diwali, just like Navaratri and Ganesh Chaturthi can get extremely irritating and messy? It could be something else. But one thing is for sure, it’s not the way it was. Because Diwali is gone and just like the early morning ‘Lakshmi bomb’, has become a ghost of the distant past.

1 Like for this post = Neighbourhood dog doesn’t get injured tonight.

1 share = You’re a Patriot defending Hindu customs.

1 comment = Get a life man. Get off Facebook. Happy Diwali!

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