“Abbu Abbu.. diwali ke lie pathaake lane hain..paiseee do na”, with child-like innocence, I asked for money to buy firecrackers for diwali. Dada , sitting nearby, before Abbu could reply, remarked “ kaiku re wo paise barbad karna… paise jalaaane ke jaisa ich na wo”. (Why burn money by buying those?) in his Dakkhani.
This scene, year over year, can be seen at home every Diwali.
By the time it was evening, I would definitely have some pathaakas with me from my “sources”, which included my dadi, who would part away some money from her khazaana. I would already make sure I had my emergency money in place from Abbu as well in the name of “stationary”.
Evenings were not limited to lightening firecrackers alone. Although they were a part of it.
“Diwali houses” made from mud and wood (with help from Ammi), batasha and mudi, would also be present as part of the celebrations. The diwali house preparation begins in the afternoon itself when the sun is out, so as to let the mud dry up. Colorful papers, all the toys, including those small kitchen cutleries, will adorn our new Diwali house for the course of the 3-day celebrations.
Once, it starts getting a little dark, you could see and hear firecrackers buzzing all around the dark skies, and we as kids, would excitedly merry around before starting our own spree of Fuljhaddis, Chakris, Anaar, Snakes, Mirchi Pathake, etc, while our neighbours would try to outdo us. All of the pathakaas would be in moderate amount, so we would make sure that we don’t finish the entire quota in one day. No one wants to be the kid who finishes off the first.
Then we also had “guests “coming in large numbers to pay our diwali homes a visit. This included, our basti wale friends, coming in one-by-one, bringing with them sweets and firecrackers. We would give them something to eat (after all, atithi devo bhava 🙂 ), fire a few firecrackers and then would follow the ritual of diwali home hopping post that.
And surprise, surprise! When the evening was about to end and we’d be up there on the terrace watching the lit up sky, dada would bring home some more firecrackers!! Yes, the same dada who was preaching us about “wasting money” and blah blah. All of us would again revel in the joy of those bonus firecrackers. We had our unique way of celebrating this festival of lights, which was so much fun back then.
Of course, I miss dada , who is no more in person with us. That diwali celebration at home gradually stopped as we grew up. It wasn’t about religion, it was all about having fun and enjoying ourselves. And mind you, we lived in a Muslim locality, so there wasn’t even any compulsion to celebrate under peer pressure. Diwali used to be an Indian festival as opposed to a Hindu festival, back then.
Festivals in India are about the celebration of culture and upholding the idea of India. Over the years, we have strengthened this bond, and let us hope that it continues. Even with forces trying to make it otherwise.
Religion and culture are two different things. I may not pray or participate in a Puja, but I would celebrate the joy of festivities. Usually one sees images of Muslims (in skull caps) praying to Hindu deities. Sorry, I won’t do that. A muslim is not supposed to indulge in idol worship and I sincerely hope others understood this and take this as disrespect. As I, nor the others, mean any disrespect!
It is of course an individual’s choice, but this photo alone doesn’t define secularism. Secularism means respecting others’ religion and having the freedom to celebrate and practice our faiths the way we want. Each of our religions has earmarked a few boundaries, the principles and the code we have to abide by. And that should be respected by each of us.
Celebrating joy is beautiful and who doesn’t want to do that? Methods might be different but the intentions are always right.
Celebration and cultural bonhomie is something we should all strive for. The idea of India needs to be preserved. It cannot happen by forcing a ban on eating something or calling people anti-national or pakistanis. It can only happen when we consider all of us as equals and strive to progress further.