As a child, I recall to mind…how impatiently I waited for the evening of Diwali to come! How profusely I admired the beauty of the dazzling lamps and how immensely I loved the sound of fire-crackers!
I used to sit for hours at the windowsill looking far away at a house with flickering lights. The magic of flame sustained by mustard oil in small earthen-pots on the roof awakened the sleeping soul of the people all night.
The sight made my heart fill with wonderful moments of ecstasy and delighted my soul with mystical curiosity. At times, I had the inkling of twinkling stars playing and dancing on the roof.
Sometimes, out of immense thrill, I used to run to shops to buy fire-crackers which were similar to the length of cigarettes. The igniting of its one end would explode aloud with shrieks of laughter from children.
In the morning, we ran to collect tiny earthen-pots which turned hard out of the constant heat with inflamed fire. We would then play with those pots making weighing machines known as Tarazu. We also used them for cooking and serving food while we played around.
That is how I used to celebrate Diwali. My childhood is filled with numerous instances of such sweet feelings about various other festivals in India.
They are the valuable possessions with which I have grown up and try to comprehend the logical meaning why festivals are made for the people and the nation.
In contrast, the celebration of my festival, Eid, abroad is one of the joyless experiences to occur ever in life. It is difficult to forget.
I had just visited Libya, the first ever chance of having a job abroad. Initially, I was very excited to see the other culture. Soon the enthusiasm died as Arabs maintain a respectable distance from the immigrants. The lack of Arabic language further added to my detachment.
The morning of Eid was the time of utter cold outside. That was the month of November. I woke up a bit late, mechanically got ready and pushed myself to be out.
On the day of the festival, there was no feeling of excitement and no spirit of enthusiasm. I felt as if I were alone to celebrate Eid myself, though there was a jubilant crowd of Arabs…all in their best of attire assembling in the mosque for special prayer.
All the while I sat in the mosque I thought of India, my people and my festivals. I missed everything about the country and its sweet memory.
Soon the prayer was over and the Arabs, as the tradition goes, stood up and began to greet by kissing each other’s cheeks. They looked very delighted and, of course they should be. Though they appeared welcoming, I was left alone in the crowd. In that state of homesickness, I left the mosque.
The entire day passed in non-fulfillment of festive urge and homesickness engulfed me. Most of the day I imprisoned myself in the flat not knowing where to move and how to come to terms with the emerging situations.
The gaining experience of celebrating the festival on a foreign soil made me derive a new meaning from the festival and its purpose.
It reasoned to me: ‘Festival is less about religion and more about culture. The celebration is less about faith and more about society.’
Society is not merely about people, it is about various customs and traditions. I felt deeply to the bottom of my heart about the significance of celebrating festivals among the people I belong to…India and Indianness.
Certain things are unchangeable. One may change one’s faith but the breadth of culture that one has lived through can never be changed at all. It is simply unalterable, permanent and ever fixed in the memory of human psyche. It is the ultimate identity and the only truth with which one lives and dies.