Can light be appreciated without darkness? Does darkness make sense without light? Philosophical questions – perhaps but necessarily not so. After all, light can best be appreciated against darkness.
The soft glow of lights twinkling like little stars in rows in front of the houses is almost magical. The soft tease of breeze would make the tongues of the flame dance to create a duet of light and darkness as the shadows come alive in a symphony . Strings of fresh flowers to decorate the doorways and the houses with its surroundings alight with candles and people walking around enjoying the glow of these lights – that’s the magic of Diwali.
Diwali is a candle-lit affair where I grew up, it still continues to be so as an electrical diwali is not quite an option with the state’s bizarre electricity being such a rare visitor and the oil lamps never have caught on. In Delhi, however, Diwali is as much electrical as it is of oil lamps and decibels not to mention the air which makes it a nightmare to anyone with breathing problems but of course, that has become equivalent to the smell and sound of Diwali here.
Rangoli: the decorative designs drawn on the floor especially at the entrance of the house. I had seen women making these designs on television (for some reason it seems to be only women who are engaged in making rangoli). Expertly adjusting their fingers to make sure that the coloured powders created the desired formations as it was sprinkled. Those techniques seem to be a thing of past with rangoli being adapted on stencil techniques. In place of the rice powders that were traditionally used to make it, we now have coloured granules which are supposed to be synthetic. Of course, ingrained in a tradition which adores rice and literally celebrates it, it seemed like such a waste to ground it up for decoration, albeit its beauty!
In one of the books that I had read, the goddess of wealth is described as fickle while her sister Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge is loyal and perhaps that explains the decorations and footprint as an attempt to elongate her presence. The foot prints always head towards the house (coming in) rather than away (going away). Considered to be auspicious, these are painted usually in kumkum dye at the entrance as symbolic of her visit. My neighbour had decorated the stairs leading to her flat with sindoor and a black design which I am not sure what it is. Now the market is flooded with stick-on footprints in red.
I am yet to see a religious festival without the quintessential flowers at every nook and corner around this part of the globe but the seems to flood the market particularly during the Diwali season. it sort of continues from the Durga Puja period and Dussehra straight onto Diwali. My visit to this local market in dwarka was a couple of days prior to diwali and perhaps that was why the real flowers were not much around to be sighted but the market was colourful with the street-side vendors selling artificial flowers and garlands.
One of the items on my wish list is to visit the early morning flower markets in Delhi which serve as the whole sale market for flowers and open early in the morning. Another is to visit the Phoolwalon ki Sair at Mehrauli
Pollution or not, Diwali so far cannot be remembered without rows of light in the houses and firecrackers outside it. Every year as Diwali draws nearer, there are cases reported of blast resulting from some of these factories producing crackers. This year I had heard of one case which resulted in the deaths of at about 27 workers. The ill effects of these fireworks continue to be talked about but the Diwali continues to be celebrated in full fare with the blasting of these firecrackers. Coming from a place where diwali is a much quieter affair and devoid of fireworks mainly due to security reasons (or so we were then told), Diwali in Delhi was sure a shock in my first year. The fireworks never seemed to cease going on till the wee hours. I had a tough time breathing for at least two-three days. The sun was up but could not be seen the day following the Diwali. Thankfully, it does not seem as bad now – at least so far as my nose is concerned! But I did hear some interesting conversations from my neighbours. One of the children apparently refused to light firecrackers saying that their teachers have instructed them not to do so. The grandparents/parents countered back saying that they got those loads of firecrackers for them and would they waste all of that. Another one questioned: what would the teachers know? They do not know everything!!
And so continues the Diwali fireworks bursting out in full glory in the dark night sky of amavas!!