Diwali has always been special. The drum roll starts from Diwali eve. It has this sense of build up from Dashehra onward. People start painting their houses, making purchases, preparing for pooja, sending whatsapp forwards starting with ‘May the festival of…’ all for this very day.
I have loved Diwali as a day because it is special. It is supposed to be special. If we overlook the pollution and the noise menace, Diwali does very little harm to our social fabric. In encourages exchange of gifts, parties, gambling–all very social and team building exercises. People are nicer to each other on this day which is a major plus. The annoying every day interactions are surprisingly mellower on this day. Everyone knows that this is the day to be nice to each other even if you foster a putrid venom against the society. Sounds good to me.
There is just this one thing though–there is no climax to this build up if you are not a fan of crackers. After the puja, you can party. But if you come from a family like mine, where the idea of party is to sit and watch TV or just talk loudly over Diwali snacks, then it stays anti-climactic.
I guess you can call it- ‘The Disappointment of Diwali’. Some people feel it, some people don’t. Those who don’t either find joy in gambling or have a lot of cousins over at their place and party till late. It is usually not possible in ideal circumstances because on Diwali you are supposed to stay at home and watch TV with parents. So, good for the rebellious cousins who revolt from tradition and make Diwali a happening festival. But, because for me, Diwali is family time, and so is it for all my cousins and extended family, we all just talk over the phone.
The disappointment of diwali is itself a cousin to the disappointment of birthdays. Birthdays are also times when you are supposed to be having fun every moment of your day. And when there are dull moments, you fall into existential crisis.
I think I would like a world where there are no festivals. Even if there are festivals, there should be an option to unsubscribe from the frenzy in case you are sure that you have no way to have fun and all the buildup is for nothing.
For people like me, the joy of Diwali is in its oft-repeated message. The triumph of virtue over evil. It is worth repeating every year that goodness prevails over all evil. It is the story of a prince in exile who fought for his wife and won her back from the demon king. When our prince began his fight, the odds were against him. He had an ill-tempered brother for company and just the trait of righteousness in his heart. He went ahead and doors opened, armies joined him and he eventually won. The symbolism might not be subtle here but it is clear. Life is about fighting your own battle and moving ahead on the path of virtue. Rest gets taken care of. Even for Ravan, it was something he anticipated. The grand scheme of things is just the sum total of people moving in directions their hearts set them to.
No one is ever sure of victory but the hesitation comes to only those who think they aren’t cut out for the job. Go win* them all!
*If your path is virtuous.