And so the madness begins. Firecrackers of the worst kind -not that there’s a ‘good’ kind anymore-the loud, all-noise-no-spectacle kind. The build up to Diwali has been sadly typical of Delhi hypocrisy- people spend their mornings reading about the ever-alarming state of Delhi’s pollution level, how it is responsible not just for the obvious bronchial problems but also for headaches, dizziness, joint pains, cardiac trouble and so on. Through the day, one ‘Likes’ and ‘Shares’ any number of messages and posts urging people not to burst firecrackers and sharing real-time pollution readings in the city, in the hope that the statistics themselves would be a deterrent. Or the fact that the national capital now has the honour of being the world’s most polluted city. In the untrue spirit of the Festival of Lights, however, people take these warnings ‘lightly’, bursting loud crackers and bombs. Our own brand of ‘suicide bombers’!
I don’t quite know where the last few days have gone, because I’ve been busy preparing for Diwali too. My dear, kind friends and I have been on the hunt for a beautiful, extremely sweet dog who is very shy of people and doesn’t allow many people to touch him. I am one of the blessed few who can, but not since he developed an injury. For days, we have tried every trick in the book to get a hold of the dear fellow so we can treat his wound without it unecessarily becoming worse. Finally, we’ve had to call in the professionals, just to help us catch him. The plan was to send him to a quiet, excellent boarding facility, with his companion sent along for..well, companionship, and keep them there safely for a few days so that they’d be spared the Diwali trauma. Sadly, he has refused to be caught.
I’ve also been busy installing air purifiers for my family, putting reflective collars and tags on my street dogs, giving sedatives to my own dogs, coordinating with friends as to who is sheltering which dog and so on. Tonight, on chhoti Diwali (Diwali Eve), I find myself lying quietly in my room, lights dimmed, windows closed and soothing music playing as I try to reassure my dogs. I can see from my window that my house is all decorated with beautiful fairy lights and candles and garlands. I’ve had no part in it. I feel nothing. No excitement. No joy. My family is somewhere around, doing something or the other, in preparation for the grand festival. I know my Dadi would have wanted me to participate in the festivities and with her, one just couldn’t help but get in the mood to celebrate. Why can’t I feel like that anymore? Why do I cringe at the thought of Diwali? Why am I sitting in my room, anxious, annoyed, cursing at every loud explosion?
What with traffic snarls and health concerns and the ‘must-do’ compulsions that we struggle to fulfill, where’s the togetherness and joy of a festival?
As I curmudgeonly wished a friend who was as perturbed about our animals as me a ‘Happy Diwali’, she laughed and said, “Ever since I started caring for animals, I hate this day”. That makes me feel a little less of a Scrooge and yet sad to be the outsider even in my own home, untouched by the hustle bustle of people dressing up, decorating the house, cooking special treats and entertaining with learnt merriment. I cannot bring myself to feel the excitement of Diwali anymore. I seem to be losing faith in my faith. Sorry.
From all my four-legged friends, I pray for that feeling to return someday, the day it includes the animals, the poor people, the sick, the children and the elderly; a time when the air is fresh with the nip of the coming winter, when families run about lighting up their houses and the dogs wag their tails as happy participants. Meanwhile, from whichever dark corner or trench we’re hiding in, for what it’s worth, we wish you a Happy Diwali.