Updated: Dec 1, 2021
I don't really remember how we spent Diwali when I was younger. We tried to fly out to my grandparents and have a big family celebration. Lights, cousins, feast; the whole shebang. If we couldn't, the four of us just stayed home and had a quiet ceremony. I did burst all kinds of firecrackers though. Not an insane amount, but enough to hit the area's AQI. So, the pollutant-shopping was often done extensively, no holds barred. A fortnight from the big day, as soon as evening came around, the society echoed with a cacophony of cracker-pistols and kids running around playing Chor Police.
Ma toiled away throughout the day, true to her faith and the onus of responsibilities she took upon herself to please family and gods alike. Pa ran errands most day, in preparation for the elaborate evening puja. Although I was a fairly decent kid, I think I was in the way lot back then, in an unhelpful, and I'm afraid, ungrateful manner. I never had much of a sweet tooth, so I threw tantrums because of all the traditional desserts I had to eat in form of prasad. I didn't fancy the ritualistic dinner we had, and in line with my character, I fussed over the food arrangements. Not to mention, I incessantly asked for the puja to be rushed through so I could meet my friends and wreak some havoc. But at the end of it all, we sat down together, spent and content, soaking in the bliss.
Then, a few years passed, and we came to know the Diwali I do remember. Joyous-ish, just incomplete. I hadn't lighted a sparkler in about a decade. There was nobody home to fly back to. Any time any excitement found its way through the smallest crack, a new tragedy struck. And eventually, it became a festival without the festivities.
That brings us to today. Today, Ma cheekily enticed me with hot tea to wake me up. I stepped outside to see the diyas swinging mirthfully in the wind. Soon after, my parents were preparing our traditional offering, sev - laughing, learning, burning together. My sister was adorning our porch with the most beautiful rangoli I've ever seen, merry in her little colorful corner. Puppies are playing outside our fence, birds are feeding on the verandah, peacocks are singing in the distance. A bark here, a chirp there, heartwarming harmony everywhere.
I'm consumed by anxiety most days. Education, career, adulting, relationships. The sight of the world. My heart still breaks, nights still bring me despair. I still try to find in poetry what I lost in life. But today, I'm a child again, carefree and loved. Happy. In the safest space I have ever known.