By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
Diwali has arrived. Guwahati sparkled like a fairy land on the 29th October and 30th October also the picture remains same. Every year it happens and residents enjoy the festival hugely. The dirty water-logged Guwahati seems to transform itself into a dazzling enchanting city overnight, with thousands of fancy lights winking at one another. There is glitz, glamour and razzmatazz all around the city. Lights accompanied by deafening bangs seem to threaten the sky.
Diwali is the brightest, noisiest and the costliest of all the festivals and it is very dear to all, specially to the children. Kali Puja and Diwali always come together. The puja was performed mostly in community pandals as well as in private homes. As in the case with other festivals, Diwali also indicates big money, as those fireworks cost the earth. According to legend Diwali is observed to celebrate the home-coming of Ramchandra with wife Sita and brother Lakshman, to Ayodhya, after slaying Rava, the king of Lanka, who had abducted Ramchandra's wife Sita Devi. Ramchandra, with Lakshman and an army of monkeys vanquished Rava and rescued Sita. After completion of his twelve years' exile he came back to Ayodhya with brother Lakshman and Sita Devi. There was immense joy on that day and the city of Ayodhya sparkled with countless earthen lamps and bursting of crackers to display people's abundant joy at the return of their king to the city. The ritual of the celebration of that momentous event is what we know as Diwali. I have no idea about the authenticity of the story, but that is what we have heard. Every festival has some legend associated with it and as logic states, every event must have a cause. Leaving aside Logic, we can say with certainty that whatever might be the cause, Dewali is the most enjoyable of all the festivals we celebrate.
Though Diwali is supposed to be observed only for a day, it can be seen that the festival in reality is celebrated in the Pre-Dewali and Post-Diwali day in a milder form. According to the almac, fourteen earthen lamps are to be lit on the Pre-Diwali evening and fourteen leafy vegetables are also to be consumed. But I have no idea why it is done. Hence I cannot give any reason for it. Yet it is a fact that in case of religious festivals we do not have to bother about "why" it is done. We just do it and derive pleasure from doing so. For me, that is all that matters. If by doing something we get happiness, then why not do it without asking for any reason?
Children particularly love the festival of Diwali, as it implies sparkling fire works and ear-splitting bangs. I believe that it is the most popular festival of the Rajasthani people. They paint their homes, make sweets, distribute them and burst diverse kinds of crackers nearly for a week. But it is also celebrated all over the country.
On the occasion of Diwali, Ba plants are placed in the gates of various homes and establishments. Apparently Ba plants are supposed to be auspicious, hence they are very necessary for all functions, though the reason eludes me. In the evening the earthen lamps are lit, which change the mundane look of the home. turally the prices of everything shoot up to an unbelievable height at every festival time. The traders know very well which way the wind is blowing and they believe in making hay while the sun shines. We all know that the prices of everything, including the essential commodities are very high in Guwahati market. In festival times they reach the sky to our acute distress. We have adjusted our life style to the whims of the traders. Unfortutely there is nobody to check the avaricious tendency of the unscrupulous traders. May be those in power are not even aware of the cost of various things and they are not concerned about the plight of the common people.
The earthen lamps, which were so cheap a few years back are now very expensive. Add to that the other expenses. The total amount will stagger most of the consumers. In today's scerio even a simple vegetarian meal costs the earth, leave aside meat, fish or other items, which have become a luxury for the common people. Even once cheap vegetables like potato, onion, gourd, brinjal etc. have joined their aristocratic cousins like cauliflowers, peas and carrots. Anyway, it is no use repining over the cost of food products. One has to eat for survival and that is that. It is of course a tremendous burden on the common people. Even the chillies are getting costlier.
Fireworks are inseparable from Diwali celebrations. Road-side make-shift stalls emerged overnight and they were chock-a-block with various kinds of crackers, sparklers etc. Children turally pester their parents to buy those crackers. What is Diwali without fireworks? Most of them are invariably connected with ear-splitting bangs. But their price is prohibitive, this year more so. I too had gone to buy some candles and crackers for the children of my family. To my dismay I found them to be excessively expensive. Only one bagful of crackers went for about ten thousand rupees. One gentleman with a small child could be seen buying some crackers for fifteen thousand rupees before the bemused eyes of the awestruck customers, including myself. The salesman was turally very happy to be favoured by such a generous customer, who did not haggle over the exorbitant price and did not bat an eye on learning the price of the crackers. Really some people have all the luck.
But a minute's reflection brings to the mind the fact that it is such a wanton waste of money. Crackers turn into ashes within seconds—and crores of money all over the country are spent in these one-minute wonders. I have heard that Sivakashi is famed for its cracker-manufacturing business. They earn crores of money by selling the crackers. But it is also a very risky occupation. I believe that Barpeta too is famed for this industry. We have wonderful display of the crackers at night and possibly we do not bother about the huge amount of money spent on them. But if we think about some people living on dry bread and water, we cannot help feeling guilty. Some have so much and some have so little. Some of them do not even have a shed to protect themselves from rains or scorching heat. They live on foot paths in the open. They too have small children, who might have demanded crackers and other things from their parents. But they cannot oblige due to lack of money. So the children of these deprived sections watch the gorgeous display of fireworks from outside the homes of the affluent people and derive no less pleasure.
For two solid nights Guwahatians could not sleep, as the hilarity accompanied by sparkling lights and deafening explosions continued for the whole night. It was of course hard on the elderly and sick people and that is why they frown upon these festivities. It is nice to enjoy some festival, but too much of everything is not good for health. Environmentalists would condemn all these explosions, since they lead to air and sound pollution, which might lead to the extinction of planet earth. Already there have been discussions, debates, semirs etc. all around the world to save the Earth from disaster. But who would bother about such things at the time of Diwali? In any case, we already have an idea regarding global warming, which is happening due to several factors.
Diwali is an occasion for joy and it is wonderful to see the beaming kids enjoying themselves. It is awesome when we think of all that money spent for some momentary thrill. It is like burning currency notes for me. But some people have money to burn.
Diwali is a kind of religious and social festival, which is celebrated by people belonging to various castes and communities. It strengthens the bond of friendship, which is so necessary in these disturbed times. I think that all our festivals are somehow associated with exuberance, which is not a bad thing. But sobriety too must be observed to lend true significance to any religious festival. Mere pomp and grandeur are not enough, there should be sanctity and devotion as well, without which the festival is likely to be meaningless.
Anyway, the festive season is over and now it is the time for considering the earthly mundane matters like our fincial condition. All these days we never gave a thought to funds, since in the festive season we rarely bother about monetary matters. But it is no use brooding on the matter. We surely have the liberty to let heart rule the head at such times. Children are a sad lot, as the time has come for their routine work, with examition approaching fast. During the festive season many people go on holiday to various places in the country or abroad. I think holidays broaden our minds, strengthen our bodies and sharpen our intelligence. Hence they are absolutely necessary to keep us going.
But every day cannot be taken as a holiday. If all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, then the opposite is also equally true. It is time for hard work and let us get down to it without regrets. The festive days will surely come again the next year. With that hope in mind we should plunge into our routine work with renewed vigour. Life cannot be all pleasure. It is not a bed of roses all the way and roses are always accompanied by thorns. If we remember that we will understand that pleasure is good only in small doses and pleasure and pain go together. We cannot have one without the other. Life is full of ups and downs. If for some people it is more downs, so what? One has to accept that life cannot be all pleasure and pleasure can be understood only in the context of pain. So now let us face life's problems with courage, joy and happiness.