I had a spectacular Diwali this year. Granted, the travel agency we used to book Tirupati tickets messed up and dropped us in the temple five whole hours early without any means to contact people, so we were kind of stranded without anything to do. Sure, some of our relatives got lost in the crowd and we found them after two hours of frantic searching. There was also the fact that I became slightly sick and got a pounding headache that brought me to tears. Still, it was one of the best Diwalis I’ve had to endure.
Don’t get me wrong. I do love Diwali, but I’m also terribly afraid of it. My love-hate feeling about Diwali started at a very young age. As a child, I would be excited about Diwali counting down the days to the biggest festival of the year. The new clothes, accessories, sweets, snacks, meeting up with family and friends, getting Diwali special magazines, watching debates and good programs on TV were the highlights of the festival. The whole thing about bursting crackers was my menace.
I’ve always loved the noiseless fireworks like flower pot, sangu chakram, colourful matches, sparkles, snake tablets, etc. It is the bombs and the sarams (the 500-wala, 1000-wala and the like) that I detest. As someone who gets startled easily, dealing with the constant noise of crackers is always a pain. You never get used to it. Staying indoors on Diwali, though not peaceful, is still bearable for me. However, walking in the streets on Diwali is probably the scariest thing I’ve had to do over the years.
Maybe it’s just my neighbourhood, or maybe I’m just being overly paranoid and spineless, but walking on the streets during Diwali makes me feel like I’m tiptoeing in a minefield. With a vision like mine, I tend to panic every time I see someone with a sparkle/saatai/candle/agarbathi at hand. I don’t care what they hold, if it remotely looks like it can light something on fire, I stop in my tracks and pray that nothing explodes on me.
Let us not forget those bratty kids who show off their bravado by lighting a cracker while holding it in their hand and throwing it onto the streets. It annoys me when they don’t even bother to check if someone is on the street and just throw a lit cracker out of the blue without any warning. Alright, I’m being dramatic here. This happened just a couple times, but since I’m paranoid, I’m always on the lookout for such surprise attacks and that makes things worse.
You may be wondering why on earth I go out on Diwali when I’m clearly not capable of doing so. It is because a lot of my relatives live close by in a walkable distance and it is customary to seek the blessings of elders on festivals. I can’t really take an auto or a cab to go to the next street, can I? While I want to visit my relatives and spend time with them on a holiday, I’m also terrified. It would be plain weird to say, “I’m not going to visit you this year. Don’t mistake me, it is not the destination, it’s the journey.” Since I don’t have the heart (and the guts) to tell them that I don’t want to go to their house, I endure the walk.
Diwali is probably the only time of the year when I embrace my menstrual periods. In fact, every year I pray that I get my periods on Diwali so that I can be exempted from stepping out of the house. Waiting three days to gorge on the sweets and snacks is a small price to pay compared to my fear of crackers. Thankfully, I am not a man, because not only would I have to endure the never-ending mockery for being scared and hence not being ‘manly’ enough, but also I’ll have no valid excuse to get out of social obligations.
You may call my fears irrational and baseless. Before you mock me, take a moment to think how you normally wish someone on Diwali. Don’t you say, “Wish you a happy and safe Diwali?” If you have to wish for the safety of someone, then isn’t it clear that my fears, although exaggerated from a normal point of view, are quite valid?
Despite my worries and irritability, Diwali was still my favourite festival when I was a kid but as I grew up the excitement started waning. Nowadays, we can get sweets and savouries any time around the year. We buy clothes whenever we need or want. We can stream movies or shows whenever we want. Most of us eventually grow out of the crackers-loving phase. In my case, it was earlier than the others.
This is the case with almost all festivals though. As you grow older, you slowly stop getting excited about them. My problem is that, with the whole charm of Diwali diminishing for me over the years, I’m finding the noise of crackers more and more annoying.
It is a huge mystery why I still love Diwali. It may not be my most favourite festival anymore, but I still look forward to it and get very much excited about it. Just the thought of Diwali makes me flutter in happiness, even though it triggers my migraine and could potentially give me low-key panic attacks.
Anyway, that should explain why I was ecstatic about this year’s Diwali. I started from home early in the morning and returned in the middle of the night. I travelled safely in a car and could only hear the faint sounds of crackers outside. It was quiet. It was calm. It was bliss.
Whether you love bursting crackers, or lighting lamps or just chilling at home, I hope you had a wonderful Diwali, celebrating it just the way you like.
Note: I have nothing against people bursting crackers and am not asking anyone to stop. This post is just to express my frustration about crackers and my bewilderment about how I still love Diwali.