I can’t stop smiling. I continue to walk. Paper lanterns pass over my head. An old man smoking a beedi puts up a No smoking sign over the table of fire crackers he’s selling. A woman arranges mud diyas she’s hoping to sell for three bucks a piece. Five, she quotes….fully aware, that her customer will bring her down to three anyway. The man I buy five oranges from twice a week is busy arranging some crates. Its not orange day today. I wait for my change as he balances one kilogram of apples against his two 500 gram weights. The apples are heavier than the weights today. Some days they aren’t. I never complain. I won’t today.
It’s the same street I take to office everyday. It’s the street I pass to get to the main road on my way from the Lower parel station. Something about it, for the last two days has been very different. And I can’t help but smile.
This is as close as I will come, to celebrating Diwali. And I know it.
I remember as a child, being spoiled with more crackers than I could blow up in a night. I remember my dad, lighting a rocket, not following his own instructions about ALWAYS pointing the rocket skyward. And I remember him lighting one that didn’t spiral up…but zoomed in the direction of a woman wearing a silk saree (boy, did she have a death wish!) and going straight into her petticoat. I remember watching this otherwise unathletic woman jump to heights no one thought she was capable of! And I remember, my mum warning dad about spoiling me. I remember dad spoiling me …when mum wasn’t looking. And then I remember not celebrating this festival, any festival for a really long time. I still don’t.
This year is different though. It’s my first diwali all alone. It’s the first time the house is all empty. Dad’s sailing. If I light a diya, there will be celebration. If I don’t, it’s just another day. One of many I spend alone. Talking occasionally to dad on the phone. Conversations, that much to my dislike always linger around weather or not I’ve eaten. And much to my dismay, the chat eventually turns to weather or not our maid has been coming on time. If I don’t light that diya, its just another day….
I buy my apples, heavier than the two 500 gram weights. I carry my bag on my shoulder, heavier by a kilogram. I wonder if I should buy a few diyas. I smile, amazed at how colorful this street looks today. I smile, knowing I will carry no part of this color with me as I walk past it…..
I’m told I have a live link to do about dhanteras. I’m in the backseat now. The camera person is talking to the OB engineer about where he can park the OB van so we can do the live. I’m keen on the Lokhandwala market because I have plans to watch a movie at a theatre that’s right next door. It’s 5.45. The live is at 7. I would be in time had I left about an hour ago. I left at about 5.40….
We’re in Bandra. We’ve decided to stop the white Indica we’re in and wait for the Ob van. Assignment from Delhi has called twice to check if we will do this live. One of several on the channel about how people are shopping this dhanteras. I’d been told just moments ago what dhanteras meant. I remember vaguely, my mum and dad using the word …when I was younger. When we celebrated.
Its quicker for us to move to the Ob than it is for the Ob to move to us. The Indica maneuvers through traffic a lot faster than our Innova OB. We ask the Ob van to stop wherever they are..and get the dish up. It takes about five minutes for the OB van to get signal be connected. We reach. The point is right outside the jarimari mata’s temple in Bandra. Great I think. And we do the live from the temple. The usual quirks. Some ha-ha moments. A two-minute contribution to a 24 hour news channel. Minutes later, I’m in a train…and it comes back to me. It’s after years that I’ve been to a temple on a festival. It’s something we did as a family. I don’t do it when I’m alone. And I can’t blame my dad for not finding a temple in the middle of the ocean while he’s sailing.
Not because I enjoy the scent of underarm hair from the man standing right next to me. But because in my own way…and without knowing…I celebrated.