Diwali – Festival of Joy, Then & Now.

The day before yesterday as I was with my son in the market to buy some firecrackers, frankly, the rates I heard of all those crackers were so high that for a moment I started supporting firecracker ban.

Ban or no ban, I support firecrackers during this festive period of light, Diwali. All reasons are given justifying the ban, the main being that it creates pollution. Why not ban private vehicles and promote public transport system, after all, they create more pollution, round the year,  than the firecrackers, that are anyways now getting beyond the reach of the common man due to steep costs. Somehow, I feel that there is a deep conspiracy to malign all Hindu festivals, The Ganesh Utsav is criticized for the pollution that the idols made of Plaster of Paris create, The Holi, The Dahi Handi and almost all festivals. No, I am not a hardcore right winged activist, but most certainly, something malicious designs do exists.

The crackers that I saw, made me nostalgic while returning home with my son, my pocket was lighter by few thousand rupees,  I told him that during our times’ life was so different, it was so easy and uncomplicated. 

The Diwali was and still is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in our country.  Each person ensures that he celebrates this festival with all the kind of resources he may have, sometimes even by borrowing it from others. But, the occasion is never left uncelebrated. 

As kids, Diwali was special, for it brought a pretty long vacation. We would ensure that our houses were cleaned, as kids, we would too participate in the coloring of our houses, my dad, was a multi-tasking person, he would take me as his assistant in coloring the house. The walls were painted in colors mixed with simple distemper, to cut costs. We would get new dresses, the markets, the streets, the shops, the vendors all overflowed, there used to be a sense of celebration in the air. 

Then just a day or two before Diwali, my dad would me take to the market to buy crackers, he was an economical person, he was aware that if the firecrackers were brought earlier, the entire stock would get finished before Diwali. To compensate late purchase, he would buy the toy gun with the cracker rolls. There were rolls and small round boxes with contained round crackle called as “tikli”, those who have lived those days will certainly go back in times and recall the joy of those simple things. Our ingenuity would take flight while playing with those fake guns, each one would become a cop or a hero, Amitabh or Shashi Kapoor or Dharmendra, you had choices then.  We would take two small chips of stone and put some ammunition in between and tie them tightly with thread, those would become our hand grenade or “apti bomb”. We would arm ourselves with these ammunitions and split into teams and fight with each other, till we end up with our ammo.  The animosity ended with the ammo though.

Then on the D Day that is the first day of Diwali, we would get up at around 4.30 am in the morning, bath with “Moti” Soap, we still do, in fact, I do believe that improper branding restricted Moti soap only for Diwali occasion.  The Diwali Sweets or faral as we call it here would get distributed in neatly arranged places, there were around 21 houses in our chawl and mom would ensure that I distributed sweets to all. Neighbours would also reciprocate similarly.  Those days, the community camaraderie was visible all over, if some house did not celebrate Diwali due to some reasons like death of family member, close relative etc, the entire locality would ensure the steady flow of dishes and would ensure that the house is not left out.  This is not seen nowadays, we are growing more self-centric and confined and restricted only to our own house and welfare of our family members.  Those were days of poor people with rich hearts and now its exactly the other way round.  However, there still are very few good souls left even today, which leaves a sense of hope and sanity in this mad rush of self-serving never-ending greed.

Rewind 80s, we used to hit our ground at 6.30 with the firecrackers, the lavangi, the taj mahal, the bhuyi chakra, the pavus, the surusuri, the snake that would wind into a black coil and emit the strange odor. The rassi bomb used to bring a sense of awe for the powerful sound it created and was usually limited to grown-ups. Then there were some lightworks in the sky with rockets. But, the cost factor meant that we could afford very less of those luxury then. 

The bhau beej came during these festive periods and was yet another happy occasion. Relations have now taken twists and turns, most of us celebrate most of these occasions more on Facebook and WhatsApp than in reality.  The faral that mom used to prepared, add to it the gift boxes and sweets that the neighbors and relatives would bring added more joy.  As the festival ended and the faral containers would start emptying the taste of those lingered even more and we would yearn for more.  

Thankfully, even today, Diwali has not lost the sheen, though the costs have increased, the joy and the happiness have remained same as it used. The festival has commercialized more with corporates pitting in with the launch of new offers and products etc.  But, this will be the festival I would love to celebrate again and again and again.

Wishing Happy Diwali to all my readers, May the lights of Diwali usher in more happiness in your lives.

Signing off for today.



Neither Ram Nor Rahim

Every time when our country shows many a reason to feel proud, something nasty, something outlandish happens.  While we laud our progress, the economic progress, the unified & undeterred approach displayed to a middle kingdom mentality nation called china in Doklam. Just, when we feel that now we are really progressing, something nasty happens.

Just ten days after our Independence day, today the northern states of India were virtually locked down by a rapist, a self-proclaimed godman Baba Ram Rahim of Dera Saccha Sauda.  Some people exhibit their virtues by their physical appearance too. This man looks an out and out thug.  In the past, he has been accused of murder charges too, today he was convicted on rape charges.

The case in which he was convicted today dates back to 2002 when an unnamed letter complaining sexual harassment in the Ashram of this god-man was sent to the then Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Atalji ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry against this self-styled godman. The CBI inquiry and the court case took long 15 years. By then the clout of this man increased, political support kept on coming as his followers “premis” as they are called kept swelling. 

There have been many instances of wrong doings of these Babas and other self-proclaimed godman of all religions. The case of Asaram Bapu and his son, the Rampal episode, where the godmen raised his own mini militia are well known. This particular Ram Rahim was different from the above lot though. He was flamboyant, he exhibited the pop culture of the West, his dressing sense, though nonsensical, was all jazzy. He rode in his designer SUVs and jets. He even acted, directed, produced, wrote some super idiotic films. Thanks to his political connections at the right places, all his super stupid films were made tax free!!!.  The twitter profile of this godmen attributes him to be Spiritual Saint / Philanthropist / Versatile Singer / Allrounder Sportsperson / Film Director / Actor / Art Director / Music Director /  Writer / Lyricist / Autobiographer / DOP (sic). He should now add another feather in his cap and add a title in his twitter biography “convicted rapist”.  

The law though excruciatingly slow finally reached till this Ram Rahim.  A judgment was expected today, and the Baba was supposed to be present during the judgment.  He may be a godly figure to his ‘premis’, but, in judicial parlance, he was just a rape accused and judgment was to be passed. If he was a real guru, as he showcased, he should have shown humility in his demeanor. But, he rode in a cavalcade of nearly 200 SUVs and showed his might. All his supporters, which numbered in lakhs came out on streets to obstruct the process of law. Section 144 was imposed, which meant that people should not assemble in groups. But, section 144 was clearly and deliberately ignored, the state government too did not bother to take all the precautionary measures. In fact, it played cozy as he had a huge following and one word from him could sway the electoral dreams of many politicians. The Courts remained firm, as always. They ensured that this man needs to be treated just like any other ordinary criminals.  The baba was convicted and was sent to jail. Soon, violence erupted these “premis” attacked government and private properties and around 30 people lost their lives and hundreds got injured.  The entire government machinery crumbled on its knees to prosecute this criminal. Offices, Schools, and establishments were closed, the trains were not plying, the internet services were cut off.  The kind of arrogance and defiance to norms, this particular accused showed was unprecedented.  

The question that arises that even in this 21st century, how can we be still so blind faithed that we blindly follow these godmen, most of whom are not more than leechers. They build a huge fiefdom of theirs, become filthy rich and powerful and tend to think that now that the rulers bend before them, they have become mightier than law. How can we ignore the fact that these very people who preach righteousness, humility, austerity are devoid of these virtues?

On a lighter note, i sometimes tell my son that he should consider becoming a godmen, for that will usher him name and fame without much efforts.  All one needs to have is a flowing beard, wear long robes and utter some mantras which nobody understands. Afterall, a very learned civil servant bows before the lesser educated politician, who happens to be his boss, the politician ends up bowing before these godmen after all.  

A true guru will never be crazy for any earthly possessions, he won’t crave for money, fame, power or other vices. But, a true guru is a rare commodity these days so the market will be abundant with these fake ones. Remember, as long as they have a market, these babas of all hues will crop up to fail you again and again. 

The deeds of this particular baba have neither made Ram nor Rahim proud, for neither of these souls preached what was practiced today.