Would it be criminal if I say I hate Diwali?
Hate is a strong word. Let’s just say I’m not sure how to react to this so called ‘festival of light.’ When we were kids, we were obsessed with the bombs during Dewali, as it is pronounced in Assamese. There were chilli bombs, they were the mild ones. There were the jagmag bombs, which made big noises, there were those fireworks sticks we called phooljharis, and so on and so forth. Those were the innocent days when bombs were the plaything that our mother brought for us (My father thought it was a waste of money; now, I think the same). Those were the innocent days when bombs were the sources of entertainment; they did not kill people.
Then in the 1990s, the brighter calm of the socio-political scene of Assam was overtaken by the gloom of insurgency. I was lucky in the worse sense of the word. I did not get to see the carnage of those days first hand. My ancestral home was in Nalbari district, the hub of the ULFA movement during its heydays; I had seen a few of their members during our visits to our village, but we did not have any direct contact with the members of the organisation. We lived in the next district, Barpeta. We lived in the district headquarters. It was safer. The villages were the vulnerable places and the highways too, and the bus journeys. I was lucky I did not have the chance to see a bomb blast scene, but it was happening everywhere around us, in the places I knew and would visit, I had heard the sounds of bombs blast, and I had seen the picture of mangled bodies on television, in newspapers. Those were the bombs that killed. Those were the bombs that maimed an entire generation.
It was like waking up from a sweet dream. After whatever you had seen, you could not get back to sleep and travel to that dream world again. The door to innocence was shut.
Like so many people in the neighbourhood, in the district, we had stopped bursting firecrackers, making noises; the whole idea was laced with bad memories.
Yet, how can you dismiss an age-old tradition for a few years of disruption?
And firecrackers, those bombs, were not an Assamese tradition at all. Instead of Diwali, we celebrated Kali Puja, which always took place one day before Diwali, on the moonless night, on one of the darkest nights of the year.
Our family is the follower of the Shakti cult; we worship the Mother Goddess, Kamakhya and her various incarnations. Therefore, Kali puja is an important event.
On the Diwali day, we plant a banana sapling in front of the gate, and during evening, we light earthen diyas, and there would be no noises, perhaps peals of joyous laughter.
“Asato maa sadgamaya
Tamaso maa jyotirgamaya
Mrityor maa amritan gamaya
Om shaanti, shaanti, shaanti...”
(Lead us from falsehood to truth, from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to Light, from death to Immortality. Om peace, peace, peace.)