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(Dis)Enchanting Fireworks— Why Diwali is Beautiful No Longer

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Edited by: Lavanya Goswami

A hyperactive little sibling was not the wake-up call she had asked for. Why had early morning birdsong been replaced by her baby cousin’s incessant chatter? She groaned while massaging her temples. The child vibrated beside her with excess energy and here she was, barely able to grunt as a response. 

It was Diwali, the festival that brought with it, ordered human chaos. She had been put to work by her parents for an entire week under false promises of a sumptuous feast— exactly how many times did the floor need to be wiped clean before she could have a bowl of kheer? 

A hypersonic squeal had her raise a pillow and the miscreant rushed out from her room, giggling. A mental reminder of the imminent wrath of the elders of her family, at her sloth-like behaviour, had her get up from bed with a silent curse. One could not look half-dead on a joyous family occasion where all had gathered to make merry under the watchful gazes of their ancestors.

***

Satisfaction thrummed through her as she lit the last earthen lamp on the balcony ledge; it was finally over. The cotton wick blazed high as the flame greedily guzzled down the oil in the vessel. A familiar festive sight of glowing golden strings and flickering diyas around a two-storied house with a front yard, greeted her as she looked around.  All this effort for metaphysical entities who couldn't even offer constructive criticism on her somewhat symmetrical earthen lamp placements!  Something blurred in her periphery and she squinted at it— was that a mud ball? A stink bomb? A dark object hurtled towards her and she had the very heroic response of going down with her hands thrown over her head. Had she finally gone too far, grumbling at the gods on Diwali of all days? 

The back of her neck chilled as fur brushed against her skin. Something alive swooped away from her crouched form as it headed straight for the brick walls festooned with electric lights. The deadly collision was avoided by a sharp swerve and it flew away in a zig-zag path. A black animal that could fly… had that been a bat? To have come near such a violent death because of the oasis of light she had created, the poor nocturnal creature! 

***

Her cousins shone like jewels, as they posed for photographs in their bedazzling attire. She stood to the side, in timeout for having made too many weird faces in their attempts for insta-perfect posts. Wary of the way their silk hems flirted with the flames of the diyas while they twirled about the courtyard, their shrill shrieks tested her already weak self-control as she moved farther away from them. She was hungry and irritated— calling them banshees would be a sure-fire way of getting chased around. She’d rather be patient and get to indulge in delicious food instead of unnecessary exercise. 

The yellow-orange fire of the earthen lamps made her think of the jalebis waiting for her on the dining table. She moved closer to the neatline of mesmerising colours arranged at the brick boundary of the courtyard flower beds. Flickers of light danced on red tiles as shadows shifted in the tall blades of bottle-green grass. Something glittered as she drew near and she bent down to the lamps, her hunger forgotten. Had someone dropped an earring in the lawn?

A closer look revealed paper-thin transparent wings drenched in oil and a charred, stiff body. It was a dragonfly, tangled in the white threads of the lamp wick. Refracting light from the burning cotton created rainbows on its oil-soaked corpse. To have lost its life in the pious flames of Diwali, what an honour!

***

The coarse fur of her dog scratched against the inside of her arms as she hugged the poor dear’s trembling body. His head was hidden beneath his paws while she shielded him from the open. Each new flare-up of colour in the blue-black sky made him shiver and really, was this worth it? 

The fireworks were breathtaking, no doubt. Sparks of gold and streaks of blue, loud red and steady orange, sudden silver-green explosions— everyone was in awe of these bursts of metal and flame. Yet all she could think of was the smoke that followed and the noise that wreaked havoc on her dog’s senses.

His body gave a violent lurch as a gold flower burst open beside the moon and she held him closer. Why not appreciate just the silent stars of the night instead of these loud harmful light shows?

***

Her limbs ached as she wiped off the make-up from her face. The sounds of fire-crackers echoed in her empty room and she dreaded the dull hazy days that would follow. The human festival of light left irreversible marks on the changing world every year. They lit flames for the triumph of good over evil in Diwali, but what good remained in the current times? 

A heavy lump lodged in her throat— in some ways, she too was a part of the sheer arrogance and entitlement each person felt when they thought that they had a right to revel on such days. How far could one go in the name of human culture and custom? As a people, they were so attached to their traditions and their interests, that they often forgot about the others they shared the earth with. The planet was not a playground for them and each human action had considerable consequences. Her reflection in the mirror was a grey silhouette smudged in gold, the fading glory of a thing of the past... 

Sthitee is a writer of the content team of the Her Campus Ashoka chapter and is in her first year. She is a huge fan of coffee and loves talking about how awesome nature is. Bribing her with pictures of baby animals is very effective and she's always on the look out for book recommendations.
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