I used to find great joy in Diwali, I used to wait for weeks for the day to come— the evening, rather, when I’d indulge in the tremendous ecstasy I used to get from the sight of fire stars sparkling out of burning phooljharis, of joyful starlets emitting out of earthen tubris and later, feeling spent after having burst countless firecrackers on the end of a pyakati, or, jute stick (yeah, I wanted to have fun despite being afraid of fire), lay down on the mattress and watch the sky being constantly lit up with several sorts of firecrackers, and the haphazard booming, of a chocolate bomb here, a lonkapotka there.
Years passed and gradually the excitement started wearing off. In those turbulent years of waning juvenile jubilance, I used to question myself for feeling this way, used to try and cling onto the last bits of fleeting excitement that the festival of lights used to bring up in me. But ultimately I realised ultimately, its inevitability; fathoming ultimately, what had happened to my much elder cousins during their metamorphosis into adulthood, at a time when I was a child, bubbling with enthusiasm at the smallest of things. I’ve always taken to this as a misfortune, of not being able to hold onto the joy brought to u say simpler things, by letting ourselves simply get used to what brought us immense joy, in the early years of our life. I feel sad that despite understanding it (or perhaps because of understanding it), I couldn’t hold onto to the pleasures as well, becoming just another grumpy grownup.
Last year, this day was different. After a series of years crying in a corner on days of festivities, washed over by an incorrigible wave of depression had made me think like this would never change. Mostly my loneliness arose out of a general attitude of being introvert, that lessened my chance at being social. Locked up in an envelope of forced celebration with my parents, alone, at an age where I’d otherwise be out and celebrating my young years with friends, I felt pretty isolated. My mirthless cousins have meanwhile grown up old enough to get married and have infants whose bottomless enthusiasm often gets on my nerves. Oh, and I’m not a baby person, at all.
So, my introversion and isolation made me reach out to the other, and much artificial world of being social, connecting over with likeminded people online, from thousands of miles away. And I had also committed an involuntary mistake, that of growing irrefutably attached to one particular person, which is what made my last Diwali different, happier and better than any of the recent years’. Connecting over video calls in an attempt to curb the enormous distance between us, I spent my Diwali with him, not shedding a tear, for the first time in a while, actually enjoying the act of bursting firecrackers, here at my end of the world, as he mirrored my actions by bursting some at his of the world, in Seattle, in a different geographical time of the day, sharing the same moment. Perhaps Eliot’s line never was so apt in practicality for me as it was then- “To be conscious is not to be in time”, and I lived my time, my small bubble of a moment, constantly being threatened by the thorns of consciousness, that, quite possibly, my next Diwali would be far from being the same, maybe we’d become strangers, or maybe we’d get lucky enough to spend it together, hand in hand, sharing the same geographical space, and not miles away, in a different time of the day.
I remember how wide my grin had been. How it almost hurt after smiling that much, being that happy, followed immediately by the fear that this would all go away and my life will return to being mundane the same way, again. I had enjoyed a lot, last year. Lighting up sky lanterns, and having then fly out into the abysmal sky, into an atmosphere I share with him, although oceans away, and knowing full well, that the warmth and love of my lantern will never reach his heart.
And quite predictably as months passed from last fall’s evening of lights and revelry, I had to live life for real, which isn’t so airy at all, living through hurtful heartbreaks and separations, inevitable. We lost contact, eventually. All our dreams, our plans, lying unattended and unfulfilled, to be forgotten, in the long run. I guess some dreams do, after all, just sags like a heavy load, and never explode. Perhaps because these are little dreams of selfish little pleasures in a secret wish to swell the heart up with happiness and make the brief stay at the inn of life, feel worthwhile.
I was very reluctant for this year’s Diwali, from the very start. I was afraid it would hurt like a fresh wound, pushing me over the edge and take refuge in shedding tears, to satiate my empty heart with some feeling- sorrow and melancholy, if not joy. All the fear because, maybe, I don’t know my own heart.
But now that this day has been over, I feel actually very relieved, for I didn’t have those painful upheavals and wrenches in my heart, that I was so afraid of. I didn’t have the painful lump form at the back of my throat, threatening my lachrymose and distorting my voice, making my moroseness transparent, something I was definitely very afraid of. A vague essence of nostalgia lingered about me, all day. A reminiscence of the day as it had been, of the pictures we had formed of the day this year tentatively being. But tears didn’t threaten me, nor did sorrow. I definitely had nothing to feel ecstatic or elated about- I abstained from any fireworks, like I have been doing for the past few years now, but I didn’t have my downward spiral pull me down to the gnawing depths of a suffocating brawl with depression, something I dread, a dread which has remained my constant. But, thankfully, time played its part really well and hardened my heart with a strong apathy, the safest armour for the most vulnerable. Today, I was indifferent inside out, towards, everyone and everything, as I continued gazing at the gently flying sky lanterns, failing to let my mind flicker with it far far away, or fell anything from the heart, at the sight of it. I don’t have any answer to my own question— have my lost my inability to feel subtle things for better or for worse?