Shruti tossed around on her bed for the fifth time. It was 9 am already & she better sleep
now or else she would not be able to get up at 4 to go to her office. No it was not any silly boy
friend thoughts or serious problem. The thing that was keeping her awake was the sound of
crackers outside. Tomorrow is Diwali and as it always is, everybody has started celebrating the
festival of lights a week ago. Though Hindus get multiple festivals in the year, Diwali is indeed
special owing to various reasons. And not just Hindus, but people of other faith celebrate it
too because nobody wants to miss the fun in bursting crackers, visiting friends’ home, sharing
sweets & having a fun filled day. Added to that is the all week celebration.
She heard another cracker go & a boy’s voice yelling “Hey chotu move away from there. First
bhaiya will light it & when I run, you run too. Don’t come near ok?” Shruti controlled her laughter
but a smile spread across her face as she went back in time. Shruti’s family lived in Balaji Nagar
4th street. Everybody called it small India because it had about 26 houses & had occupants from
Punjabis to keralites, Christians to Iyengars, and Goldsmiths to locksmiths. Every festival was
special. There were about 16 odd children & they had the best of times. Especially Diwali. Plans
start 10 days before as to the crackers that needs to be bought, the dresses, and of course the
house wives busy in getting the ingredients ready for making Sweets & Snacks.
She came back to current time. These thoughts going astray were not helping her much in
sleeping. Sadness came upon her as she lay thinking about how excited she used to be for this
festival & how, now, she was fighting to shut out all the noises. It was Sri who was well known
in her street for the display of fireworks. His dad worked at the Income Tax Department, so was
his aunt. He always brought home huge packages of assortment of crackers. So it was natural
that Sri celebrated the best Diwali. The other kids including Shruti used to bank in on him if their
crackers get over. Shruti wondered how many years it has been since she even lighted a single
cracker. Why life changes so much? Things that were so important those days were no longer
important now. Or it would be apt to say they lose the competition in getting our attention.
She remembered about Florentia who lived two doors from her. Christian by birth but
Florentia would be part of all the festivities. Naughty & talkative, she is friend to everybody in
the street and often the favorite kid to all the parents. Her father was very strict & all she would
get in the name of crackers is Gun & roll caps, a packet of small, thin cracker called bijli those
days. Now Florentia had a curious habit. She never touches her crackers all through the week.
But a week after Diwali, when everybody is finished with their set of firecrackers she would
take her packet & start lighting them away. Every kid’s eyes will be on her envying her & she
would enjoy every bit of attention. Smart girl thought shruti. She caught up with her in Facebook,
Florentia now lives in California & shruti had no idea if she celebrates Diwali nowadays. She
knew people abroad never celebrate Indian Festivals in the same way; they dress up alright &
gather for special parties, as they stylishly liked to refer them as. It never had the Indian values
or the fun of gathering with your relatives, all the food, snacks, games & sharing with neighbors.
The evening before Diwali, people get their new dresses ready. Relatives arrive. Kids who
have been bursting cracker all along the week increase the tempo even more. People hardly
sleep the night thinking about all the excitement the next day. Children who cry to wake up
by 6 for school will be happy to get up at 4 am for Diwali! Oil bath, diwali medicine (which is
ayurvedic mixture of all herbs, Iyengars take it every Diwali, hence the name), new dresses &
the crackers gets going. Till 9. Then comes hot idlis & vadai, sumptuous breakfast. Sweets
are exchanged & people get tired of trying out the different snacks. Women sit down preparing
for lunch & men for a drink; it is one chance they get to drink, with kids out of the house &
wives giving them special permission to consume alcohol. And of course should include all the
programs on the TV. New movies, few people even book movie tickets & take their entire family
for a Diwali release movie. After all Diwali is one time when new movies released. It is always
a special occasion. Diwali night was even more spectacular with fireworks on the sky. You do
not need anything, it is enough if you just go to your terrace & watch it. Bright colors & different
types of crackers lighting the dark sky beautifully. It is indeed the best festival.
But is it anymore? thought Shruti. She heard her mom talking on the phone outside her
room, “No we cannot come all the way there Dada Ji”. “You know Shruti, she has office tonight
& again she has to go to office tomorrow. Yes, that is right!”, “Oh no! It is not like we do not want
to come..dada Ji…? Hello..?..Huh..He never listens!” grumbled her mom as she placed back her
phone. Shruti felt guilty, ever since she started working in this BPO, she never finds the time.
It is as if she is not who she is. She misses all the weddings, family birthday parties, shopping,
festivals. And because of her, her parents stay back as well. Here it goes. Another Diwali, her
parents as usual trying to convince her grandparents how they will not be able to make it this
year as well for Diwali to their native town. She works in night shifts & festivals hardly matter.
After all when she sleeps the whole morning shutting out the world around her & in the night
as well she stays put in that building where there isn’t even a window to peek through (Air
conditioned & comfortable it seems, best infrastructure gloats the company) Comfort? My ass!
She thought to herself. It was a modern jail. All these so called IT companies! In this pathetic life
she loses count of any festivals that happen.
She let out a sigh. What life is this? She cannot even enjoy anything. How much Diwali was
anticipated when she was young. Wearing your less than Rs 500 dress on Diwali and showing
off to your neighbors was much more exciting than wearing a saree now costing Rs 2000 to
office for the so called “Ethnic Day” they hold owing to Diwali & other such festivals. And silly
too, sitting in all that saree, make up, jewels & working on your system. Pathetic. No sweets, no
crackers, no friends, no family, no TV programs. Nothing. What a mechanical life. She heard her
mobile ring, it was Rishi. He called in to say hi and that he wouldn’t be coming to office tonight.
She knew he was taking off for Diwali & felt happy for him, that at least he could celebrate.
After all it isn’t going to be a lousy Diwali for her friend like hers. “So what is the plan?” Shruti
enquired happily, “Special Diwali huh?” He replied back that he is going to be just at home alone
with his brother working tonight & his parents away to Coimbatore to celebrate Diwali. He did
not get his leaves approved and so couldn’t join them.
Shruti realized that she had been mistaken when she thought it is only her who had a screwed
up Diwali to look forward to! To every youngster out there busily working in IT & BPO, Diwali
was like any other festival. They worked their assess off, file deliveries, team meetings, hitting
the targets, Client calls, trainings, Audits, Call escalations were more important than lighting up
a flower pot, eating mom’s vadai or looking at a cute girl or guy in the temple or bossing around
kids younger than us not to come near the “atom bombs” we were lighting, when we ourselves
will be dead scared to light it in first place! Life goes on. Shruti cursed herself for thinking
about all this; her cell phone showed 6 more hours before her alarm will go off. She has more
important things to do than thinking about all this. “Goodnight Shruti” she told aloud to the girl
who she remembered as someone little at age 8, with twinkling eyes & naughty giggle, waiting
for Diwali, knowing one day..May be one day this Shruti will be back.