“I think that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” Vincent Van Gogh’s words ring true as the lights of Diwali spread love and affection, bringing on the smile on every face.
One more Diwali had come and gone.
It was not yet six, stars were still up there in the sky, and there was a slight chill in the air. Suddenly sleepy eyed cows erupted from some corners of the neighborhood, and converged on the scene, looking balefully at me. Was it my imagination or did I really see an admonition in their eyes?
Why did you create such a ruckus last night? Is this what they were trying to say? Before I could stutter in ineffectual self-defense – ‘I did nothing, just lit some candles, the others did it,’ a couple of mangy little dogs also appeared, looking at me in a petrified manner , probably wondering why the humans were bent on creating such a hullaballoo?
Suddenly someone burst a firecracker. Some over enthusiastic humans had been bursting cracker bombs the whole night, not at all bothered by the plight of the old, the infirm, the dogs and cats. Jumping out of their skins, the mangy dogs suddenly looked mangier, and scampered away from the scene, their tails between their legs.
As I walked a little further, I glimpsed the remains of last night’s celebration in front of many apartments. A cow heading towards the debris and sniffing it made me shudder. Before she could gobble something up, her eyes went towards her calf, which was standing some distance away, looking absolutely lost and forlorn. Giving up her plans, she sauntered towards her calf and started licking it all over its small frame. Now there were two of them looking around with a forlorn air, but cocooned in love, nonetheless.
Now it was the turn of the rag pickers to make their appearance – a tiny boy and a girl. Armed with a stick and a sack, the boy, bending over a pile of rubbish, was poking at yesterday’s remains, while his tiny sister hopped next to him.
“Arrey yeh dekh!” He exclaimed, scrambling to his feet and heading towards his sister with an unlit annar and a packet of phooljharis, which the owners had forgotten to light yesterday night. The smiles on the faces of the brother-sister duo, were so sparkling that they could have illumined an entire colony. Their eyes fell on me, and they first smiled a trifle sheepishly and then openly.
“Namaste aunty,” the boy said and the girl smiled a shy smile, her eyes refusing to leave the booty in her tiny, grimy hands. Then putting their hands around each other’s waists, the two walked on towards the next building, in search of more treasures, which would lend some sparkle to their dismal lives.
On Diwali eve, as I was rambling outside my house, I had seen Nazneen talking to the elderly lady who stayed all alone in her house after her son had shifted to the States. Nazneen, the pretty girl with the most beautiful smile, had just occupied a flat on the third floor in our building. “I think that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” Seeing the girl and the old woman together, I was reminded of this Vincent Van Gogh quote. I looked at her as she kept some diyas on her wall, the woman blessed her endlessly, her gnarled hand not leaving her head.
“Aunty, making these diyas is my hobby, so I thought of getting some for you,” she said, smiling, and putting some more lit diyas on her barren wall.
“Bas aap aisey hi dua kertey rahiyega,” [Keep blessing me like this], she said, with a smile. I felt that if Nazneen smiled some more, the old, and lonely woman wouldn’t need any diyas.
“Actually, my son was supposed to come home for Diwali, but he did not get any leave ….” The old lady’s voice trailed off with a wistful yearning.
“Hum hain na,” Nazneen said, smiling again, dispelling the drabness of the surroundings, like a magician, which I was convinced, she really was.
“Diwali Mubarak ho aapko, I will come again,” she said, waving to her and smiling expansively in my direction.
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