This is going to disappoint Deb, I am afraid.
Here in Delhi, Diwali is dull, crowded, smoggy and very loud. Although Chinese-manufactured firecrackers have been banned, there were intermittent, eardrum-rupturing explosions through the night. I am not sure that this ordinance/ordnance chases away evil spirits, but it certainly kept me awake until 1am.
I went up on the roof to see what was happening while I ate dinner, but the views through the gloomy, polluted atmosphere were uninspiring. There were no firework displays. The exterior lights were just strings of tiny LEDs, hung from rooftops of the smarter buildings. “The Chinese lights are much better, they flicker on and off in patterns. Our Indian lights just go on and off,” said one of our drivers. Even the fancy shopping complex just had some dreary lanterns strung up in the courtyard. In fact, Diwali in Delhi is nowhere near as exciting as it is in Belgrave, Leicester.
Perhaps I don’t appreciate it because I am not Indian. Like Christmas, it is a time when families get together, give presents and eat. I am on my own this weekend, away from my family, with no gifts (apart from to myself from my forays on the Amazon.in website) and I am eating the same rice, lentils and vegetable curry that I eat every day.
I asked someone at work what he was going to do for Diwali and he said that he was going to gamble at cards.”Poker? Texas Hold ‘Em? Seven Card Stud?” I asked. “No,” he replied. “We play whist.” Hmm, whist doesn’t have the cachet that poker has nowadays. It’s the sort of game I’d play with my mother and granny 50 years ago.
The Festival of Lights signifies the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, hope over despair. Traditionally, the lights are small earthenware cups containing oil and a cotton wick. These lamps (diyas) burn until the oil is used up and then the flame dies, signifying that life comes to an end, the message being that you should live life to the full while you can.
Here are some lights on the stairs of our apartment block. And this is an image (rangoli) of a peacock made from coloured powder outside the door.
The air quality in Delhi deteriorates at this time of the year, mainly because farmers in neighbouring states burn off the stubble in their fields. But the volume of vehicles on the packed roads of the capital and the spontaneous combustion of the mountainous rubbish heaps also contributes. And now we have the smoke from fireworks added to the mix. The air quality index ranges from 0 – 500. The score has been rising in Delhi over the past ten days, with it exceeding 400 in some areas. This is enough to cause respiratory problems even in healthy people. My colleague has stopped jogging in the mornings as a result. Health experts reckon that 50% of heart attacks at this time are caused by air pollution (but I have no idea how they could make that calculation).
I was on the Metro yesterday and it was very unpleasant because of the crowd. But I was fortunate. In today’s Times of India this article suggests taking a First Aid kit with you if you travel because of the risk of injuries. One man even suffered from broken ribs in the crush to get on the train. It is no better in the ladies compartment, which is equally packed. Women with sharp elbows push and shove as if this is going to increase the space.
This is an amendment – the fireworks have been relentless this evening, the 30/31 October.Some more photographs.
On the last day of Diwali, people celebrate peace. Every year at the railway border between Pakistan and India in Punjab, the soldiers exchange gifts of sweets. With the continuing fighting across the Line of Control in Kashmir, I doubt that this will happen this year.
From untruth lead us to Truth.
From darkness lead us to Light.
From death lead us to Immortality.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.
A vedic prayer from the Upanishads