Deepawali (2016)


deepawali comes deepawali goes
i cannot say where
lamps are lit, patakis burn
fiery is the air
and in the bustle of the streets
is capitalism’s glare

(“no sign of rain,” my father says,
“how can we stand the noise?”
“perhaps it’ll rain upon the day”
i say in a doubtful voice
…i too once was an eager boy
caught up in the hail of noise)

i walk out of the movie hall
(the movie was all right…)
lamps and gaadis on the road
…it’s just a normal night
though here and there are scattered
papers – flowers – debris of the festival of light

amma calls to me and says
“come look, before the lamps blow out”
(four by the door, four out in front
eight tear-drop lights have been put out) –
i close the door and look again
(i want to see the lamps – nothing but)

ajji wants to tell me of
what were then the ways
(full water-pots around the house
ready for deepawali day…)
ayyo, nothing’s like it used to be,”
she says – with a heavy sigh

what’s a habba for, i muse,
what does it mean to pray
i do not know how it must feel
to be indebted to the clay –
i do not know what it is like
to feel a fáith in god’s ways

deepawali’s come deepawali’s gone
until the coming year
lamps are lit, patakis burn
fiery is the air
and in the bustle of the streets
is capitalism’s glare

Afterword:

I wrote this four years ago, almost to the day. While this year Deepawali’s celebrations will be more muted (with the pandemic’s looming presence and the government’s ban on fireworks), I am hoping there will still be light. Which, really, is what Deepawali is about. A happy Deepawali to all of you!

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