The Festival of Light

It’s Diwali. Happy Diwali everyone & Nutan Varsh Abhinandan (Happy New Year)!

Fireworks are fizzing around outside lighting up the skies in my neighbourhood. Friends and family have sent me texts, emails, shared their wishes via status’ on FB and Twitter. Sweet centres are making a killing in samosa sales as families indulge in their favourite delicacies. Temples are filled with devout worshippers, eager to offer their latest prayers to deities. And all around the world people are coming together to celebrate the festival of light, a celebration and a festival that has survived and endured many generations.

Amidst however, all the colours and the fireworks. I got a text, from a very good friend of mine.

“[I] Remember as a kid, Diwali used to mean something to me. It was an event to cherish, and as I’ve aged, more questions arose. The commercialism of festivals..Obamas endorsement of the festival brought temporary positive vibes..but that hasn’t lasted long. Mum wants to do chopra pujan but my participation [with] even that is with reluctance. Cynicism has changed my outlook”.

I was pleased to read this honesty. It tells me that there are still those of us who hold onto our rational and critical thinking enough to analyse the current state of affairs. The honesty that leads to uncomfortable looks, questions and discussions.

What is the point of all this fanfare?

Diwali is the festival of light, celebrating the power of good over evil. And how do we celebrate it today? Put candles outside house. Check. Buy fireworks from Tesco/Asda. Check. Pray to God for blessings for a good year ahead. Check. Buy jalebis and other sweets at sweet centre. Check. Text people in my contacts list a generic message. Check. Post up a status to show my good side. Check!!

Let me cut a piercing arrow through all of this. What exactly do we think we’re celebrating here? On the surface level we may tick all the boxes of being a good ‘Hindu’ by going through this robotic checklist every year, but if we look deeper. Have we understood the very clear message of this festival? Give it some thought: Why IS there a whole festival revolved around celebrating LIGHT?

Since this is my analysis, let me offer my thoughts. For me, Diwali is a reminder of the power of light and this day is a symbol, reminding me of my purpose and my footprint in the world.  Rama was so devoted to his ideals, so passionate and committed to staying true to his morality that not he became a living walking talking embodiment of those ideals. The legend of Rama tells us – be a symbol of light in the world. Make your existence such, that the very fact that you exist day to day, spreads light to other people. A light and a presence that touches beyond the very narrow confines of your own self interests and reaches so far that it surpasses millenia.

Light is a very powerful force. If you take even the tiniest candle into a dark room, instantly – the darkness flees. But you can’t do the opposite. You can’t go into a room full of light – wisdom, knowledge, kindness – and take any amount of darkness into it. So for me, Diwali teaches us to become a living, breathing human embodiment of light. Through every fibre of who you are – from your thoughts, to your words, your action, your career – through every choice you make.

Use this Diwali to remind you not only to light a candle or set off a firework, but to light up your own life and by doing so, the life of those around you.

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