Spirit of Diwali: Page 3
Chandan got up with a start. Did he actually hear someone crying out in pain or was he imagining things?
“Aah!” he heard the sound again. He scrambled up and went out. An old man was lying sprawled on the ground. He must have been around seventy. He had white unkempt hair and an equally white straggly beard. He was wearing a white kurta pajama. Chandan helped him up and made him sit on a wooden bench.
“Th….thanks beta,” the old man said. He had a soft, gentle voice. Right opposite the dhaba was Vimal cinema hall which was brightly lit up. As the lights fell on the old man’s face Chandan noticed that he was blind.
“Baba what are you doing all alone at this time of the night?”
“Beta, I am alone.”
“Why? What about your wife, children?”
“I have no one. My two sons kicked me out of the house after my wife’s death two years ago.”
“Where do you stay?”
“You know the Jain temple near the main market?”
“There is an ashram in its premises. I stay there with many others like me who have nowhere to go.”
“But what are you doing at this hour so far away from your ashram?”
“Beta, today is Diwali – the festival of joy and happiness, of brightness and radiance. How can I sit cooped up inside a room? I have come out to enjoy.”
“But Baba, you can’t even see. What can you enjoy?” Chandan blurted out realising too late that he had probably been too brutal.
“Beta, who says I can’t enjoy? I can’t see with my eyes, but I can hear, I can smell, I can breathe and above all I can feel the festive spirit which is all pervasive. The sound of the bursting crackers, the smell of the mouth watering sweets, screaming, shouting and merrymaking of the children, the brilliance of the millions of tiny lamps reflecting the light of love, of knowledge, of happiness… You want me to miss all this? Diwali is the festival of festivals. It tells us about sharing love and spreading joy and happiness. That is why I go out in the streets. See my pockets are bulging with small packets. These contain sweets. The entire year I try to save every pie. And on Diwali, using whatever savings I have, I buy sweets. I go around in the streets and distribute these sweets to people who are less fortunate than I am.”
Chandan stared at the old man in amazement. For three years he had been wallowing in self pity, cursing Diwali, cursing God and cursing fate. He was young, healthy and he had his entire life ahead of him. He had so much to look forward to. Yet he had made his present wretched and miserable by weeping over the past.
In stark contrast to him was this old and feeble man. He was blind, frail and almost at the end of his long and tortured life. He had nothing going for him. Yet he was out there doing his little but to spread happiness and joy.
The old man got up.
“Achha beta, thanks for your help. Take this,” he thrust a sweet packet in Chandan’s hands. “May Goddess Lakshmi’s blessings always be with you.”
The old man hobbled off on his mission. His words kept echoing in Chandan’s mind…
Since that lonely Diwali night whenever Chandan felt down and out he would think of the old man. His kind face would flash in front of Chandan’s eyes, his gentle voice would ring in his ears and Chandan would be filled with fresh hope and a new to resolve to take on the world.