A typical abcd (American born confused desi), my daughter asked me yesterday ‘Amma, what is Deepavali?’ The first answer that popped into my mind, of course, was that it is the day that Indians all over the world make lots of deep-fried savories and sweets and indulge themselves in to gluttony. When my kid put her hands on her waist and glared at me, I realized that I had inadvertantly voiced my thoughts. Chastising myself, I quickly scanned through my mental pages for that story of the death of the demon Naragaasura that led to the celebration of Deepavali and explained to her that the day symbolizes sweeping away the dark and bringing the light into our homes. When she nodded and walked away, I patted myself on the shoulders (because my back is wayyyyy in the back) for that grown-up like answer.
Still, that question lingered on my mind throughout the day. Yet another Deepavali has come by and as always, I have been focusing too much on the frills of the festival ordering sweets and snacks, buying new clothes, making plans to celebrate with firecrackers and getting together with friends and family to party. Where in all this is the sweeping away of the dark and the evil?
This question left a very distinct uneasiness in my mind yesterday. I went through the day taking comfort in the routine of washing dishes, doing laundry, making pav bhaji and taking classes all the while knowing that I must face the question eventually. I even made it to bed last night successfully feigning happiness. The churning of the stomach as I woke up today told me that it was time to deal with it and take stock of all the dark that hides in me.
Ego, I fear, is the worst dark in me. This little monster has had a free run in my life for way too long. This Deepavali, I will try to sweep it out and brave this world without that protective cloak. My inspiration to lead life with a willingness to humiliate myself actually comes from an unlikely source – my dog Leia.
There is truly no dog in this world that she cannot be friends with. She can browbeat every aggressive dog out there just by being passive. You growl, she will bring her best toy and share with you. You kick at her, she will come and lick your face and wag her tail. You intimidate her by any hostile behavior, she will completely ignore that and call you to play. What can one do in the face of such passiveness except offer a hand in friendship? There must be some truth to Gandhiji’s strategy of winning a war through non-violence. This Deepavali, I take an oath to emulate Leia and follow her strategy of meeting all hostility with friendship.
Ego is just the beginning of a long list of dark in me. Impatience, a tendency to procrastinate, a temper hot enough to sting those around me, a fear of breaking conventional boundaries, a fear of confrontations, an almost impossible set of expectations from my children, a loving husband that I constantly take for granted, my family by birth and marriage that I love very much but never take any initiative to keep in regular touch…….my mile-long flaws glare at me from the mirror.
If you expect me to conquer all of them in one Deepavali, you are the uncrowned leader of the LaLa land. J I doubt if my heart can take annual introspections like this so I am happy that after ego, I still have enough evil lined up to cover a decade of Deepavali festivals.