Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Festival of Hope

It was the part he hated the most, as it was the steepest hill of the journey to the lake. The little boy, must be all of six, wearing khakhi shorts and a unclean white shirt, presumably his school uniform. They tugged the Ferris wheel, as the rays of the early morning sun blinded their path. The road was quiet besides the occasional humming of motorbikes that slowed down near them, to greet them with the customary hello.

Kaise ho Haribhai? 

Bhagwan ki kripa hain...

Karan? School vacations on is it?

Ji kaka.

For years the Ferris wheel was their source of income.  Passed down two generations, it had grown rather rusty, but was mended, oiled, and painted every time the season got them a little more money to spare. 
Baba? the little boy called out to his father. 

Can we buy some fireworks this Diwali?

Fireworks? Why? Don't you know we cant afford them? Its like burning money my son, and they hardly last for seconds.
Baba, I really would like to buy rocket this time. All my friends fathers are getting them rockets. The ones that light up the sky like a huge sparkler in yellow, red and green.

Those cost up to two hundred rupees, son! You know we simply cant afford that.

But Baba, how can everyone else buy them? 

The crop season was good this time, all the farmers reaped profits. Hopefully the tourists will come this season and we will have some money to buy some sweets for Diwali.

Baba, I don't like sweets. I want fireworks, the little boy said, with tears in his eyes.

They arrived to their spot near the lake, which had water filled to the highest point possible, which was indicated by the red pole in the middle of the lake. The monsoon was really good this year.

Haribhai, started to spin the Ferris wheel with his lean but strong hands, and the trinkets made enough noise to get the attention of the hawkers around, who greeted him with a smile. The early morning tourists walked up to him and their kids looked with amazement at the brightly coloured carriages. After a small negotiation, they struck a deal with him. He then fastened the metal rod, up went the kids, with squeals of laughter, and the momentum gave them butterflies in their stomachs.

Pop came the camera, and Haribhai would slow down the speed to ensure they got a good picture. The smiling parents would immediately look into the camera screen, to see if they got the moment right, and then went on to click some more.

Somehow the digital cameras these days, spoilt the fun of the old analog cameras. There was always a certain joy when the dad came home from work, and on his way had picked up the pictures from the studio, after they were processed, negatives made, and printed and neatly put in a envelope branded with the photo studios logo and details of how many pictures were printed in what size. Once in a while a few pictures would get overexposed and that part of life, was only stored in the memory of the people who lived it. Besides only thirty six pictures could be clicked, so each frame was carefully chosen, eyes would be kept open until you almost felt you couldnt hold them open anymore. 

Smiles would be held, until someone screamed... Ready? Cheese!

I always felt, it should have been freeze!

The envelope would be opened in front of the entire family, and one by one the pictures would be passed through hands, laughed at, smiled at and jeered at. The best one would be kept aside and been sent to the studio for 'lamination', and then proudly kept in the centre of the living room for guests to come and admire, followed by a proud conversation on how much fun they had during the last vacation.
Far better than just a folder in your computer now, or shown off on social networking sites, waiting for people's comments, or likes.

The little boy sat on the stone, and sulked. Haribhai really loved his son, and wanted to make this diwali special for him. he could have stretched himself and bough a few sparklers, but he knew that his son really wanted the rocket that lit the skies in the diwali nights.

After running the Ferris wheel for over three hours, the midday sun seemed harsh, and visitors trailed back to restaurants to grab a bite, ice lollies or a sherbet. 

The father and son too unpacked their meal which consisted of a vegetable bhaji, and a few chapatis. Both of them settled down the huge banyan tree and ate their meals.

Why aren't you eating?

I'm not hungry, replied the boy.

Don't take out your anger on food, its not the right thing to do. Haven't you learned in school?

He nibbled on the chapati, not saying a word.

They took their afternoon nap, and by four in the evening, the tourists came again and it was business as usual. 

The diwali season was always looked forwarded to by the villagers, as it was the time to save up for the leaner times of the year.

The jingling trinkets, which was a bunch of ghungroos that belonged to haribhais mother was sort of their advertising strategy, and attracted the children to look at the Ferris wheel and then eagerly at their parents. Haribhai considered it as a blessing from his mother and was superstitious that it got him luck.
They tugged the Ferris wheel back home and the dark night was lit by the fireworks. 
Fountains, chakris, sparklers, and bombs. 

Why dont you go with your friends and see the fireworks they have got? 

I want my own, the little boy wailed. he hadn't spoken to his dad all day after lunch and Haribhai was upset about his financial state, but put up a strong front. They had made a decent amount of money, that would help them last the cruel and deserted summers. He also had to buy the sweet boxes for his sisters and their kids, as it was customary to do so.According to his calculation, he would manage to buy a box of sparklers for his son, but the rocket would be impossible to afford.

Dinner was finished around the kitchen fire, and the usual chatter about the tourist traffic and seasonal predictions. 

How are your diwali decorations selling at the market?

Pretty good actually.

We managed to sell quiet a lot of the stock we made. Especially the traditional designs. We almost sold the entire stock, this time, his wife said excitedly.

Though the plain ones will have to be gotten rid of now, and they aren't in much demand.

She and her friends had started a group of housewives who were mostly free in the late mornings and afternoons to make diwali diyas, paint them and sell them in the market, and then split the profits.But she sensed that her husband was worried about something, so she didn't take the topic further.

Haribhai couldn't sleep that night. he had heard his son cry himself to sleep, quietly under the sheets, He didn't want his father to know. He understood his fathers financial state, but after all he was young, and had dreams of his own. 

An innocent minds dreams aren't restrained by possibilities and capabilities.

Haribhai simply didn't have the money to buy expensive rockets, but he had an idea.

The next morning, father and son, woke up, and left for the market as usual. The boy was still sulking.
Cheer up son, with Gods grace, we will try and have a good diwali this year.Diwali was a time for new clothes, sweets, friends, relatives, gifts, and fireworks. But not for everyone. For some its the festival of a reminder of their status in the society.

Its gotten late today, We won't take the Ferris wheel back home, I'll just lock it to the tree on the other side of the lake and we will leave. I'll return early tomorrow and get it.

It was the Hindu New Year the next day and the hawkers were in a hurry to leave for home after the market started getting empty. Haribhai asked the little boy to sit on the wall,while he tugged the Ferris wheel to the other side of the lake.

It was dark and lonely now, just an occasional sound of the water lapping by the shore of the lake, and in the distance he heard his father pulling the Ferris wheel, as it creaked, to the other side of the lake.
That's a rather far distance he is taking it too, maybe he is being extra careful that the village kids don't tamper with it before we get here tomorrow, the little boy thought to himself.

Suddenly in the quietness, Haribahi screamed.



The little boy leapt to his feet, worried.

Yes Baba, he said fearfully.

This one is for you beta....

And in the dark night. Little flames of light, circled in a bright yellow color. The reflection of it brightened the lake. And they all went round and round. Then suddenly one by one the little flames lit up and circled round, that resembled the rocket when it burst in the sky, only that this one lasted longer and looked more beautiful, in the reflection of the still lake. It suddenly appeared like as if a huge firework lit the landscape. It was the most beautiful firework ever seen by the boy, and the it just seemed to go on and on, unlike the rockets or fountains that fizzle in seconds.

The boy suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder, only to see his father smiling at him.

This was all I could do for you son. Happy Diwali.

The boy didn't say anything, and just hugged his father, and cried. I'm sorry baba. I'm sorry...

In the distance, at a fancy resort that overlooked the lake, a kid was staring outside the balcony of the suite he was living in and was watching the lights that lit up the lake.

What's that mom? 

It seems like someone has put lots of diyas on the Ferris wheel and is circling them round, son.

How silly is that?, he questioned sarcastically.

Do you want to go and light your fireworks? Your dad has got you lots of rockets. 

No mom, they're the boring ones.
I wanted the ones that whistle and sparkle, and all I have is a box of the ones that simply sparkle.

No comments:

Post a Comment