No, think about it. You have the Easters, the Ids, the Christmases, the assorted Guru Purabs, but do you ever, ever hear them make such an infernal racket the likes of which the Hindus do?
(And you’re not religionist if you’re bitching about your own religion. Or the one you were born into, at any rate)
A festival (and we goddamn NEVER run out of those) just has to peek around the corner, and we’re at it. Bhajans at fucking full volume, fireworks – at ear-splitting decibel-levels, processions that block traffic for miles around.
What is it with us? WHY must our all our celebrations entail behavior the barbarians would have frowned upon? Come on people, thirty-three-million gods – surely ALL of them can’t be deaf??
It’s…let me see, sixteen days since diwali and this weekend, this is the first weekend since the goddamn beginning of November, that I have been able to sleep.
And sleep deprivation does not a happy Chronic Skeptic make. I mope, I jump at loud noises (and since there are so many of those, I’m pretty much jumping every five minutes), and when I can’t take it any more, I lean out of my window, shake my fist and yell at the sons of Satan. Of course, since there’s no chance they can hear me from eight floors up, I’m just shaking my fists and screaming into the night. Which does nothing except worry the neighbours. There’s a reason why their children shrink away from me if I happen to meet them in the elevator.
I hate most Hindu festivals. I hate them in the bitchiest, most horrible, the-bloody-natives-are-at-it-again way. But diwali, now there’s something special. I hate the noise, I hate the pollution and there haven't been religious reasons for a long time now. Lakshmi - the moolah, the dough, cashola - has always come and gone as she liked and Ram, Mr. Maryada Purushottam himself, was too much of an asshole to have his return celebrated.
The sweets are too sweet (and there are too many of them), you have to smile at complete strangers and your goddamn inbox overflows with mass-forwarded diwali greetings (there are few things that piss me off more than mass-forwarded greetings. Honestly, is there a better way of telling me you couldn’t care less if you tried?).
Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Calcutta...it doesn't matter where you go, It's hell everywhere.
But I remember a couple of diwalis spent in Delhi. Oh they started off just the same. The kids would start lighting their phuljadis at around seven, and then the adults would join in, getting progressively noisier, drunker and more competetive as the night wore on.
"Achcha? Unhone do-hazaar-ki-ladi lagayi hai?? Hum paanch hazaar ki lagayenge!"
And they'd go off to collect all the ladis from the neighbouring houses, twist them into one massive string, and then light the fuse.
It would go on forever. The noise, like machine-gun fire.
But sometimes, if you stayed up long enough, till they ran out of their hazaaron-ki-ladiyan, and bombs and fizzy rockets. Till their savage children tired and trooped back into their houses, leaving the streets looking like a war zone. Till the silence slowly settled along with the fog and the smoke, you'd see what was the beginning of winter. You'd see it as it breathed into the night, cold, soft, misty around the edges. Sharp in your lungs, a slight sting your nostrils as you breathed in. You'd see it surround the diyas, the candles or the fairy lights - the ones on your balcony in sharp focus, the rest, fading into smaller and smaller circles of downy soft light.