LIGHT AFTER DARKNESS
Have you ever heard cliches such as “Every cloud has a silver lining”, “there is light at the end of every tunnel” and rolled your eyes. Irrespective of whether you have or have not, this story is about a girl who did. Her name is Deepa, after a traditional source of light, and she lives in a city that is known for its bright flashy lights. And yet, Deepa shunned the light around her and preferred darkness. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Well, read on to find out more.
Deepa, a bright student from a premier college in the city of Delhi, was returning home late one evening after attending a wedding along with her friend Shilpa. Shilpa noticed that Deepa seemed to be enjoying the dark stretches passing by more than the well-lit streets. “Hey Deepa, why do you enjoy the darkness so much? And I have always noticed that you wear mostly dark colours. Why didn’t you wear something bright at least for the ceremony today?”
Deepa said “You know Shilpa, I am quite contrary to my name. My name means light, but the light makes me dull and depresses me.” She did not tell her that there were times when the dark thoughts inside her head threatened to overcome everything bright about her. When thoughts of inadequacy and inferiority left her empty and scared.
Deepa always used to get off the bus a little away from her house. She loved passing by the small cafe swathed in semi-darkness, playing soothing music. She loved going back home to her family, who tried in every way to support her and cheer her up.
She reached home and found her sister, Priya, sprawled on the sofa with a book after an early dinner. “Wash your hands and come eat your dinner, Deepa” her mother said. She spotted a large container with her favourite gulab jamun on the kitchen counter. “Dad must have picked them up from the shop near his office”, she thought hungrily. Priya followed her gaze and taunted playfully, “Now she has the perfect excuse not to eat dinner”. Deepa entered her room and switched off the lights, leaving only a zero-watt bulb. She pointedly drew the curtains on a window facing a brightly lit house. Priya followed her inside saying “Now we know it is night after Ms Darkness arrives. Hey darky, do you remember it is Deepawali in a week’s time. What are you going to do for your festival-of-the-year?”
Deepa, in an uncharacteristically excited manner, exclaimed “Oh yes, of course I remember. I have so many plans and as always, you will not help me with any of them, that much I know”. Her mother said “I will help, my baby. Priya, stop teasing her.”
It was rather ironic that the darkness-loving Deepa loved Deepawali. She would count down the months, days, hours, minutes to the day the festival would dawn on them. She always had big plans and orchestrated the entire rigmarole of buying new clothes, crackers, lamps, flowers, streamers and food that is synonymous with the festival.
Finally, Deepawali was just a day away and college holidays had begun. Deepa was sitting under her zero-watt lamp making yet another list of purchases to be made, when Priya walked in complaining loudly, “I was at work and all you can do was blabber on and on about how it is Diwali tomorrow and how none of us is doing anything. Deepa looked up and said “Look at the decorations put up by the families in other flats nearby”. “So strange that Ms.Darkness is so excited about the festival of lights.” said Priya as she flopped on the bed. After much ado, the family went out shopping for last minute odds and ends. The environs were magnificent, with bright lights all around and the markets choc-a-bloc with shoppers.
So finally the festival day arrived. Since the morning, Deepa and her father were busy stringing up the lights and decorating the house, while her mother was cooking up a storm. Priya dutifully documented each moment, clicking photograph after candid photograph. Deepa was eagerly waiting for the sun to set so that the festivities would begin. She made sure everyone was wearing the new clothes she had chosen and laid out. She made a large rangoli and performed the puja. Priya, sprawled lazily on the sofa, remarked “See, this girl is everywhere today and is even able to tolerate the lights”
The whole society was aglow with electric lights in every conceivable shape and size. Deepa was standing outside taking in the sights, thinking to herself “ Hope this day never ends”. Her sister and parents joined her, all of them standing happily at the balcony watching the fireworks display in the sky.
Suddenly, to everyone's dismay, there was a power outage. The neighbourhood felt strangely dark with all the lights off. There were a few candles lit, but all the beauty of a few minutes ago had disappeared. Dad went out to check with the neighbours and came back saying “There has been a major breakdown in the power lines due to some reason. It does not look like the electricity will be back tonight.” Deepa, totally depressed, wanted to yell and shout angrily, “why did this have to happen today”. Mom went inside to look for candles. Many people from their respective houses came outside and were in a quandary, saying “What is Deepawali without lights.” Her sister said “Well, looks like Ms. Darkness is back home”. Deepa flashed her an angry look.
Just as everyone was preparing to go inside, there was a commotion outside the gates of the housing complex. A few children from the nearby slum were lighting small lamps and placing them along the walls. Many were in bedraggled clothes, but their luminous eyes and bright smiles made up for everything. The whole area slowly came alive with the string of traditional lamps, as many people from the housing society also joined the children.
Deepa watched the proceedings and thought, “These people don't even have means for livelihood and are surviving in such dire conditions, but they are still happy !!!” Then she realised that all these days, despite being endowed with everything bright and beautiful, she was nurturing darkness inside her. She looked at the little kids who had but a fraction of the privileges she enjoyed and took for granted everyday. How had they managed to convert what would have been a dismal and disappointing evening into one filled with laughter!
Priya walked up behind her with a plate of gulab jamun and said “Deepa, you might roll your eyes at this cliche, but now you know that lights bring a lot of positivity and hope. Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya”. Deepa hugged her sister, and both of them went inside to celebrate the most meaningful festival of lights ever.