gauri nadkarni choudhary
An unexpected encouter with a psychologist
It was around this time last year. The beginning of the festival of lights. The market place was
crowded. The streets full of shoppers and hawkers. The footpaths were lined with street vendors,
selling everything from lamps, to colourful rangolis, to bright lanterns. They called out to their
customers and haggled with them over price.
She stood in a corner with a handcart of diyas and colourful rangolis. She did not call out to anyone
instead choosing to smile at those who passed by. It was an almost toothless smile on a deeply
wrinkled face but it was the most gorgeous thing I had ever seen. I went up to her and asked the
price of diyas. She asked me how many I needed. Only two I said. I am not big into celebrating
Diwali. Just a couple for the front door. She looked unhappy. So I offered to buy six if she was selling
by the dozen. She however continued to frown.
“Why do you light the Diyas?”, she asked. “Is it just to blend in with others?”. Probably that was true. Somehow Diwali had lost its charm. It was no longer the same Diwali as my childhood. “Why?”, she asked me.
I found myself telling this old woman about the memories of Diwali. The excitement of new clothes, the boxes of gifts, the smell of sweets in the house. Sneaking into the kitchen to steal laddoos and chakali. Fighting with siblings over who gets to eat the dry fruits that came as gift from dad’s office.
‘Trying’ to make a rangoli like grandma but in the end just having a splash of colour across my front door. The hues of marigold flowers and the smell of mother’s gajra. Then running around the house placing diyas at every possible place. Watching dad carefully fill them with oil and lighting them up. Finally getting to eat all those sweets and goodies. Curling up in dad’s lap when there was a particularly loud cracker. Pretending to be brave while lighting the crackers but tightly holding on to Bhaiya’s hand.
She smiled as I felt the tears fill my eyes. “What stops you from having that again?” Now, how do I explain to this woman that I had no time? I barely got a day’s leave from work. More importantly I could neither make pretty rangolis nor make all those delicacies. She just smiled and said, “Neither did you then!”
I ended up buying two dozens of diyas, six colours of rangoli and a whole bunch of flowers. I stayed
up the night watching Diwali snack recipes online. I got up early and lined the diyas around the
whole house. I brought out the saree hidden in the dungeons of my wardrobe and draped it with the
help of you tube videos. Well my laddos were sticky and the chakali was a tad too salty. The peacock
of my rangoli looked more like a well fed pigeon after playing holi. I am sure people draped towels
better than my saree. This time I held my husband’s hand tightly as he lit the fire cracker.
He smiled at me as the rocket flew to the sky. “This is the first Diwali we have celebrated after
marriage”. We both ate the sticky ladoos and salty snacks instead of going to some formal party.
We stayed up playing cards (the loser had to eat one more laddo).
Our laughter was louder than the crackers and our eyes shone brighter than the expensive fancy lantern of my neighbours.
Someday I will find that old woman and ask her who taught her psychology.