Happy New Year Samvat 2069
Yesterday was Diwali. It also marks beginning of new Calender Year Samvat 2069. An annual celebration interpreted differently, by different sections of people. Mythological stories have become irrelevant with passage of time and therefore need no mention. However the fact remains that it is economically the single largest event in India which is awaited by all businesses alike. Professionals are not much affected except Chartered Accountants and Doctors.
What it means to be Diwali
To begin with Diwali is a celebration of cleanliness, decoration and shopping. It coincides with harvesting of crop which brings purchasing power to farmers. The preparation starts months in advance with re-painting of house, redecoration of house, new curtains or furniture or even utensils, depending upon the availability of time and befall of prosperity. With deep pockets it is nothing less than the famous Indian Wedding. Apart from shopping spree it also have many more activities.
The Gift Exchange Circus
Northern India (rather Punjab) has a tradition of bestowing gifts to daughter/sister and her in-laws on the eve of Diwali. Since it was the time of harvesting, the traditional farmers like to spend on these relatives. It may be noted that Punjab was the last State to fall in the hands of British Empire. In other wards, the Punjab was ruled by Sikh/Khalsa King Ranjit Singh (who as a ruler was true secular) till his death in 1839 and British Army was never able to invade the territory. In 1845, the British succeeded and eventually annexed the territory to their empire. With foreign rulers in command and with a very large armed forces, they were also the largest buyers. The Punjabi traders were quick to improvise in changed circumstances and Diwali came handy to throw gifts at the Officers of East India Company (the predecessor of British Government). Bigger the gift, higher the favour. It may be noted that, later, the officers were prohibited from accepting the gifts but this did not deter the ‘MemSahibs’ or the White spouses of White rulers from accepting gifts.
Gora (White) Sahib is replaced by Kala Sahib. but the tradition continues. In this week before Diwali, house hold of every bureaucrat, irrespective of the department are busy accepting gifts. The Gift do not consist of traditional sweets, fruits or dry-fruits but to start with, it consist of imported crockery, cut glass vases, cutlery, microwave, LCD/LED/Plasma , Silver/Gold Coins or even bars, Tablets or expansive phones and what not. But small handy things. It depends upon the relationship of the doner and the donee. Larger the commercial interest, larger is the gift. This practice is not only in Punjab, any more but entire North India, where-ever Diwali is celebrated. After all Diwali is an excuse to be morally corrupt if not entirely legally. Now the bureaucrat are supposed to disclose this gifts. But none does. Not a single person. This week, after Diwali, most of bureaucrats are on leave, busy disposing off these assets. Some even re-selling at cheaper prices.
Aping is the real human nature. Now seeing all this gifts, everybody is gifting to everybody else. Of course these are normal gifts, not very expensive. Gift to friends, relatives, in-laws of friends and friends of in-laws. This continues like a war. In the morning one couple goes to another and delivers a gift. In the evening, the guest becomes host, and receives another gift hamper. It is such a stupid circus. No one pauses to think or to depart from such foolish practice which is completely meaningless. It is a decade since I stopped participating in this circus. In this circle of gift exchange, the traffic chaos becomes monstrous, pollution on roads kills many asthmatic patients but the hoopla goes on every year. More woes are added to the suffering by the pollution caused bu the fire crackers. Thanks to inflation, it was down by nearly half, this year.
The holy Poker
Belief is like candy. Every flavor of belief exists. Traditionally gambling is not considered to be noble or pious or innocuous in India. (Refer Mahabharata for reason.) However there exist a belief that playing cards i.e. Poker, on the Diwali is auspicious. Some people start very early, about a fort night early. Many lose fortune. Some even commit suicide. Fortunately, no such news as yet in 2012. But the show goes on, every year.
Thank God it is over
Finally the silly merry-go-round came to an end yesterday. The most thankful lot would be those suffering from asthma, bronchitis, cough, cold and allergic reactions. They can now breathe cleaner air. Those who may need it, may try Kunjal Kriya a Yoga technique (of stomach wash), is helpful in these conditions but difficult to practice. Traffic is back to normal grid locks. No extra-ordinary delays. Just normal ones, at peak hour. But it will be around, again, next year. Automatons have to repeat it.
© Sandeep Bhalla