13th November 2020
I have a dull throb in my heels this evening as I sit down to write to you. They say as women grow older they start turning into their mothers. I’m about 3000kms away from Suruj this Diwali but I can’t shake her out of me (despite promising myself when I was young that I will never ever turn into my mother!). I’ve spent the last 2 days deep cleaning my apartment, I’ve found corners I never knew existed in this place. Something my mother would start doing weeks leading up to Diwali and something I have never ever helped her with. This is probably the first Diwali I am not with Suruj overdosing on her dahi bara. And while I miss her terribly, I felt very loved this year. Somehow the Universe very gently cradled me in her arms through these 5 days.
I just had to pause writing to you for moment to go find some Moov (yes I always have a tube of Moov with me no matter where I am in the world) to rub on my heels. The warmth of the balm feels so good right now.
I can’t believe Indian women have been doing this for centuries. Cleaning, prepping, decorating, cooking for the grand “Festival of Lights”; celebrating the return of Lord Ram back to his kingdom after 14 years of banishment. By the time actual Diwali day comes around, I’ve seen women of the house ready to drop dead from sheer exhaustion yet they’ll still get decked in all their jewels come 6 o’clock in the evening to welcome Goddess Lakshmi. Next day, they’d start the whole process again of cleaning, tidying up and putting things away for next year. Imagine how their feet must ache!
I wonder if Sita’s feet ached when she was returning back to Ayodhya? Sita. Mata Sita. You know Lord Ram’s wife (yes I know it’s easy forget that she was there too in his battles).
I wonder how she must have been feeling on that first Deepavali night some seven thousand years ago?
Was there a little happy skip in her steps that she was finally going home after 14 years of living in the jungles?
Was there a joyful bounce as though she was walking on sparkling silver clouds knowing that she was going to hug her sisters after some 5000 days?
Was she planning a deep haldi-chadan-milk-rose-petals cleanse and ravishing her favourite foods after eating like a hermit for about 728 weeks?
Or did she have that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach when a woman has been made to feel like she’s done something gravely, gravely wrong yet they have no idea what it is that they have done?
Was she angry, outraged at what her husband made her do in front of random strangers instead of fiercely embracing her when she was rescued from the gardens of Raavan’s palace?
Was she mad at herself for jumping in a pyre of fire just to prove her innocence and purity to a bunch of men and men-monkeys – should she have just walked off and left her husband?
Was she drenched in anxiety thinking about whether her place in her home would still be the same when she got back?
Did she feel betrayed by the very love of her life who promised her the saath vachans around the holy fire?
It’s said that on the night Ram, Latchman and Sita returned to Ayodhya, people had lit diyas along to mark the path that led them home. I wonder if Sita felt the same joy as Ram did that night?
I just can’t help but wonder how Sita really felt on that first night of lights which we all come to celebrate with so much hope and pomp every year.
I’ve only just started thinking about this in the past couple of years. Maybe because I’m over the firecracker age (pun!) and dressing up is no longer fun. Or maybe I now notice things in my religion which I didn’t before. The patriarchs in my family would probably say I’ve become “too good” for my own good. And by that that’s not a good thing.
But I can’t help but think that in Ram’s defeat of Raavan; his victory in the battle of Lanka, his triumph of Good over Evil – neither Maryada Purushottam Ram’s victory nor his definition of “Good” includes women. In 2020 we are still stepping on the backs of women, still lowering them beneath men and continue to celebrate Dussehra as the win of “Good”. Where we still applaud an adolescent boy as he fires an arrow towards Raavan‘s head sealing his place as the saviour of our society while a little girl stands in the sidelines trying to smile knowing that even though her character is the main reason for the whole play, the applause and the cheer in the finale act is not for her. In a world where men and women are still not equal – how is it that we still celebrate this as the triumph of “Good”?
Since Ram raj days, it seems women have carried the burden of our festivals and men? Men have celebrated. And together we all hide the “Evil” behind the jagmug of the night.
Anand, if one day our Diwalis cross – let’s not waste time cleaning the corners. Let’s just put our feet up, gorge on samosas and almond kalakand and watch the snow melt outside. I think the light within us will be enough.
This piece is a personal opinion. The writer is aware of the Raavan’s flying machine and Valmiki’s agni pariksha verison and still continues to feel that the Ramayan is not a doctrine of Hinduism.