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Updated: October 24, 2011 18:57 IST

Lighting up the world

NANDINI NAYAR
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The residents of the apartment block were at loggerheads. They couldn't decide whether to light up their building with diyas or fairy lights.

The battle about whether to use diyas or electric lights raged for days before Deepavali. The residents of the apartment were divided; some believed that nothing matched multi-coloured ropes of lights while the others scoffed at such modern notions, and voted for diyas. “I don't know why people argue over these things,” Amma said, “after all, there are other, more meaningful ways of lighting up the world!”

Rashmi was puzzled by this and would have asked Amma to explain but Tanu and Nikita thumped on the door just then, reminding her that it was time for school. All the way down in the lift her friends argued about the relative merits of electric lights and diyas. At the gate as Rashmi turned to wave to Amma, she found herself thinking of what her mother had said. It was then that she happened to see the still, statue-like figure of Mrs. Swaminathan.

Mrs. Swaminathan lived alone on the third floor, and seemed to spend most of her time on the balcony. Everyone knew that both of Mrs. Swaminathan's sons lived abroad, visiting when they could. Although Rashmi had seen Mrs. Swaminathan countless times before, today she was struck by the loneliness of that still figure. Without pausing to think Rashmi waved to Mrs. Swaminathan. And just like that she started a new routine.

Waving to Mrs. Swaminathan became a part of her day. She waved to Mrs. Swaminathan as she left for school and when she returned home. Soon Mrs. Swaminathan was waving back to her. Although Tanu and Nikita teased her about her new friend, they were so busy arguing over the merits of diyas and electric lights that they left Rashmi alone. As Diwali came closer the tempo of preparations increased. Every house sparkled in preparation for the festival. New clothes and crackers were purchased and the delicious smell of sweets being made wafted in the corridors.

Two days before Diwali Tanu announced, “We have decided to use both electric lights and diyas this year!”

“Yes,” Nikita grinned, “we have reached a compromise. What are you going to do Rashmi?”

“Me?” Rashmi asked, “Oh! I am going to light lamps too!”

On Diwali everyone in the building was either lighting the diyas or switching on the fairy lights. Rashmi was busy arranging sweets on a plate. She then set off for the third floor flat of Mrs. Swaminathan, carrying the laden plate. She rang the bell and waited with a thumping heart. The door was cautiously opened and she saw the enquiring face of Mrs. Swaminathan. Rashmi put on her brightest smile. “Happy Deepavali,” she said. Mrs. Swaminathan smiled with delight. As she watched the smile spread across the old lady's face Rashmi understood what her mother had said. Amma was right. There were other, more meaningful ways of lighting up the world. Rashmi stepped into Mrs. Swaminathan's third floor flat, happy that she had found her own way of lighting up the world.


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