There used to be a certain festive air that one could simply feel in that little colony of houses with happy windows. Yes, some of us even spent hours swinging laughter from one window to another, with our plans for that afternoon’s cricket match, our accidents, our shows of chivalry with Band-Aids, and things like that.
But the wind blew differently, promising more fun than just that, probably only for the young ones like us, during the time of Deepavali. The place was a colony-like community, with buildings rimming a small field in K.M. Dash Lane in Dhaka. It was the early-1990s, before the Y2K hoopla began with its inrushing tides.
Deepavali was always a treat for the eyes as the night came alive, and with it, softly glowing smiles. It was for us the time to light the candles and those beautiful little earthen oil lamps; time to run to our friends’ houses where the rituals were observed. All we cared for were the aroma at the altar, the home- made sweets made of coconut and puffed-rice, and the fireworks.
From house to house We packed our pockets with dry home-made sweets as we ran from one house to another, and after many hours a sudden discovery of one of those inside one of the pockets would make our eyes glisten, make our smiles bigger, our shouts jolly.
And then there were those crackers that made us still wilder and had us on our restless toes until, to our utter dissatisfaction, we were called back home. It was something more than fun and something so closer to inner joy when we could simply immerse into the incense, into the completely unknown rituals, and finally, in the shimmering flame of the lamps in those winter nights. The air smelled so good.
Goddess Kaali remained no longer a frightening figure (that’s how our insensitive parents presented her to us) but became, for us at least, an excuse to treat our young spirits full of wonder with something dazzling and magical. For me the darkness and the chill of those nights dissolved into those little flames of fire that for hours made us live in a wonderland, in a magnificent fair of fireflies, and made us believe there’s nothing that can blow those divine lights off. In my mind I can still hear the jingling sounds of those tiny bells that thakuma (grandma) used to ring during the puja. I can still smell the sweets and of the agarbati.
When I close my eyes I can still see those flames, glimmering in those ancient nights, beckoning to return to that small colony where people lived in harmony even with all their differences. All I don’t find is that little colony where windows used to have voices. All I don’t hear are the laughter that echoed through the walls. Is it too much to ask to be happy for no reason and find joy in small things?
Is it too hard to calm down, forget all the serious business at hand for a moment and hush all those loud thoughts, and just feel, with all our heart, and not think about all the meanings people assign to things, to divide? Is it an outrageous thing to wish to be a child again, by simply shedding the heavy robe of depressing sophistication? Let the search for a lost night end with the lighting of candles and oil lamps. Let there be laughter and love. Let there be lights!