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Vignettes of Life

When Diwali comes to my village…

An earthen lamp lighted on Diwali. Stock Image: Amol Sharma/Pixabay

When after a staple lunch consisting of rice, ‘daal’ and ‘chokha’ or mashed potato, the sun makes one feel drowsy, body feels heavy, limbs refuse to obey the brainwaves and magazines slip from hands. And when one picks up the magazine to resume where one had left, words appear muddled and sentences refuse to yield meaning.

When kids start digging into the pockets of their grandfathers’ ‘kurtas’ in anticipation of hitting a jackpot, but end up getting some loose, clanking currency that adds up to only a rupee or two but that would still count for something in the run-up to Diwali.

When the ‘moongfali’ crop from the other side of the river starts maturing and their nuts turn edible. Away from the prying eyes of the farmers, pack of urchins pull out the creeper, retrieve the nuts, put them to roast in a bonfire, use a stick to ensure evenness of roasting, pull all the nuts together to put them through the dying but still smouldering embers. Then they start looking out for salt and green chilli which miraculously materialises from nowhere. Big nuts are first to be gobbled up followed by immature ones.

The deprived farmer comes charging, calling them names, drawing up a genealogy of theirs on both their father and mother sides to the effect that their ‘dadas’ and ‘nanas’ had also been big time ‘chors’.  Nobody cares.

When migrants from across the country start trooping back to village with exploits and stories — often made-up but sometimes real too. They display all the gadgets that they have brought to demonstrate that they have made it in the metropolises of India. Sometimes they start fiddling with the mechanics of the gadgets by first dismantling them and later by trying to reassemble them. More often than not, their efforts come a cropper.

When the oxen-driven primitive cane-crusher starts making its own typical noise. Oxen move almost against their will and farmers first coax them by uttering encouraging words and twisting their tails to impart momentum to crushing in case the beasts are not obliging them. Farmer resents the presence of hangers -on who start telling tales to the effect that the father of the farmer was a generous man who would offer a tumbler of cane juice to everyone passing by.

When potters — unmindful of the Chinese competition and ‘swadeshi’ build-up against cheap Chinese goods — start putting their wheels into motion. They know that it is a way of life that has to be lived. After all, ‘Pujari ji’ of the village temple would needs ‘diyas’ to worship the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

When children organise themselves along the lines of ‘tolas’ or hamlets to compete for their skills in handling gunpowder. The local village quacks know that there would be palm-blasts and medicare urgently required.

When the incipient chill of the winter sets in but it is yet unclear whether one should keep the fan running or not.

When truck drivers of my village park their trucks on both sides of the National Highway to enjoy an unauthorised holiday. But their plight — they do not get to sleep at home. Rather they sleep inside the trucks lest someone decamp with a rich booty.

When Mantu — who has the reputation of a local tough and who has his views on everything from the United Nations to the plummeting fortunes of BBC and one who is notorious for accepting money from all the parties before elections — takes out his local-made ‘katta’ and fires shots in the air days before the festival of lights, he signals that Diwali has arrived.

It is when the village priest says that in every age, there has been homecoming for heroes, we know that Diwali is around the corner.

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