In my home, Diwali is the festival that is celebrated with the most gusto. I am not a very festival person and generally I like to witness the festivities and associated toil from a distance, but not for Diwali. From cleaning to cooking, decorating to diyas, buying new ethnic wear to a proper Lakshmi pooja, Diwali signifies lights, happiness, community and family to me as I am sure it does to many people. Diwali is also the time when it is important to be with loved ones. As the world celebrates, this is no time to be on your own.

lonesome diwali

Many of my childhood Diwalis were spent in my maternal grandmother’s home. With cousins and extended family, this was truly a time to cherish. Later when we move to Bombay, it was not possible to make our trips back to UP every year. Dad was a high-ranking bureaucrat; we threw parties and invited a lot of people around Diwali. Family was slowly replaced with friends and the dimension of the festival shifted from close family to friends.

Then mum fell sick. She had a couple of fractures, a long drawn out recuperation period, depression and was bed ridden for few years. Those were some of the most painful times for my family. Along with sickness came a sort of social exclusion or rather ostracization. Bombay is a wonderful city, but it is also a city where the neighbor does not know who lives next door, very unlike the gated community I live in Bangalore now. Hence, visitors and friends greatly dwindled over the months. And then there was this one Diwali when the five of us were at home with nothing much to do.

lonesome Diwali

Festivals are the times when the women in the family do a lot of planning, organizing and shopping. Since mum was the center of all festivity, running around cooking up a storm, arranging for things for the pooja, getting the house in order, her illness took a toll on the house. Where is the gaiety when our lifeline was on the bed, ailing and depressed?

Our moods were down and grim. We did a very half-hearted pooja. That year, we did not go around to any homes to wish and greet people for Diwali and no one came home. When someone in the house is sick, all happiness is sucked out from any happy occasions, and you are very acutely aware of this on the festival day. All the happy advertisements on TV seem to mock you. People were enjoying and celebrating all around us. I felt a little sorry for myself and also upset.

That is when the doorbell rang and in walked an old friend of dad’s. He and his wife had known us for years. They were there to meet us and also enquire after mum’s health. Things looked up. Mum who was propped up on bed also smiled and engaged in some chatter. As they stayed for some time on Diwali evening, we all felt our Diwali brightening up a lot. A festival is much more than eating or making merry, it is about spreading joy. Most of us don’t pause a moment to think about those around us who may be down and may need a little support from us. We are caught up in our circles, in our families, in our little cocoons.

When things are not going well for you, it is the time when you need the support of your friends and family the most. This Diwali, as I prepare with joy, planning a lot of details, thinking about what gifts to buy and shopping, I remembered them with gratitude. They would never know how much their visit on that Diwali night meant to our family and to mum.

This Diwali, let us seek out those who have not been able to go home. Those missing their families, those sick and unwell and call them home or visit them. They don’t need much, just an acknowledgment that they matter and that you thought of them. You don’t know how far your little gesture will go in brightening up someone’s unhappy festival.

How do you plan to celebrate your Diwali?



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19 Thoughts on “That Subdued and Lonesome Diwali

  1. What coincidence that I happened to read this post. Although I don’t slog too much during other festivals, I do my bit during Diwali like lighting diyas, making a rangoli, wearing new clothes and getting sweets. However, I’m so not looking forward to Diwali this year since my son is away at his university and we have an empty nest. It’s going to be a dull Diwali. One of my close friends might visit from Mumbai to cheer me up during the festival. It is at times like this that you need the support and understanding of your closest friends. I can understand how you feel about that visit from your dad’s friend that evening.

  2. I can understand how important that visit from friends must have felt. You know every Diwali when I call home, I am reminded of how lonely my parents feel during this festive season. Yes, everyone is lost in their festivities and rightly so. It’s those who are alone feel a bit down. Mine is always a quiet one. I light few Diyas, make sweets and call everyone ?

  3. Being a mallu, we have two festivals a year and both of them are pretty quiet ones. I’m not a very festival person either, I’m not a big fan of that sudden pomp and glory. But we did celebrate Diwali as children. All cousins used to gather together and break crackers. Was there a festive association to it? I doubt, but we had fun nevertheless.

    As we grew up, we all grew apart. Some families stick together and some don’t. Mine was the latter. I hate the crackers and noise associated with the festivals and I prefer to stay in a quiet place during Diwali. The most memorable Diwali for me was when my husband and I were dating and we were so disappointed in our families that we just met at a coffee shop and spent the whole evening talking. We were the only ones in the shop and all around there was light and the faint noise of crackers. We bonded so much that day.

    For me Diwali is just another festival. But the noise and aftermath is what makes it worse.

  4. Sad to learn more about your tough times…we have gone through it recently ourselves, so can imagine the cruelty of it!

    A simple smile during testimg times sure brightens up the mood.
    I am not much of a fan of festivities as I used to be long back….Saru is (with dressing-up, preps, and all) But we hope to be in India in a week, and we are eagerly looking forward to be with families.

    Have a fun-filled Diwali ☺️

  5. This was so touching to read, Rachna. I can only imagine how you must have all felt in that time. What thoughtful people to drop. In unannounced to cheer up a family. And when they need it the most. My childhood was like that, always filled with people We’d have dropping in to see the family. I now realize how wonderful a joint family was for that reason. We miss that now, living as we are in far flung locations, caught up in our lives.

    May this Diwali be filled with light, love and joy and the beautiful memories of your mother making the festival come alive for you all. God bless.

  6. I am also not a big festive person but DIwali is something on which I don’t want to be away from home even if it means doing nothing much at home. Your post reminded me of my diwali in 2015 when I was unable to visit home and was pretty much on my own in the new city of Bombay.

  7. I know what you mean Rachna. Shobhit fell sick in the last few days of Durga Puja this year and I cannot tell you how we felt, And now dad is not well and in the hospital. I don’t know what I want for Diwali this year. I just wish he gets well soon and that’s all that I need. Festivals loose all shine when the ones you love are sick.

    • Hi Nabanita, hope your dad recovers soon to celebrate the festival with family. Take care.
      I know the feeling when my dad was in the hospital and Diwali felt like a stab. Much love.

  8. Such an apt post for Diwali and yet so very different. We all think of happiness and celebration and light but we forget to spare a thought for people who aren’t so happy or are not celebrating for whatever reason. I am glad that couple brightened up your Diwali all those years ago.

  9. Well, if they do know that you blog, I’m sure they’ll know now 🙂

    It’s amazing right – the ‘light’ sometimes comes from the least expected places and ways. Sorry to hear about that subdued Diwali, but as they say, every dark phase must make way for the light that comes.

    Hope this Diwali is awesome for you and your family.

  10. Lovely post Rachna. We tend to forget the sick, the grieving or those away from their families. True spirit of Diwali is inclusion and thinking of everyone.

  11. Well said! Illness of a family member sucks out all joy from the house. I lost my maternal grandfather on a Diwali Eve and my grandmother chose to leave us on the night of our favourite festival Vishu. Initially I hated these days because I loved them both immensely. But slowly I understood that getting stuck to grief will never reduce it. It rather increases it and makes you spread the negative vibes around. And then I slowly started preparing and celebrating the festivals once again. For the moments I shared with them. For the moments I was blessed with. Big hugs to you and to the family that provided you the much needed positivity that day. Advance wishes for a Happy Deepavali, Rachna! Stay blessed.

  12. I can relate. I am not much into festivals either, Diwali being the only exception, which I celebrate with much enthusiasm. So I can completely understand that the gloom around Diwali time seems to have a much bigger impact.

    Having said that, I loved the message of this post. You are very right. Diwali is the festival of lights, and as the festival brings so much joy and happiness in our lives, we must also remember to share that light with the ones who may need it more than us.

  13. I could just see the family feeling lost and listless on a festive day. Very rightly pointed out that we are apt to wrap ourselves in festivities forgetting those who might need cheering up. Lovely thought, Rachna. Even a random act of kindness can make the family or person remember it long afterwards, as you have done. A Diwali post that makes one think deep and long. Hugs.

  14. The festival of light is also about bringing happiness to those who are less privileged. I consider myself very fortunate to spend every day with children of this strata when I teach them. Every smile I see on their faces is a celebration of a festival, each day.

  15. Couldn’t agree more, Rachna. It’s during our lowest phases when we need our friends is when so many of them do the disappearing act.

  16. Very thoughtful post Rachna.In our celebrations we often forget to look around us and reach out to those who are lonesome or lonely.
    I too remember one such Diwali.When the heart is heavy one needs outside support.

  17. It always feels so good to hear about the goodness in our world reiterated through random acts of kindness like these and truly, the ripples such experiences create in our hearts are endless. So glad to have read this piece Rachna, more power to all these inspiring people out there! Such a heartwarming post for the occasion, wish you and your loved ones a very happy Diwali!

  18. This is such a beautiful post. We may not realize but these small acts of kindness and compassion make a big difference. Wishing you and your family a very happy Diwali, Rachna!

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