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How a cow saved our Diwali

Well, a battle stole our Diwali and a cow returned it. That she wasn't black is a family secret.

 |  BREAKING NEWS INTO PIECES  |  3-minute read |   19-10-2017
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Let me tell you a little story about Diwali and the cow. 

When I was really young, Diwali was a sombre occasion at home. The folks around us celebrated Kali Puja with gusto but the 10 houses in my extended family did not. 

We remembered some of our bravest who had died in a battle that day many Diwalis ago. So a diya or two was all that we lit as a mark of respect for the day.

The neighbourhood reverberated with Diwali festivities. Joyful children of our age ran around exchanging sweets in colourful new clothes. 

Later, firecrackers lit the amavasya night sky. We were jealous to say the least. As kids, we too asked for firecrackers but were firmly told that “we do not celebrate” Diwali. We could not understand.

So, many Diwalis went by. I asked my mom how many Diwalis will it take for us to celebrate like others do. She said only when a child is born in the extended family on a Diwali day.

Well, in a small clan like ours, this seemed nearly impossible. We wondered about the chances of that happening. Hoped and prayed, it happened. Again, Diwali came and passed us by. 

My generation had not witnessed the battle. We would not relate to the mood. My dad’s generation had and Diwali just brought those memories to them. For them, the wound had not healed. 

In a corner of their hearts, they too wished to move on. Alas, cultural mores aren’t easy to break free from. Especially when bound by grief.

We blamed a granduncle for this. He was said to have insisted that the battle took place on Diwali after getting Goddess Kali’s blessings.

crackers_101617032430.jpgPhoto: Reuters

They were supposed to go into battle after their ranks had filled to the optimum. Support in form of men and weapons had only begun to arrive from distant places. Relatives who were expected to fight together had not even arrived. 

Yet, this granduncle, then a fine young man, convinced everyone present that we must not delay since we were invincible and that victory favoured the brave. And of course, Kali Ma’s blessings.  

It turned out to be a disaster. The enemy was on a higher terrain. Before the swordsmen could say attack, arrows and spears rained on them. They stood their ground, till they could stand. 

By evening, bodies had piled up in the main courtyard. Leaving behind stories of extreme courage. The man who asked for a premature battle had survived. That granduncle lived long enough for us to nag him with questions.

The one just before Diwali invariably used to be: When will we burst firecrackers, decorate entrances, put up fairy lights and feast on festival food?

Over time, not-until-a-child-is-born-on-Diwali turned into not until a birth in the family. And since cows were treated as family members, a calf would do, provided a black cow delivered one. We had a few black cows. There was hope.

We waited for some more Diwalis, before a cow gave birth a night before Diwali. The family priest declared it was within the stipulated auspicious time.

That it wasn’t a black cow was given a slip. We were told to prepare for a joyous Diwali. That was the first time everyone got new, colourful clothes for the day. And firecrackers for the night. Kali Puja became more fun. 

Years later, on a Diwali away from home, lonely and depressed, I remembered those early non-Diwalis, the cow that saved us, and what all this meant. 

And realised that the desire for joy is a more powerful emotion than despondency. The desire to forget unpleasant experiences is stronger than the need to remember them. 

We did not need a reason to clelebrate Diwali. We needed an excuse. A nudge is enough to push you out of the depths of misery if you desire to get out. 

So that Diwali away from home, lonely and depressed, I went out and bought firecrackers and gave it to the first group of children I met. They had a blast. I rediscovered joy. Happy Diwali.

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Writer

Kamlesh Singh Kamlesh Singh @kamleshksingh

Journalism student. Ed honcho at the India Today Group Mediaplex. God's Loyal Opposition. Useful Warning: Tweets may hurt religious sentiments.

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