Of lost sheen of festival, social dilemmas and beating one’s own trumpet
Protected content Mathur
After a not-so-eventful Deepawali (India’s most celebrated festival) last weekend, when I look back, I find that nothing much was done, or could have been done to make the festival more fulfilling. The usual get-together events with families and friends didn’t really happen, nor did the grand shows of fire crackers. The strong completion between neighbors on whose fire crackers would be the loudest has long been history. Noise and air pollution are bigger concerns, so is the rising expenses. Even the lighting for homes and streets took a hit, though much unexpected, when five out of the six strings of miniature colorful lights (locally called ‘Jhaalars’) bought fondly for my home ,went off within few hours of setting up. The sixth one followed the next day. Quality goes, with inflation.
Cherished memories of friends and families coming together, enjoying rounds after rounds of diversity of sweets of all shapes, sizes , colors and flavors , followed by usual leg-pulling sessions over sumptuous meals , drinks and multiple rounds of ‘flash’ card games still remain. Friends and relations now live in far off locations and no one ever seems to have time off duty, to enjoy festivals with their kith and kin. Sweets no longer form the bulk of celebrations, with diabetes and fat becoming permanent un-invited guests in the family. Egos have become too high, to indulge in leg pulling. Playing cards have lost their charm too.
A new development has however taken place. Our family has started focusing more on charity and social welfare. My mother strongly believes that whatever we are getting today is because of our good or bad deeds in our previous lives and deeds of our ancestors or forefathers. In her view, to ensure that God keeps giving to our family, we must consciously do things to help the needy. In short, she says, whatever my parents are doing now is for their future lives and for the next generations of this family.
I do not know whether it’s out of fear or love that I tend to believe what she says. I hope it’s the latter, though. Also, the wise men say, there’s no greater satisfaction than that derived from seeing the smile on the face of a needy, out of your own efforts. So we’ve been trying to do whatever titbits we can manage like going out and distributing winter clothing, blankets, food etc. to the lesser privileged, as and when possible.
Thus, this year too I took part in some of such activities. A little over a week ago , I tried to see smiles on faces of small children from a village, by volunteering to organize and support a drawing-coloring competition for these kids. So there was an adrenaline rush to manage the small event within two days of being informed. Some running around, numerous phone calls, bit of coordination work and there we were – successful. Paper sheets, colors, pencils, erasers and sharpeners. And Smiles I got. Lots and lots of them from eighty-something school children and their teachers. I clicked so many photographs to make it memorable.
Next initiative was to fulfill my father’s desire of making the Deepawali day ‘special’ for the residents of a ‘Kusht aashram’ ( home for the leprosy affected), particularly knowing that these people face social ostracization in developing countries like India and have to beg to sustain themselves. So we went ahead, distributed sweets and fire crackers, and saw many more smiles.
But even after these two events, I feel there’s something missing. Something has not really brought the joy I was expecting. The heart felt lonely, sad and low. Was it because I thought I would be able to do much more, for many more. Or was it that I didn’t see enough joy out of the small contributions? Did we take only sweets, when we could have also taken blankets or clothes or something else as well for these people. Could we have taken more fire crackers, for everyone to thoroughly enjoy?
And then, when all was done, I thought of sharing this with my friends and relations. Then came the dilemma and the mind started juggling again. ‘Is it good to tell about our charity work?’. ‘Doesn’t our culture say charity should never be exposed?’. For us, ‘Gupt Daan is Maha daan’ . It means that secretly done good deeds count much more . ‘But wouldn’t sharing the experience with others also encourage them to come forward and take small steps towards welfare of society?’. ‘Or would sharing details, pics, videos be seen as beating one’s own trumpet of being a socialist?’.
My father told me that there’s an old saying, ‘Jiski rahi bhavana jaisi prabhu murat dekhi tin taisi ', meaning that a person's attitude/devotion determines how he sees God. So those who look for good deeds will be inspired by our good deeds. For others, we shouldn’t be bothered.
This sounded reasonable and within a few hours I had uploaded some videos and photographs on facebook. Then, hoping to find reactions from colleagues, relations and friends, I kept checking FB every fifteen minutes or so. Twenty four hours passed with just three ‘likes’ on the pics and videos. Few reactions came in further, with two comments from my own family members and just one from a distant relative.
And my thoughts started running again. ‘Is it really that people are not just bothered about socially relevant things?’. Or ‘is it that my fear of being labelled a ‘hyperbole’ true?’. It’s over forty hours now. What was it that I have been seeking? Social approval? Applause? The anxiety continues, so does the dilemma.
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