Thursday, 20 December 2012

Romantic Friday Writers Holiday Spirit Blogfest: A Different Diwali

Most of my poetry sort of writes itself into a first person or second person narrative, without my really thinking about it much.  Writing has been my method of making sense of my world, so it’s natural that I write on most festival days, when and if there is a little window of solitude.  The verses are almost never autobiographical, though I suppose I draw on my conscious/subconscious memories.  But if anyone asks me which event are you portraying in this piece of writing, it’s all blurred.  I can’t ever find one specific memory that I can point to and say, yes, this one’s the one I have written about here. 


As I have mentioned here, Diwali is a pan-Indian festival celebrating the triumph of good over evil, of light over darkness, though darkness has never seemed to me automatically synonymous with evil at all. However, the idea is to light up all spaces with little oil lamps and candles and fairy lights and fireworks.  A different way of making a joyful noise unto our respective lords, I guess.  It does look very pretty and meaningful, even if you don’t personally celebrate it!


This poem was written several years ago, and as with all my poetry, doesn’t reflect any real events.  As such it is not a real memory, but I’d still like to share it here, because the narrator does feel like she is me in some ways!





There have been many mistakes, but some unknown hand has rectified
the major ones, and the minor errors just graciously waved aside;
and this has taught me nothing yet.  The urge to control still consumes,
every detail of each action and their results and reactions specified.


The mind still stalks mesmerised around disbelief that hugely plumes
hotter and higher and prettier than the prettiest anar that blooms
into the Diwali night each year. And even after the sparks subside
goes round the courtyard counting the lamps still left burning in the gloom.




Some lessons are learnt early, some late, and some never at all.
Like the one on turning loose this obsessive need for control.
Even when each blade of grass shows me on its poor, crushed face
that neither of us can determine exactly where my foot will fall.


Interlocking seams and verses, even as I try hard to erase
the idea that I am the one who can decide and sustain the pace.
No matter how carefully I cup my hands around the flame
in the end the winds blow out each of the lamps I set in place.


There is no-one and nothing to which I can attribute the blame
for the winning and losing hand both appearing much the same.
The heart dearer than diamonds or clubs, but above them all the humble spade;
the highest given the lowest rank, based on the rules of the game.


Control and blame are concepts that by now I should have been made
to unlearn as fast as I learnt them.  Perhaps I should stop and ask each blade
that I trample upon unconcerned, its own perception of its role -
why doesn’t it grow some thorns, why offer the feet the lawn instead?




Not only does it offer the lawn, the next morning there are the marks.
Spilt wax and oil, broken lamps, and a million scars from the sparks.
Cigarette butts in various lengths, torn trails of tinsel come to rest
alongside the charred embers of the burning binges after dark.


But still the grass goes back to growing, the thing that it knows how to best
without pausing for blame or praise, without lodging a single protest.
Before I sweep away the pieces, pick up the lamps with their burnt out wicks,
newer shoots are budding forth even as burns blacken its breast.


As I walk around and idly pluck the many used-up sparkler sticks,
torn cartridges smelling of sulphur stuck in the cracks between the bricks,
golden wrappers now in shreds, spattered with mud cry out to me,
beauty is in both the burnt and green, if I can only accept the mix.


And that really is the crux, the very core of this complexity –
acceptance of the scars on grass from a transient and terrible beauty.
To spot the beauty in things burnt, to take a lesson from woodlands and parks,
to grow new shoots on a burn site, with the strangest pride-like humility.






How simple it is to twist garlands of pretty fire in many hues
into deadly explosives and weapons by the differentials we all choose.
The same ingredients and a different effort can so easily combine
and deflect a pleasing, sparkling display into quite a different and dreadful use.


Cracker bursts in my backyard and somewhere beyond this starshine
the same principles morphed into a shell or grenade or land mine.
And nearer home.  All our children play with fire indiscriminately.
But we think boundaries, and end up drawing the wrong battle line.





The hawker who came to sell the sparks, I asked him about differentials in cost
why his *bombs* were priced so cheap, and the *rockets* priced more than most.
He thought a minute, and smiled and said, “Sister, noises are easily made,
but to spatter the sky with music for eyes, that needs to be thorough and well-composed.”


I remembered his words on Diwali night, as the rockets and wheels whizzed and sped
into the sky and climbed up the dark enticing our minds with their colours and spread -
music for the eyes. But all music in the end gives way to the music of silence,
all flames stilled, all lamps darkened, all books must close once they are read.


And the rockets must fall back to earth lighting up the sky for mere moments,
music for the eyes chars the grass even with its most charming cadence.
Only the balm of darkness stays, all the rest is here to be lost
The grass that’s burnt, white candle wax, as also the greenest gardens.




This entry is my second contribution to the Romantic Friday Writers Holiday SpiritBlogfest where we are getting together to share and celebrate the holiday spirit and our holiday memories. Do feel free to click on the link and join in with yours. Wishing you every joy of the season and a very happy 2013.


  1. That was deep, soul searching in the vastness of earth and space. Well done Nil.

    I hope you see many bright sparklers this holiday, and enjoy each blade of grass left untrampled.

    Thanks for participating in the Holiday Blogfest.


    1. Thank you, Donna. So much fun reading and writing at RFW. Wish you very happy holidays.

  2. Hi Nilanjana. You kept your promise, and did you ever deliver! This started quite tentatively, with thoughtful lines such as: 'Some lessons are learnt early, some late, and some never at all..', but I felt it begin to get serious at 1V. From then on I could only see the firestorms that are shattering people's worlds at the moment. What a great analogy, yet a sober one.

    Thank you for this work penned during your festivals...

    Happy Holiday/Festivals!


    1. Hi Denise. Entirely a pleasure being part of the RFW...I loved every one of the challenges/blogfests. Many thanks for the opportunity to share some of my writing there.
      Wishing you a very happy Christmas and New Year too.

  3. I really liked your line "...spatter the sky with music for your eyes...

    Very nicely done.

    1. Thank you for stopping by and the comment. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. As always, I enjoy your poetry so much Nilanjana.... You have such a soulful tone to writing.

    1. Thank you, glad that you enjoy it.

  5. Great writing with lots of meaning. Happy New Year to you.

    1. Thank you for stopping here. A very happy 2013 to you too.