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The Legend of Diwali

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Christmas may be The thing all over the globe, but here, in India, it doesn’t stand a CHANCE against Diwali. So you could say Diwali is India’s Christmas, or you could say it correct and say Christmas is the world’s Diwali. 🙂

Growing up in India, I pretty much fell into a tradition of celebrating Diwali. But when I was old enough to actually sit and listen to stories that I won’t forget with the next meal, I realized there’s so much to this mega-festival that’s it really a sin to try and grumble on Diwali day, let alone not celebrate!

And before we divulge in that beautiful mythological/historical (not my debate) tale, I should let you know that Diwali follows a lunar calendar of sorts to occur, and that this year, you could mark 13th November for it. But we do start celebrating much earlier, and I admit I just jumped with a sudden firecracker.

So long long ago, in the land of Ayodhya, there was a king who we shall call just that because there is really no point in giving you many names, just to confuse. So the King had three wives, no such thing as Law Court to stop him you see, but he had no kids. And he wanted some. So he did a prayer (don’t ask me why) and long story short, some years later, he had four handsome able sons for princes. (One wife had two, duh.)

Now that may mean joy for some, but for the second Queen’s maid, mind you, the freaking maid, this was a problem. She turned the second Queen into a doubting and jealous wife, who wanted her own son to be crown-prince, and not the oldest son as was custom. So she goes to the King and she makes him promise he’d do as she asked BEFORE  she told him what she wanted. EPIC mistake in almost every Hindu Myth Tale, but boys never learn! All a girl’s got to do is bat her eyelashes, or in this case, trust the Queen’s innocence and not check up on their servants!

Oh boy. Poor King is heartbroken. The second Queen has asked for the oldest son to be sent away, to live in a forest for 14 years and the throne to be her son’s. The King would gladly give the throne, but he can’t part with his dear son!

Anyway, while all this is happening, the son in question, whose name is Ram (important name, please don’t make him sheep, it’s Raaaam, like in… like in Homage.) So Ram is off helping some priests with their prayers (get used to these) and protecting them from demons trying to disrupt the said prayers. And grateful for his help, a priest lets him tag along to a king’s ceremony he has been invited to, where his daughter, a famed beauty, would choose a husband from a group of suitors who’d compete for her. Talk about ‘winning’ the girl. 🙂

Now please tell me you saw it coming. Ram goes and sits like a prince in the audience and watches suitors make a fool of themselves. The challenge is to break a particularly heavy bow, bows were elaborate and heavy and made of gold back then, and practically owned by everyone because hunting was a hit. This particular bow was a God’s bow, so it was realll tough. But when all the suitors can’t even manage to pick it up, let alone crack it, the girl’s father announces in despair, that anyone who thinks he can do it may come forward, royalty or not, lest his daughter go unmarried. So Ram, polite as he was to not butt in when not invited, goes over, looks at it, touches, just touches the bow with his foot, and BAAAAAAAAMMMM, it’s down into pieces. I can’t imagine how he walked the earth without pressing it in then, but anyway.

So Ram returns with his pretty wife, Sita (Yeah okay, humour her with See-ta) and remember her name, without her the tale wouldn’t have existed. So the couple return to Ram’s father’s kingdom and get thrown back out. Or rather, get tear-waved out. And he’s such a  beloved, Ram, that one of his brothers wants to leave with him, and he does. So off go Ram, Sita and the younger loyal brother Lakshman, leaving sad hearts throughout the kingdom.

Scene change. The forest. Enter third king of the story, our villain, Ravanna. (Ra-One) Turns out he prays devoutly to the Gods and he’s blessed with certain superpowers. So is his uncle. And when they hear that Sita married Ram, and Ravanna couldn’t get her before, he’s furious! YEP LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, IT’S ALL A FIGHT OVER A GIRL. PS Some religious Indian is gonna kill me soon, for slander or disrespecting or something, so you know if the posts stop coming.

So our superpower-ed Ravanna and his superpower-ed uncle hatch a plan to kidnap Sita. Talk about royalty pride. Out of the window! So the uncle changes into a deer (the story was medieval, not the superpowers) and lures Sita’s attention. She sends poor Ram after the deer, to get it for her, and the deer takes Ram off way into the forest. Once inside, he mimicks Ram and shouts in Ram’s voice, “Lakshman, SAVE ME!” Can you BELIEVE it?!So loyal brother Lakshman wants to run to his brother’s aid, thinking some tragedy had befallen. But he can’t leave his beautiful sister-in-law to the mercy of fate, what if something happened to her in his absence, wild animals for instance? So out comes some praying, and Lakshman calls the grace of the gods to protect his sister-in-law as long as she remains inside a boundary he draws around their humble cottage.

But with the men away from the scene, out comes Ravanna dressed as a priest, and calls for Sita’s devotion to step outside the boundary and offer him food. How could she refuse? So after all Ravanna does catch her, takes her off in his flying cart (which gives the Wright Brothers competition as to who really discovered airplanes)

It takes a few years, a journey across India to Sri Lanka, and the loyalty of an army of monkeys (Literally) trusting Ram’s mission, that Ram and Lakshman finally reach to fight for Sita, and take her back. You really do want to skip 170 pages of Ram’s suffering and people showing their trust and faith and absolute love for Ram, and hence helping him get his wife back.

Let’s skip to the action. So there we are, on a HUGE barren ground, Ram’s army on one side and Ravanna’s on the other. Clash! Boom! Zapook! Bazooka-medieval-style!

Everyone’s down and crouching in pain, an arrow through the stomach, blood pouring, all except Ram and Ravanna. Showdown! Ram sends arrow after arrow through Ravanna’s head, but he just seems to GROW a new one! That is until a person who’s been on the other side, tells Ram Ravanna’s blessed with the Gods to have ten heads, and you could only kill him by an arrow through the belly button. (I always wondered why Ram didn’t just attack the head ten times, till the last head fill, rather than kill him the gross way.)

He wins. Sita’s back. Consequently 14 years are over and they return. And the people of Ayodhya welcome all three with great joy. They light their houses with diyas. I don’t know if you know what those are, so here’s a picture. Millions and millions of diyas in all the houses throughout the kingdom, and Ayodhya looks like a huge candle from a distance. And this is Diwali, welcoming the favourite prince, now God, Ram back, with such triumph. Every year we celebrate Diwali, with as much light as possible, with diyas and candles everywhere, and since this is the 21st century, lots and lots of fireworks too.

Diya
Their warmth, you wouldn’t believe, is sooo good you can spend hours holding one and just looking. Earth shaped into a cup-like structure, oil inside, and flame at the peak.

Epic isn’t it? I know I’m flourishing praise a lot, but you still get to disagree. And I’ve heard this story a billion times so I might have skipped something thinking I’d already said it or whatever, so please ask what you didn’t get. But, believe me, it couldn’t be better if I made it up!

There are some bits and pieces that I skipped today. Like Dusshera, another festival we celebrate before Diwali, and that’s the day Ravanna was killed. Like how some people demanded Sita be purified by fire since she had spent so long so away. Maybe good tales for when I return…I’m not gonna be writing for some time, you’ll probably hear from me On Diwali itself. So, see you on 13th, with a Diya in hand? 🙂

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Marked

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What do you say to tattoos? I recently got one. But it’s a stick-on. 🙂 WHY tattoos? Here’s one view point- for rebellion. But here is the tale of a girl who got herself inked for rebellion, but failed very ironically.

I had decided. I sat down without a word. I could feel his gaze linger on me, mocking me, laughing at me. Just do it, I wanted to shout at his face. But I feared it would come out as a whimper. He got the message. He sighed ad picked his weapon. As if to tell me he was serious, he whizzed it a bit. When I didn’t stir, he walked up to my outstretched arm. His drill noising away… my face turned away… the soft flesh of my poor arm the victim of his cold needle, to be….

I could still run away. He wouldn’t really be surprised. But I sat tight. There was a reason I was doing this. This wasn’t just for fun. I had thought it through. There was nothing wrong. This would set everything right. They can’t chain me to their system, tonight I’ll be set free.

But why did I still feel the qualms about this tattoo needle piercing my arm?

It began. It sliced through my skin, and jumped back out. And he moved it an iota to a side and hit my skin again. Now he wasn’t even stopping between every tattooed dot. It was like he was carving out a black curve on my arm, and the more it pained, the richer it would be.

But I’m the master of pain. What can’t I take?

Now he’s whizzing around my wrist and he’s drilling near my vein. If that vein bursts, I wouldn’t die, but a spurt of dirty blood will spill out. What if he’s clumsy, and presses in too hard? Will he puncture my artery and make me handicapped forever? Will I lose an arm tonight?

Suddenly my reasons don’t seem so bright.

Aaahhhhh. I’m crying out in pain. But he isn’t stopping. He’s doing the last curve, the last black part of my arm rued down to rebellion.

He’s filling it in, he’s colouring it, as if my arm is a mere canvas. Tattoo man, please, please, make it quick.

Ah! I can breathe. He’s done. I’m free.

There it is. In bold and black. ATHEIST. How dare they try and conform me to their God? No. I am what I want to be.

But wait- no. No! I’ve inked my arm. I have MARKED myself.

My rebellion was supposed to set me free. But I have marked myself, as they would have done! As if I am an outcast for my choice. I havfe labeled myslef- differnt from society. I played into their hand. I ruined my stand.

NO! The Tattooed Outcast. That’s me. Me?

No.

P.S. I’m with all those people who did NOT like this particular post. I blame it on all the ruthless studying these days. Yet I posted it. Because I want to know what you think. Say what?

Once in Lake Lo

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“Lake Lo is the oldest lake in Kashmir. The local legend says that the gods and goddesses used it as a channel to descend to Earth. They would slip down on the clouds or the rain and into Lo till they were prepared enough to face man’s world and breathe his impure air. So the Lake was like the mid-place between heaven and Earth. Of course, given the hype this created, many mortals tried to jump in and get a pathway to heaven, only to gasp for breath soon after they took the plunge. But thanks to the hold mythology had on people those days, they thought it was all a test to see if they were in fact worthy, and hence many lost their lives. Soon, destruction and massive warfare covered Kashmir, and the people said the gods were angry that their Lake was defiled by human corpses…”

Mister Jain spoke passionately about Lake Lo through the night. Nineteen stunned childish faces listened, rapt, immune to the loud creaking of the train or the wrath of the rain. One lone head pushed hard into the pillow it had been issued, trying desperately to block out the lecture, the tales he knew only too well.

Some holy Lake, he thought. The death bowl of hundreds, the curtain over senses, the age-long reminder that man only wants to be oppressed, and he prefers it be by the hand of God.

The Lake had been the forefigure in making Gautam a hardcore atheist. If God was the reason half the world hates the other, he hated God. Better still, he didn’t believe in one.

Gautam’s family came originally from the valleys of Kashmir. Gautam had been to his homeland just once, and the experience hadn’t been any good. He had lost a brother to the ‘patriotic’ army and a sister in an attack. But that was long before he was born, and he considered both of them as alien people, never having met them, never having understood them. Why stay and hope for peace at a place where people said they were at war with the terrorists when they couldn’t live in peace among themselves?

The trip too was something he forced into. See your homeland, his mother had said. I have seen enough, he had said. See it as a tourist, maybe you’ll like it better then. Why should I like it? Because it’s your home-. It’s not! Stop it! I will never…

Gautam knew what happened next in the tale. Only, Mister Jain chose to leave it out, and Gautam could hear nineteen inquisitive voices cry out for more. All right. You want more, huh?

“No… get some sleep all of you. End of tale.”

“C’mon Sir! What happened afterwards?!”

“I’ve told you all you need to know for this trip. And I’m not sure if I should have said that much in the first place. So, this is it, kids. No more to tell.” Mister Jain tried to scurry out of the situation. But Gautam had had enough.

“Fine! You want to know what happened next? Listen.”

Everyone turned to Gautam.

“The people, the devoted god fearing good citizens, went to the families of the people who had died in the Lake and burnt their houses. They then caught the people who ran out and dragged them by their hair or their legs to the Lake, drove a sword into their middle, through and through and then threw the bodies, flung them, into the same Lake. Of course, it was no problem that it made their dear sacred Lake dirtier, the revenge of the Gods’ was complete. Everything was right, once again. Everything was bloody right!” Gautam spat with fury he had felt every time he had heard his mother tell him the tale.

In a whisper Gautam continued, like a magician who knew he was now playing his trump card that wasn’t only breath-taking but so horrifying and so majestic that one could even lose all sense of the world.

“The news spread. People got interested. Tourism hit a new high, and religious leaders shot up like weed in every village and very street of the entire country. Some daring scientists thought if this Lake could make a new break in science, if it really was something special, they would hit it just right. So they went over, as pilgrims, buttered the locals into letting them visit, and took a camera hidden in a crewman’s shirt. But what they saw was better off without not taped. Word spread out that something had been recorded that was very top-secret. Two of the scientists on the trip took ill suspiciously, suddenly and there was a huge rave about the recording. The locals did everything in their power to deny everything, and for months no one could possibly visit that part of Kashmir, the locals had set up a ferocious civil army. But soon, someone sold the tape out for money and everyone knew. ”

Gautam looked at his classmates. Every one of them scared, paralyzed into silence. But he wasn’t done yet. Jain sir quiet, sitting low at the other end, he obviously knew the tale.

“The tape- was a recording of the Lake. There’s a lot of movement at first, and the camera wobbled. Then the scientists stopped at the edge of the Lake. It seemed they were just standing and looking because the tape stays like that for some time. Then, all of a sudden, some twenty metres up the shoreline, along the bank, some young Kashimiri boys start shouting. They seem to just have come, and they are playing. They start skimming stones. The scientists turn their attention to the boys, and a few local faces are caught on camera being worried. Someone is sent to shoo the boys away. But before he can get there, a tall boy picks up a very heavy rock and flings it, far into the Lake, near the scientists. He was only playing. But the rock he threw in moved so much water that a sharp white pole was seen sticking out of the Lake. More water shifted with the sudden disturbance, the area around the pole cleared… the water over it was swept away… and the clear outline of a human hand, a human skeleton stretched out into the air.”

Gautam drew in breath.

“Not three inches below the water surface was a bed of dead men and women, skeletons. The Lake was a graveyard. A dumping ground of a religious war. A pool, of bones, of human bones stripped of their muscle and skin at places, lumps still attached at some…”

Gautam stooped. There was nothing to go on about. Gautam slipped back into his seat. He slumped into a bundle, and set his head against the window. The rain seemed quieter. The carriage was dead silent. At least everyone now shared the despair. At least he wasn’t going to be told to click pictures of tourist spots, smile as if this was a vacation, hop from one place to another like a dumb bunny.

The lights went out in the carriage. Gautam kept looking out of the window. The train slowed at a checkpoint, and Gautam spotted a sign that read, simply- Welcome to Kashmir.

Please, thought Gautam.

Disclaimer: Completely Fiction. But then, is it?