This Diwali it has been raining discounts and offers. In the weeks leading up to the festival of lights the newspaper supplement has become thicker than the main newspaper as it struggles to contain all the advertisements announcing all that you can buy at shops and online. The festival of lights appears to have morphed into the festival of buying. Buying to gift – buying for yourself – buying, buying and buying!!
And suddenly - a question that is frequently asked by parents at my Parenting workshops – has begun to make sense. How much should a gift/toy that we buy our child cost? A question that has compelled me to wonder ……..Has what we can give our children – become only about purchasing power? Has every occasion for celebration – become about possessing something bigger and better?
As a child – I can’t remember ever having received a wrapped up gift from my parents – not on my birthdays – and certainly not on Diwali. I am not sure how it made me feel at that time – but I can’t remember ever feeling unhappy or deprived.
So - I have wondered - what did parents like mine give us? And the answer has suddenly come to me now.
In the week leading up to my fortieth Diwali – I have been a little tired and listless. After having been immersed in celebrations for almost all of last month (with my daughter’s birthday coming up first, followed by the Bengali Durga Pujo) - by the time the Diwali buzz began making the rounds – I had begun to feel tired just thinking of the word “Celebrate” I am not sure it is possible to tire of celebrations – but it certainly looked like I was tired of celebrating. Perhaps – I thought – this was what being forty was all about. It felt strange however – to not feel excited. Diwali has always been a very favourite festival and in the years bygone I have always been a tornado of inexhaustible energy around this magical festival of lights. I have no idea what used to trigger my mad frenzy of activity – but as Diwali inched closer this year, I have to say that I was waiting for something to shake me out of my listless stupor.
The nip in the air I thought - would entice me into the kitchen and plunge me into creating my usual spread of sinful Diwali delicacies................but no - that didn’t happen. The twinkling fairy lights in the surrounding houses I thought would galvanize me into action and make me dig into black fauji trunks to fish out my own..................but no - they didn’t.
Then – just as things were beginning to look frighteningly bleak – a trip to the Diwali bazaar changed it all.
Excitement literally grabbed me with both hands as soon I stepped out of the car. In those crooked crowded streets – excitement was not a word anymore. It was almost like a living being – that shook me up until my mind began chanting “Come on let’s celebrate – come on – come on – let’s celebrate!!”
It was magical. As we pushed through the crowds – bent, knelt and scrambled through the roadside displays I was injected with an infectious happiness. Every sensation that I encountered there brought on a smile.
The sight of the piles of diyas – the pots the idols and the earthen ware toys – the sounds of the milling crowds and the vendors – the smell of the ghee laden sweets and savouries – being jostled by the crowds - brought my childhood memories rushing back and the spirit of Diwali began coursing through my blood.
And then suddenly it struck me – these sensations linked to the happy memories of Diwali were the gifts my parents had given me over the years.
By taking me to these happy bazaars – over the years - in my mind - they had linked the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of the real world – with happiness. And that had resulted in almost everything I encountered – never seeming too bad - whether it was a traffic jam or a crowded elevator.
Have you taken your kids to a Diwali bazaar yet? If you haven’t – you must. The bazaar is a feast for the senses. It is an opportunity to teach children - that jostling crowds and noisy buzzing – is fun and not torture. Make the effort – step out of your homes and offices – brave the traffic and the crowds.
As the festival of lights turns into the festival of gifting – let it not just be about buying. Gift your child sensations and experiences that translate into joy and not just expensive gifts. One day when they are forty and dying to feel excited – they may thank you profusely for that.