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Gomathi Mohan



Gomathi Mohan


Diwali Mela

Diwali Mela

8 mins


" Mummy don't pack lunch for me this Friday. We have the Diwali Mela. Lots of stalls and food courts. I am going to have Pizza with my friends and keep mehndi, buy some nice decorated diyas, bangles and a lot more. "

That was Aparajita, Apu in short, on a Tuesday night, before going to bed. She was a vivacious eighth grader. For the next few days, her talk centred around the carnival as she excitedly made her plans and her wish list grew longer by the hour!!

The D-day arrived. As she was combing for the 100 th time, I interrupted, which she hates, nothing can come between her comb and hair "Don't forget to take money from Daddy. All things are pricey in Carnivals, see that you don't run short. "
"Dad gave me a 1000 in the morning and I had some pocket money left, 1450 in all".
"Okay fine, didn't ask you for the account", I cut her short, shoving another 500 amidst her protests. Asked her to keep it for safety purpose, ' what if '. It had become a habit over the years.
A cursory glance at her in the mirror in passing, I couldn't stop thinking aloud, " But wasn't that short hair meant to save time n get ready for school in time. That was how you defended your decision. Why it took lesser time when I used to plait up the long hair for you".

"Oh Mom! Look, this hair is not setting", she showed. After much strain I could make out 4 strands of hair sticking out from behind the ear. Sometimes just 4 could be more! I realised.
"In case you need some glue", now that was caustic. I had it coming, she glared back from the mirror, "Not funny!" Hearing Dad honking, threw the comb on the nearby sofa, took her bag and dashed down the stairs with a quick hug and a hasty bye.

It was a routine day. Evening came and on our return from office, opened with the spare key. Found Apu fast asleep on the bed with lights on. Some music was playing on her mobile nearby and she looked exhausted. Switching off the light, not to disturb her, we went out of the room. It was 6.30 when we were having our evening tea along with some paneer pakodas . Not wanting to leave her out, it was one of her favourite snack, tried waking her up gently. After two or three futile attempts, I had to give up. "Don' t wake her. She needs rest more than anything else" said Daddy. Went back to tea before it got tepid.

It was around 7.30, Dad went down to Mother Diary and I sat chopping coconut for the chutney, watching David Rocco rustling up some pasta with parmesan cheese and prawns for the 100 th time. Apu stirred out, came and sat beside me. "So, how did your day go and the Mela?" I put the kitchen knife down, knowing her next action. Hugging me tightly, she looked around for Dad . " It was so good, Mom. Wish you were there, so many stalls and games. " Smiling at her little heart wanting us to partake every little happiness of hers, I got up to fetch her the pakoras from the oven.

When Dad returned, she was all smiles. Hurrying to her shelf, she took out a packet from her bag and kept it on the tea table. " For you Daddy ", she took out a a comb like object holding spires in two whorls tipped with tiny beads mounted on a wooden handle. " It is a stimulant cum massager for the head." She showed him how to go about it as they had given a demo. Dad was all chuckles with the tickling massage!! When acted upon the balding patch, hair would grow there. He was mighty pleased with her thoughtful gift. A round patch right in the centre had recently made its debut, giving him cause for concern! Knowing his daughter well he laughed "Am sure it was a lucky penny !! " He guessed. Her smile widened, "How did you know it dad! There was this old man, who hadn't sold a single piece and it was nearing 2 o' clock!"

Dad turned towards me with a wide grin; for guessing it right or for daughter's deed, I couldn' t make.

When he asked what she got for herself, 3 books came out from her bag!! Her favourite authors but obscure works.. A book of phrases and poems by Ruskin Bond, a never before heard The Magic Ice cream and other stories by Enid Blyton and a collection of Bernard Shaw's plays Vol. I. They were not of her taste.

"The girl needed to close shop and there were these odd unsold books!! It was nearing closing time. How happy she was when I bought the last lot and she got to go home ! ' We could see it mirrored on her face."

Turning around, she pushed towards me a packet of diyas , "I know you will love them", she said as I took and looked at the pathetically painted diyas. Anything from her and it meant the world to me. "We'll light them up on Diwali ' I said cheerily.

"There were lovelier ones Mom, with decorations, glitter, mirror work and beautifully painted. All were buying only them.
And then there was this girl, with these diyas. No one bought from her. Standing there so gloomy with her diyas.

After all these years, she was pouring out something we had never touched upon before.
"Dad you remember my art show items during exhibitions when small ! How you and Mom used to admire my work, so poorly done; and always encouraged me. I never realised it until now, If not for you I would have remained a mediocre for ever."

"From that sponge teddy in nursery class to making projects and presentations for my class and sometimes for my teachers too!!"

Yes, it all started from that sponge teddy in LKG! The kids needed to make it by themselves and submit the next day. As the teacher had taught them in the class, Apu sat the whole evening doing it all by herself, tying rubber bands tightly in the corners, smaller ones on the upper part for ears and bigger ones below for limbs. Two black bindis stuck for eyes and a red one for nose. We both looked in amazement at her going about confidently without even once stopping for help or in doubt. It looked shabby though and the symmetry of the teddy varied!! We didn't interrupt or point it out and let her take it proudly to school for submission. That Saturday when the art exhibition was held for parents, we saw her sadly standing besides her table and looking in a daze. When we went up to her, she was nearly in tears; her teddy looked the worst. The others had made it so perfect. They were very neat and just like how the teacher had made. Some of her classmates even made fun of hers and told her it seemed sick! " Why, you could have asked someone to make one for you !'
Her dad held her hand and walked up to where her teddy was displayed, in a corner at the back. "But I like yours the best. Do you know why? Because It was made by no one but YOU !! "

The same continued in higher classes, her project work fetched her less marks as they were not done by the dozen odd shops flourishing around exclusively catering for school projects. My colleages too solicited them for their ward's project assignments and advised me to seek professional help, to score more marks. Some of her classmates and their parents too resorted to the same.
But we never did that and let her learn to do by herself as she grew. There were no shortcuts!! All that training took a lot of courage, patience and even heart breaks both for the child and the parents but today that she has grown up, she manages them all like a thorough professional!!
So her "That was me" just reflected a part of her long forgotten days.

What about mehndi? She was yearning to keep for Diwali. It was the best opportunity to fulfill her desire as I was no good at it.. . " Oh ! they have chemicals Mom, I read somewhere . They cause rashes and allergy, so I skipped. "

And bangles, ' Glass and metals. I break them easily , you know how careless I am and the metal ones were painted so garish! '

"And did you enjoy the pizza " My motherly instincts surfaced she laughed and brushed aside " Oh I had my favourite. " Knowing her I prodded further. She never lies, "' I had such lovely Bhelpuri. It was mixed perfect, just as I wanted. "
''But you were going to have pizza?"
''Oh it was there but didn't feel like having. The Bhelpuri was a real treat ". "Was it enough for lunch. "I insisted." Yes Mom we were so busy arranging and volunteering that there was no time." 
Then came the real stuff, she said aloud,
"And you know. They were food courts after all, for profit, I realised. My eating a pizza wouldn't aid in charity in any way!" Now that was a hard decision for someone who was allowed to have pizza only on rare occasions.
"I was craving for something sweet, spicy, tangy and light. Bhelpuri just did it!!"

Also, girls from OJAS (a school for the under privileged supported by their school) were there, helping us out. We all had Bhelpuri together and then I bought bangles and diyas for them. They were giving them such longing looks. "Diwali is a time for all !'' Beamed Apu, gleaming with contentment.

A Diwali Mela could be so fruitful and fetching for so many hearts, never knew!!

Well that was another day of Apulogy !! An open book with an Open Heart..

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